Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan and the season’s most unlikely success story 1

Whilst those who pay attention to Liverpool’s academy and the progression of the club’s youth players may disagree, Jon Flanagan’s emergence this season has been miraculous.

The first time I can remember seeing Flanagan on a Premier League pitch was at Ewood Park during the season in which Blackburn eventually went down, and even against such limited opposition he looked hopelessly out of his depth. He was frail, paceless, naive, and I was ready to write him off as just another generic teenager who would make a handful of top-division appearances before sliding down the pyramid and into anonymity.

Not a bit of it.

There’s an article in The Guardian this morning by Andy Hunter, in which Brendan Rodgers both confirms that Flanagan will be offered a new contract in the Summer and also discusses the young full-back’s early years at Anfield.

At no point do you get the sense that Rodgers really expected him to become a prominent member of the first-team, and he sounds as surprised by the player’s progression as anyone else. Who can blame him: Flanagan’s body-shape was and still is fundamentally unsuited to Premier League football, he has no single outstanding attribute, and he’s a right-footed player who was asked, originally, just to ‘fill-in’ on the left because of injuries.

Now, Flanagan is an undisputed first-choice in his position ahead of Jose Enrique, and it’s no surprise that Liverpool are not willing to make Ally Cissokho’s loan-deal permanent - there’s no need to, the slot has been filled.

I’ve made this point before, so forgive me for repeating myself: Flanagan is a throw-back to a different era of full-backs. He’s not like Glen Johnson, Luke Shaw, or Leighton Baines, because his primary focus isn’t offensive-support. He is, first and foremost, a defender and that’s quite rare in 2014 - he’s positionally excellent, he reads the game very well, and you rarely see opposing wingers taking the ball past him or being allowed to run beyond him.

These are fundamentals of his position, yet perversely they’re not qualities we immediately associate with his modern contemporaries.

Flanagan is a study into how far a player can go if the core of his game of his game is solid and he’s prepared simply ‘to do a job’.

I would never have said this at the beginning of the season, but he’ll be slightly unfortunate not to go to the World Cup - if Brazil 2014 was next year rather than this, then he’d be on the plane.

Follow @premleagueowl

Free £25 bet for new users with William Hill.