By Scott Taylor
Raheem Sterling is again in the headlines for the wrong reasons at Liverpool Football Club. The forward, 20, will reportedly tell manager Brendan Rodgers on Friday that he does not want a new contract at the club. Sterling wants around £150,000 a week, something that the club does not want to offer him. With his departure looking more likely every day, here are a few reasons why Liverpool fans can still be excited about having a bright prospect in their line-up. Jordon Ibe and Lazar Markovic are currently with the first-team squad so here are a few wingers that can take Sterling’s place in the starting XI.
Ryan Kent is the first of many young attacking midfielders that Liverpool have along their production line. The versatile midfielder, 18, has been impressive for the Under-21s this season, including scoring a brace in the mini-derby against Everton earlier this season. Kent recently suffered a long-term injury which has kept him out for a few months, but ended his stop-and-start season well with a string of man-of-the-match performances. Liverpool have tied down the young starlet for another four-and-a-half years meaning that the club shouldn’t worry about other clubs looking to take him away from Merseyside. He has played 14 times in the Under-21s Premier League this season, scoring six goals with four assists. He also made six appearances in the UEFA Youth League, scoring once with two assists. Kent has afeatured twice for England Under-18s, and with European experience under his belt, fans can look forward to an important pre-season for the winger.
Sheyi Ojo is the midfielder with the most hype surrounding him. Ojo, 17, started off the season in emphatic form for Michael Beale’s Under-21s. This earned him a place in the first-team squad for their Capital One Cup victory over Middlesbrough. He even made the substitutes bench a few months later, featuring on the bench in the Reds’ fixture against Leicester. This lead to more media attention and hype for the midfielder to deal with. However, Ojo kept his head down and relished under pressure. After more influential performances against players up to four years older than him, he joined Wigan Atheltic on a month’s loan deal. He went on to make 11 appearances for the Latics, picking up the man-of-the-match accolade in several of his games. Like Kent, Ojo is a current England Under-18 international, scoring twice in his five appearances. In April 2014, Liverpool sent their promising squad of youngster to compete in the Futures Cup, and Ojo finished the tournament as joint top scorer. Due to his loan spell, Ojo only featured ten times for the Under-21s this season, but he still scored four goals with two assists. His debut to the first-team is looking more likely, and Liverpool shouldn’t waste this prospect they have by leaving him in the Under-21s all season.
Harry Wilson is another hugely talented winger that Liverpool have in its youth ranks. Wilson was also the joint top scorer in the 2014 Futures Cup. Wilson, 18, made headlines in October 2013, when he became the youngest ever player to represent Wales, coming on for his debut in the 1-1 draw with Belgium when he was 16 days and 207 days old, beating Gareth Bale’s record in the process. In July 2014, Wilson signed a professional contract with the club. In the same year he made his Wales debut, he showed his promise by scoring 14 goals in 26 games for the Under-18s. In this season, Wilson has featured 18 times in the Under-21 Premier League, scoring six times with four assists. Again like Kent, he has played in the UEFA Youth League, where he grabbed one goal and four assists in six games. Since then Wilson has featured for the Under-21s, but it is looking like a loan spell will benefit the player before he makes his first-team debut.
All three players can play anywhere in the front four positions, and with the Academy also having the likes of Cameron Brannagan and Jerome Sinclair in the Under-21 squad, Liverpool fans shouldn’t be too upset should Sterling leave as there are plenty of options at Rodgers’ disposal.