Skysports.com's Pete O'Rourke meets Liverpool Academy director Frank McParland to talk about the club's latest graduates into Brendan Rodgers' first team at Anfield
By Pete O'Rourke - Follow me: @skysportspeteo. Last Updated: October 4, 2012 11:30am
Liverpool may have endured a difficult start to the season, but there are signs of promise with the emergence of a number of young players from the club's Academy.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Suso, Andre Wisdom and the club's new youngest ever player Jerome Sinclair have all graduated from the academy to the Liverpool first team this term.
Sterling made some cameo appearances in the first team last season under Kenny Dalglish, but the winger has quickly established himself as a key member of Brendan Rodgers' side and his performances were rewarded with a call-up to the England squad last month.
Suso and defender Wisdom both made their first-team debuts in the Europa League win over Young Boys last month, in which Wisdom scored, with both players then going on to make their first starts in the Premier League against Norwich last weekend.
Striker Sinclair set a new club record when he made his debut when coming off the bench against West Brom last month at the tender age of 16 years and six days.
The influx of these teenagers into the first-team picture is rich reward for the hard work of director of the academy Frank McParland and all the coaching staff at the club's Kirkby base.
McParland was brought in by former Reds boss Rafa Benitez to reshape the club's academy in 2009 with the club struggling to repeat the success of bringing through homegrown talent such as the likes of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard to become mainstays in the team.
However, during McParland's three-and-a-half years working at the academy there has been a major transformation and there is growing excitement about the latest batch of youngsters who are now making a name for themselves at Anfield.
McParland is delighted to see his blueprint bear fruit and insists the success is down to all the hard work of everyone connected to the academy.
"I am delighted for everyone connected to the club that some young players are now coming through into the first team and it is down to a massive team effort," McParland told skysports.com.
"It is the approach of everyone for the progress of the players right down from the players, the coaches, the physios, the fitness trainers and also the education that the players get at Rainhill High school.
"The club has invested a lot of money and time during my three-and-a-half years at the academy and it has completely changed from when I first arrived."
McParland is understandably proud of the fact that during his time at the academy three out of four of the youngest ever players to play for the club in the shape of Sinclair, Jack Robinson and Sterling have all played for the first team since May 2010.
"In my three-and-a-half years at the academy we have had three out of the four youngest ever players to play for the club in the 120-year history of the club and that is some achievement," noted McParland.
"It is alright making debuts and playing a few games, but we are trying to get players to come through to play week in, week out and become established players in the first-team"
Liverpool Academy director Frank McParland Quotes of the week
McParland puts a lot of the success of players stepping up to the first-team fold down to the fact that the coaching philosophy is the same throughout the club.
"It has been a real team effort the coaching programme of the players and Pep Segura, who has now gone back to Spain, deserves huge pat on the back for what he has done for the club as technical director," added McParland.
"There was a Spanish influence because of Pep and Rodolfo Borrell and they taught the players to play the same style of football from the Under 16s, to the reserves and then to the first team 4-2-3-1 and now 4-3-3 like the boss likes to play and I think that has helped the players that we play the same way right throughout the club.
"Coaches work to that system and there are passing patterns every session, emphasising being a team player."
McParland is also an advocate of the NextGen series for Under 19s, feeling the European tournament is a great learning process for the players.
"The NextGen league has been very beneficial for the young players," continued McParland. "They are going away abroad, staying at hotels learning how to conduct themselves in representing the club and that will help when hopefully they are playing at the highest level."
Despite the recent influx of players into the first team, McParland accepts it is still a work in progress with the academy chief's aim to produce players capable of becoming regulars in the starting XI at Anfield.
"It is alright making debuts and playing a few games, but we are trying to get players to come through to play week in, week out and become established players in the first team," noted McParland.
"It is not an overnight job - it is a long-term project and everyone at the club is right behind it."
Liverpool's American owners' long-term strategy is to lower the average age of the first team and add young, hungry players to the team and the work of McParland and the rest of the academy is central to the overall project.
McParland added: "The owners are very keen to have young, hungry players and the boss is also happy to have hungry players among the first-team squad.
"I think we have signed better players in recent years. We got Suso three years ago and we got Jerome [Sinclair] when he was 14-and-a-half from West Brom.
"Liverpool are a global club and to develop the club you need to sign the best young players and it is vital that the club keep reinvesting in the academy if we are to see further development."
McParland believes Reds boss Rodgers deserves a lot of the credit for putting his faith in youth and blooding the youngsters into his plans this season.
"The boss has had a big involvement with the academy since he has come to the club and he has been very supportive of what we are trying to do," said McParland.
"The boss has a big background in youth development and has a real focus on young players.
"He has been to every home reserve game and after each game he has had a debrief with myself and the staff to talk about players.
"The boss is always looking and asking about the players at all age groups and he has shown he is willing to give them a chance which is only encouraging for all the young players at the club."