By Scott Taylor
Brendan Rodgers has reportedly stated that he will not sign a new right-back in the summer, as he wants to use the money to improve in other areas. With Glen Johnson set to leave Liverpool in the summer, Rodgers wants West Brom loanee Andre Wisdom to fill that position. However, the former England Under-21 captain will not be expected to play every single game, so here are a few current Under-21 players that can be called upon if necessary.
Born and bred in Liverpool, Connor Randall has made an impressive impact with the Reds since the end of the 2013/14 season. Randall, 19, who has been with Liverpool since he was an Under-9 player, can play as a right-back or a right wing-back should Rodgers deploy a 3-4-3 formation.
The defender has had limited experience in competitive football however. In January 2015, he joined League Two side Shrewsbury Town on a one-month loan deal, but played for a few minutes, coming on as a 90th minute substitute on 14 February in his only game for the Shrews.
Randall also has international experience, captaining the England Under-18s in 2011. He did impress for the first team when he featured in the 4-0 win over Shamrock Rovers, showing his attacking intent on the right wing and even setting up Jack Dunn for one the goals. Also his accurate passing, both long and short-range.
Randall may have to rely on Rodgers using a suitable defensive midfielder to cover him when he goes forward, or develop into a more defensive full-back to reduce the risk of being caught on the break. The attacking intent is natural for Randall, because he has been known to play as a second striker in his early days with the Reds. However, with some minor adjustments the youngster is a good choice for the role in cup competitions and even some league games.
Ryan McLaughlin is a defender full of experience, both in the football league and internationally. The Northern Irishman, 20, signed for the Reds as a 16 year-old, joining from his local side Glenavon FC. McLaughlin burst onto the scene in July 2012, when Rodgers took him on the Reds’ pre-season tour of the USA. He made his debut against AS Roma.
After signing a professional contract with Liverpool in July 2013, McLaughlin was given the squad number 43. In January 2014, he joined Championship side Barnsley on loan. In an injury-hit time with the Yorkshire-based side, McLaughlin made nine appearances.
As well as experience in the football league’s highest division, McLaughlin has found himself playing at the highest level with his country. After making his way from Under-16 to Under-21 level, the defender was rewarded with his first cap for Northern Ireland when he came on as a substitute against Uruguay in May 2014. In doing so, he became the first Liverpool player to represent Northern Ireland since Elisha Scott made his debut in 1936. He has since gone on to make 3 caps for his country.
McLaughlin openly admits that he has modelled his game on Dani Alves, and is an attacking full-bacl, just like Randall. However, he has been used as a right midfielder for the Under-21s this season, but has been plagued by injury.
Both Randall and McLaughlin would make excellent back-up choices for the right-back role at Liverpool, and to avoid bias, the question was asked to my followers on Twitter, and here are some of your responses on who should play.
Jake Joe – @lfcloanwatch says “McLaughlin has better talent than Randall in my opinion, but his development hasn’t been reached as expected.”
Decky Hodge – @DeckyDodge says “McLaughlin definitely.”
Wellfedred – @butt_rfingers says “McLaughlin; often our main attacking catalyst rather than a support act, at Under-21 level he scores goals, wins legitimate penalties. He has incredible stamina, pace & close control. Defensively astute, I have found.
AT7 – @wwflfc says “Randall of the two, but I’m not convinced either will be good enough. How about Sam Byram?”
For anymore responses tweet me @ScottTaylorUK and I’ll add them to this list!