GUARDIAN – Liverpool youth system changes are a fix for something that wasn’t broken | Sachin Nakrani

Brendan Rodgers is taking a risk as Frank McParland and Rodolfo Borrell leave the club with the academy in good shapeCome 2.41pm last Saturday, it is possible Frank McParland and Rodolfo Borrell both felt a great sense of pride near the end of a bruising week for the pair. The 221st Merseyside derby had just finished at Goodison Park, a frantic and fantastic 3-3 draw in which Jon Flanagan, a Liverpool youth product, excelled in an unfamiliar left-back role. It was a standout display and for McParland and Borrell, could not have been better timed coming only two days after they had been sacked as the club’s respective academy director and academy technical director. Here, they were able to justifiably say, was proof of their good work.It is now a week since the pair were dismissed and still no official explanation has been given for exactly why Liverpool’s hierarchy decided to oust two respected and popular members of staff beyond a statement from Ian Ayre, the managing director, in which he spoke vaguely about the academy “moving in a new direction aligned to the overall aspirations of Liverpool Football Club”. The void of information had led to rumours of a rift but those close to Anfield’s inner-workings insist the departures are simply a case of Brendan Rodgers wanting his own men to have more influence over the youth structure.As manager, Rodgers should look to organise Liverpool in a way that makes his ability to bring success to the club as easy and as likely as possible, and given his previous role as Chelsea’s youth team manager, for which he received much praise, he obviously knows a thing or two about football at that level. With that mind, McParland and Borrell can reflect that the writing was probably on the wall when Rodgers brought in Alex Inglethorpe as the Under-21s manager in November 2012 and Neil Critchley as the Under-18s manager nine months later. Both are expected to be given greater authority as part of a restructuring of roles and responsibilities at Liverpool’s academy, a state-of-the-art, sprawling complex located in Kirkby.How that process transpires and bears fruit could ultimately be Rodgers’ most significant legacy as Liverpool manager – he may not win any trophies or secure a return to the Champions League while in charge of the club, but should his changes at academy level prove successful then, long after he has left, Anfield regulars may witness one high-level homegrown product after another performing in red. Concern lies, however, in the decision to get rid of McParland and Borrell at a time when Liverpool’s youth setup appeared to be functioning better than had been the case for close to 20 years, when Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard were making the transition from prospects to superstars.McParland, Borrell and former technical director Pep Segura themselves arrived at Liverpool’s academy in 2009 as part of a major overhaul, instigated by the manager Rafael Benítez who, despite the club’s success in the Youth Cup finals of 2006 and 2007, did not believe the youth setup was delivering the required results, seen by the fact that since Gerrard’s first-team debut in November 1998, no other homegrown player had shown the necessary talent and temperament to establish themselves at that level.With the former winger Steve Heighway nudged somewhat bitterly towards retirement in 2007 after nine years as academy director, and 17 of his fellow coaches also released, in came McParland, who had been chief scout under Benítez, and Segura and Borrell, both of whom had experience of working at Barcelona’s much-lauded La Masia. “The programme introduced in 2009 is the Spanish way of playing,” said McParland in an interview with the Guardian in September last year, “which is about pressing hard, keeping the ball and being very comfortable in possession. All the coaches work to that plan.”Those changes may not yet have delivered another bona fide star, but there can be little doubt they are having an effect given six academy players made their first-team debuts last season; with the impressive winger Jordon Ibe following in the footsteps of Suso, Andre Wisdom, Adam Morgan, Jerome Sinclair and Conor Coady. They themselves followed Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson, Flanagan and Raheem Sterling, who arrived at Kirkby from Queens Park Rangers aged 14 and under the guidance of McParland and his staff has developed into a full England international.That Rogers has been willing to give so many academy players a chance at first-team level indicates he was happy with how the process was working in Kirkby (although some would suggest he had little choice given the paucity of talent in Liverpool’s first-team squad upon his arrival at Anfield in June 2012), with McParland certainly under the impression that the manager was content with the work being done behind the scenes.”We have an established style in regards to how we play and fortunately it’s not far away from what Brendan wants to do with the first team,” added McParland last September. “I’ve had five or six meetings with him and he’s always been positive about the players here. He is happy with our results and I am sure he will only want to influence that further.”Influence it he has. but not in a manner McParland, who like Gerrard was raised in Huyton and has supported Liverpool since he was a child, would have envisaged 13 months ago. Then, he saw himself very much as a part of the club’s long-term future. Now, alongside Borrell, he is a figure of the past.Those of a critical nature could point to Sterling’s general lack of progress in the past 12 months, alongside the fact that Robinson, Suso, Wisdom and Coady have all been sent on loan by Rodgers as proof that this current crop are falling short of the standard required at Premier League first-team level.Yet Flanagan’s performance in last weekend’s derby, Suso’s consistently impressive displays for La Liga side Almeria and last month’s appearance by 16-year-old Harry Wilson for Wales in a World Cup qualifier against Belgium – making the Liverpool U18s midfielder his country’s youngest player – would suggest Liverpool’s academy are producing top-level talent and all they really need is time. That seems particularly the case with Sterling, who is undoubtedly a gifted player and, aged 18, is sure to get better and more consistent.Rodgers wants change at youth level. That is his prerogative and during an era when Liverpool are struggling to compete for the very best talent at home and abroad due to their relative lack of financial might and total absence of Champions League football, it is appropriate that the manager takes a keen interest in the club’s ability to produce its own stars.Yet Rodgers is trying to fix something that was far from broken. It is a gamble, perhaps the riskiest move he will make during his Anfield reign, and exactly seven days on from McParland and Borrell’s departure, supporters, players and staff are still waiting to see exactly how he plans to shape a fundamental part of Liverpool’s future, with some speculating he will appoint Tony Pennock, who has just left his role as head of youth at Swansea, Rodgers’ former club. Whatever he does next, it is sure to form a significant part of his legacy as Liverpool manager.LiverpoolBrendan RodgersSteven GerrardSachin Nakranitheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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GUARDIAN – Brendan Rodgers believes sense of belonging inspires Daniel Sturridge

