Despite the heartache of missing out on the Premier League title on the final day, there can be no doubt that Liverpool should look back at the 2013/2014 season with immense pride.
Brendan Rodgers has done a marvellous job in allowing Liverpool to play with creative freedom that culminated in goals galore, and establish a free-flowing style of football in which every player feels comfortable on the ball. The integrating of local lad John Flanagan proved a masterstroke from Rodgers to fill a problematic left back position following the long-term injury suffered by Jose Enrique.
Flanagan has shown maturity beyond his years, with the 21-year-old also displaying wonderful versatility by developing into an all-round full-back having made a breakthrough in the first team in 2011 predominately playing at right-back. His standout performances for Liverpool have led to calls for his inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s England squad, although it may be too early to test Flanagan on the international stage.
Flanagan and England
John Flanagan’s rise to prominence has been met with huge acclaim by his Liverpool team-mates, Brendan Rodgers and the backroom staff at Anfield who knew they had a potential England international amongst their pool of youth players. Although the 2012/2013 season was curtailed by a series of niggling injuries, Flanagan has came into his own this season and played a vital role in Liverpool’s surge up the table as they surprised everyone by mounting a serious challenge for the Premier League title. Assured performances, particularly in the big games against the likes of Everton and Manchester United, promoted Flanagan as a potential candidate for a place in Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for the World Cup.
Despite only having three international Under 21 caps to his name, the young full-back deserves a shot as a full international as there are no other English defenders in that position who have flourished as much as Flanagan this season. Hodgson has always stuck to his principles in picking players who are in form over reputation alone, which is which Flanagan has been selected as back-up for the 2014 World Cup in case any players are injured during the preparation stage for Brazil. There are concerns over the fitness of Phil Jones following a shoulder injury, with the Manchester United star selected in the 23-man squad but facing a race against time to prove his fitness. If Jones fails to recover in time, it provides a wonderful opportunity for Flanagan or Everton’s John Stones to come into the squad, and there is no reason why Liverpool’s young star should not get the call-up.
Going into a World Cup with considerably dampened hopes and expectations is unlike any major tournament England have qualified for in the past. A combination of average performances in recent years with the rapid progression of several other nations has created a belief that England will struggle to be competitive at Brazil 2014. Being drawn in a group containing Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica will be a tough test of England’s character and quality, with many believing that Roy Hodgson’s team will suffer the ignominy of being knocked out at the group stage for the first time since 1958.