If At First You Don't Succeed

Last updated : 10 January 2014 By Iain Brown

Whether someone is on a downward spiral, had one too many opportunities afforded them or perhaps reached an age where an improvement is unlikely a decisive choice must be made. You could argue that the sword of Damocles hangs over the head of the majority of Premier League footballers and in reality you’d probably be right, unfortunately that’s the win at all costs attitude of the modern game. However when a footballer is still considered young and yet to reach their peak then calling time on this type of player carries with it the embarrassing risk of being proved wrong. Indeed should that player becoming a success elsewhere weekly reminders are never welcome and there follows the inevitable questioning of a managers judgement.

Before a ball was kicked this season, had you told any Arsenal or Liverpool fan that Aaron Ramsey and Jordan Henderson would be key players for their respective clubs more than a few eyebrows would have been raised. Nevertheless that has undeniably been the case much to the surprise of the large majority of football fans. Early on in his Liverpool career Henderson was continually played out of position, he never complained, kept his head down, continued working and is now reaping the rewards. His energy levels defy average human levels and his overall game has improved immeasurably from those early months. Henderson’s reluctance to go out on loan, fight for his place and eventually become a mainstay in the side speaks volumes for the man. He along with Sterling continue to progress with perhaps room for improvement with regards to composure in front of goal. Following the noticeable development of both players passing accuracy, if they can indeed improve their finishing then the jump in level to world class cannot be far away.

Lucas Leiva is a prime example of perseverance and resolve. The arrival of a Brazilian signing conjures up the perception of a Ronaldinho / Coutinho type player, it’s a stereotype within the British football fans brain which heaps extra pressure on any and all Brazilians who arrive on our shores. However the mould is often broken and it works both ways. Chris Waddle, Glenn Hoddle and Steve McManaman possessed intricate skill, poise and composure which conflicted with the generalised typecast view of the English footballer. Lucas was never a traditional Brazilian but has gone from outsider to first team regular and you'd struggle to find a Kopite who doesn't recognise the invaluable job he does for the team. It is that team ethic that Brendan Rodgers has installed into the psyche of this Liverpool squad.

The decision to not only stand by Lucas but make him an integral part of the team is even more impressive when you consider players such as Ngog and Spearing were moved on when all three had been given ample first team opportunities to prove their worth. In the case of Jonjo Shelvey it appeared that perhaps the step up from Carlton to Champions League chasers was a step to far. His 47 opportunities were only occasionally grasped but too infrequently. Shelvey, in my opinion, was given a suitable length of time to prove his worth. His performances were always consistent without ever excelling. During his Blackpool loan and now at Swansea his form is constant and he appears to have found his level. The club may be proved wrong but at this stage the decision to move him on seems logical and I believe the overall consensus would agree that he didn’t quite match up to the expectation with which he arrived.

Fernando Torres was allowed to leave at an optimum moment. To the trained, more knowledgeable red, Fernando had become a shadow of his former self. The pace had diminished and with it his overwhelming confidence. At Fifty million pounds his sale more than compensated for the Andy Carroll outlay. In his 102 appearances with Liverpool he scored 65 goals and now at Chelsea he has played an almost identical amount of games but managed just 18.

We the fans far too often forget how difficult these calls can be, for example, Flanagan, Robinson and Wisdom. Six months ago which young Liverpool player would most reds have predicted to have made the most appearances I wonder. Flanagan would surely have been the least fancied; however his performances have been near faultless this season when called upon. Oussama Assaidi has rarely looked like a top player and yet he has continued to star this season with Stoke City with crucial goals against Chelsea and Everton. How the remainder of his career pans out will be left in the hands of Brendan Rodgers, in these types of situations all a player can do is prove his worth elsewhere and wait for a second opportunity.

Last summer Spurs sold Gareth Bale to the footballing powerhouse that is Real Madrid. Virtually winning games on his own last season, Bales final form was in stark contrast to his early Spurs days. In September 2009 Harry Redknapp brought Bale on against Burnley to get his unwanted Spurs hoodoo off his back. Bale needed 25 league games in a Spurs shirt before ending on the winning team. Four years later, almost to the month, the Welshman moved for £85.3 million. Here was a player who was failing at left back with a large contingent of Spurs fans ready for him to be moved on. Tottenham’s show of faith aligned to Bales dedication to succeed was rewarded with the healthiest of Spanish cheques.
As a Liverpool fan there’s a certain extra element of comfort and satisfaction knowing that within our current line-up we possess players who genuinely want to succeed, aspire to improve and refuse to wilt under criticism and pressure. This strong mentality could prove vital to Liverpool football club in the months and years that follow.