16 May 2011

Poll: Young Player of the Season

Note from nate: This is a guest post from Noel of Liverpool Offside. There will be a few guest posts over the next two weeks, and I'll actually have some guest posts on other blogs. Plus polls. Lots of polls. Everybody loves polls. Noel will explain, in great detail, below.


Liverpool's season ending position may not be mathematically decided quite yet, but with Sunday's loss to Spurs, the club moves into the uncomfortable position of needing to rely on others if they are to have any chance of improving their final standing. Still, it's been a heck of a ride, this roller coaster of a year that's gone from fears of relegation and administration to dreams of Champions League qualification and future glory, and with the end at hand and Liverpool having moved as high up the table as they'll be able to manage on their own it seemed fitting to gather together with some of the best regularly updated Liverpool blogs on the net for a season ending extravaganza, one that will take the next two weeks to look back at of some of the year's best and worst.

With the help of all of you, of course, wherever you may be reading this.

Today we kick things off with the Young Player of the Season vote and a look back at the kids who have made a difference for Liverpool this year. As for who exactly we are in this whole production, we're The Liverpool Offside along with (in alphabetical order) Anfield Asylum, Oh You Beauty, and Paisley Gates. Over the next few days you'll see further poll questions across all the participating blogs and written by each of those taking part, and along the way we hope that if you aren't already aware of them you'll take a look at what they have to offer and, if it's to your liking, consider adding them to your bookmarks, to your RSS feed, or to whatever else it is that kids these days add things they like to on the internet.

But that's not the end of it. We've also been lucky enough to get a few great guest editors to come on board and help when it comes time to start wrapping things up along with the results next week. First off we've got Amy Quinn of A Football Report, along with Mike Georger of Avoiding the Drop, and James T of Unprofessional Foul. For those who don't know them, they're three of the most knowledgeable Liverpool fans out there, and they're a big part of what makes the three sites they write for amongst the best places to go to on the internet for your general football needs. Then, last but certainly not least, Gareth Roberts, editor of top Liverpool fanzine Well Red Magazine, has also agreed to help us out when it comes time to sort through the tea leaves. Many of those who have already found their way to sites like this will know about Well Red, but for those who don't it's well worth your consideration if you've started to take this whole Liverpool Football Club thing a bit seriously.

But much of that's about next week. For now, then, it's on to the matter at hand:


John Flanagan: The young fullback wasn't expected to feature for Liverpool at all this season, and with other academy players being talked of far more often, it will perhaps have been a surprise to some that he found himself involved at all. However, after a disastrous stretch that saw Liverpool with no healthy fullbacks in the first team squad and a match against West Bromwich Albion that saw a backline consisting of four center backs perform horribly, the 18-year old found himself thrust into the limelight as he produced a confident display against Manchester City the following week and has started every match since without looking especially out of place. All told, he has started in and played six games in his young Liverpool career, and has received three yellow cards on eight fouls committed.

Martin Kelly: After a 2009-10 season that saw Kelly on the verge of Next Big Thing status, the arrival of Kenny Dalglish in January and the departure of Paul Konchesky on loan to Nottingham Forest saw the academy product become the first beneficiary of Liverpool's lack of depth at fullback. Forced to start nearly every match from there on out, Kelly performed admirably in a right fullback role, growing increasingly comfortable bombing up and down the flank after an at times slightly shaky start going forward that gave lie to his history as a center back. Until his unfortunate injury against West Ham United brought a premature end to his season, Kelly had started 18 matches along with coming on as a substitute once. He had one assist and three yellow cards on 14 fouls committed over the 19 games he participated in.

Jonjo Shelvey: Brought in from Charlton Athletic in the summer transfer window, the versatile midfielder made 4 starts in the Europa League for Liverpool and a further 16 substitute appearances across all competitions, registering a single assist. In those games he filled in everywhere from outside midfielder to second striker to fullback, often appearing calm and at least confident if never quite spectacular. Nonetheless, his versatility and cool head made him Dalglish's first option off the bench for an extended stretch, until he too was sidelined by injury, returning to action towards the end of the campaign to register his one assist on a cutting pass to Luis Suarez against Fulham that showed hints of the playmaking ability that had caught the eye of Liverpool scouts in the first place.

Jay Spearing: In the 2010-11 season, Spearing recorded 14 starts, three substitute appearances, and one assist across all competitions as he established himself rather unexpectedly as an at least valuable squad player for Liverpool. While in the past many assumed an eventual move to a lower league side was on the cards for the diminutive midfielder, after a strong finish to the season the questions are more along the lines of if, should his personal development continue – not to mention his promising partnership with Lucas in midfield – he might even be able to secure a larger role for the club moving forward. Having received almost as much game time in 2009-10 (though with the bulk of it coming in the Europa League and cup competitions), his sudden rise following Steven Gerrard's injury is a textbook example of a player seizing the opportunity he's been given and making something for himself when there were few expectations. In recognition of his newly-elevated role with the club, the now 22-year old local product signed a new contract at the start of May.

1 And if you really want everybody to know what you thought, the polls are open to be voted on once per day. So you can come back tomorrow and read all the above awesomeness one more time. And also vote again.

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