The striker’s selfless team ethic can help Liverpool regain the Premier League top spot against Crystal Palace, says managerDaniel Sturridge is not only in the England squad but has also been instrumental in helping Liverpool make a flying start to the season, and Brendan Rodgers believes he is benefiting from finally finding a place to call his own.The striker has already been at two other big clubs, Manchester City and Chelsea, but only now is he getting a regular start and a feeling of belonging and, according to the Liverpool manager, that is all he ever needed.”I think any player wants to feel he belongs,” Rodgers said. “You can’t do it on your own in this game anyway. Good players will win you games but you need the overall aspect, you need the unified group. Daniel feels very much a part of a team now. You only need to see how hard he is working and how committed he is.”Tactically he has been very good in the games. What we are asking him to do without the ball. The second goal that we scored last week came from an instruction to him to stay up on the shoulder and, as soon as we won the ball back, he was away and in. He feels very much a part of the side and around the place he looks very happy to be here. He is proud and knows the size of the institution that he is playing for.”In his capacity as youth coach at Chelsea Rodgers was aware of Sturridge’s potential earlier than most, he knew he was a real talent and is not surprised to see him dovetailing so well with Luis Suárez and the other internationals in the Liverpool side. “He definitely belongs at this level,” Rodgers said. “He’s a top player. He’s 24 now and he is only just getting the chance to show consistently that he can play with the best. At 14 he was the best No9 in European football, everyone could see that. He was coveted all through the youth levels but never had the chance to fully show what he could do as a senior.”I am happy that Liverpool have given him that chance and I think he is too. Without being arrogant about it, he knows he’s a good player. But he also knows that to be a top player you need to make the others around you better and you need to work hard. That is what he’s doing.”Liverpool lost their last home game, against Southampton, but have a chance to return to the top of the table if they can beat Crystal Palace at Anfield on Saturday. “We didn’t play well against Southampton and we can’t really have an excuse,” Rodgers said. “We now have a chance to make amends. Anfield is where we want to really dominate, where we need to be aggressive.”Palace might have only just come up but they have an outstanding manager and they will be a resilient group of players on the back of a promotion. When you’ve been promoted you’ve got a camaraderie together. They will want to come to Anfield and perform to get a win. For ourselves it’s a case of coming into it with a steely focus and looking to get the job done. You can’t dwell on poor results. You have to bounce back.”LiverpoolBrendan RodgersCrystal PalaceSouthamptonPaul Wilsontheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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GUARDIAN – Luis Suárez bides his time in face of Liverpool’s hard line

