Kenny won’t rush Reds youngsters
Kenny Dalglish says Liverpool are realistic about the prospects of their youngsters and none will go into the first team until they are ready.
However, the 59-year-old stressed he has complete faith in the talents of those who are brought in from the academy, highlighted by his decision to take five with him on the Europa League trip to face Sparta Prague.
All the hype prior to the goalless draw in the last-32 first-leg tie had surrounded whether 16-year-old prodigy Raheem Sterling would become the club’s youngest player.
Sterling scored five goals in Monday’s 9-0 FA Youth Cup win over Southend and was a surprise inclusion in the travelling party, Dalglish having taken advantage of the half-term break to take the teenager along for the experience.
However, of all the academy prospects on the trip – Conor Coady, John Flanagan, Jack Robinson, Tom Ince and Sterling – only Coady, 18 next week, made it on to the substitutes’ bench but never got the chance to come off it.
Despite all the publicity surrounding the involvement of the youngsters, Dalglish insisted it was not a public relations stunt and the absence of Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Christian Poulsen meant there was always a chance they might have to be used.
And even though they were not, the Reds boss said they were all the better for the experience.
"The young lads have sent postcards home and everything – they were looking for a rock shop but couldn’t find one," joked Dalglish about their Prague trip.
"They weren’t here for a jolly, they were here because we were short of players.
"Conor Coady was on the bench which meant we needed at least one of them.
"He’s a midfield player and we were short there and he was on the bench because he has done well for the academy.
"They are all deserving to be here. They are a bit young maybe to be pushed in but then if they were asked I’m sure they wouldn’t have let us down through lack of effort.
"The most important thing is we have to be realistic. There was no way we were bringing them over hoping to get headlines.
"We brought them because we needed them and if we didn’t have to use them that was in their interest as well as ours, but if we did have to use them we could have."
Dalglish’s European managerial debut for Liverpool did not go to plan after a dismal goalless draw against Sparta.
He accepts, though, that times have changed since he conquered the continent as a player, winning the European Cup three times with Liverpool.
"When we were playing, if you lost over two legs you were out, you never got any second chances, and that is the stage the competition is at now," he added.
"Certainly teams are better organised than they were years ago but I think you can describe us as an organised team as well.
"We’ve another game to come next Thursday so we’ll soon find out whether we can get through that.
"But the onus is on us to be more creative than we were in Prague.
"We will do our best to go as far as we possibly can in the competition."
The former Scotland international was able to take some positives from the game, with the likes of young defender Danny Wilson given a rare 90-minute outing and Joe Cole making his comeback from a knee injury.
Dalglish was also pleased with full-back Glen Johnson, who was switched from left-back to his favoured position on the right, with Martin Kelly being given a well-earned rest.
"There is no difference to Glen, he just plays," Dalglish said.
"Before I came here people were saying he couldn’t defend but I’ve seen one person go past him since I was here – and that was me in training!
"He has done fantastically both going forward and defensively."