• Striker had intended to lodge transfer request this week• Uruguayan will not apologise over alleged ‘disrespect’ Luis Suárez will not hand in a transfer request yet in the wake of Liverpool’s hard-line stance over his future. The Uruguayan striker had originally planned to do so before the end of this week if the Anfield club did not allow him to move to Arsenal. But Suárez’s camp believe his position was made sufficiently clear in an interview with The Guardian and that there is no need to make a formal transfer request at the moment.Liverpool’s owner, John W Henry, angrily insisted after the interview that Suárez would not be leaving Liverpool to join any club, at any fee, despite the striker insisting he wanted to depart in order to play Champions League football. Brendan Rodgers, the manager, accused Suárez of disrespecting the club and lying. Rodgers has forced Suárez to train with the youth team until he makes an apology, although how much impact that has is open to question as Suárez is injured, about to depart on international duty and has six games of his ban to serve.Suárez has no intention of apologising. He made it clear in the interview that he believes that the club and manager have broken a promise; the coach’s latest remarks can only have added to that sensation. In his opinion, it is Rodgers who has lied and reneged on a deal.If the club’s American owner sticks to his word, he risks missing out on a substantial transfer fee and having an unhappy player in the squad. But if Suárez is ultimately forced to stay, he will not refuse to play. Right now, he believes that there is little more than he can, or should, do: he has made his position clear and Henry’s public insistence that he will not sell makes a formal request pointless.Any potential transfer now depends on the clubs, not the player. Suárez’s decision to speak out was motivated less by strategy than by frustration.Suárez’s camp believe that a clause in his contract allows him to depart for any bid over £40m and Arsenal acted to trigger than clause by offering £40,000,0001. That is the only offer Liverpool have received and no other major club has expressed a serious interest in the striker. Liverpool dispute that the clause allows Suárez to leave for that fee and contend it merely opens negotiations.The PFA president, Gordon Taylor, admitted the clause in Suarez’s contract is not watertight. He also admitted there was a “good faith” clause but that it too was not legally binding. The very existence of a clause shows that Liverpool and Suárez had discussed a possible departure in the event of the club not making it into the Champions League. The dispute is over the size of the transfer fee. Suárez made his position clear to Liverpool; he has now made his position clear publicly too.The 26-year-old was not included in the Liverpool squad that flew to Dublin on Friday for the club’s final pre-season friendly against Celtic. He missed the win over Valerenga in Oslo in midweek with a slight foot injury suffered during Steven Gerrard’s testimonial but was unlikely to appear in Dublin anyway as Rodgers prepares for next weekend’s Premier League opener against Stoke City.Raheem Sterling will be involved against Celtic, despite appearing at Liverpool magistrates’ court on Friday charged with assaulting his girlfriend. The 18-year-old winger was arrested on Thursday and held in custody overnight before being charged with common assault on his 20-year-old partner, Shana Halliday. The England international entered a not guilty plea when the charges were put to him. He now faces a trial in September.A spokesman for Merseyside police said: “Merseyside police can confirm an 18-year-old man was arrested and subsequently charged with assault following an incident last night in Page Moss. Raheem Sterling, 18, of Woolton, was charged with Section 39 Common Assault.”Luis SuárezLiverpoolSid Lowetheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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TTT: The FA, Coaching and Youth Football: Part Three

By Daniel Rhodes. This is the next instalment in TTT’s analysis of youth football, coaching methods and how governing bodies differ in their approaches, with specific focus on the English FA. The rest of this article is for subscribers only. Member-only content – you need to subscribe to read it ! A subscription costs only £3.50 per month. Find out what you get with your subscription, or Subscribe now.

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