By Scott Taylor
Jon Flanagan will continue his injury comeback this week when Liverpool U21s will play another friendly at the Kirkby Academy on Tuesday, where Flanagan will play 45 minutes. Flanagan, 22, has been out for 19 months with several knee injuries, and has not played since the end of the 2013/14 season. The defender featured for the U21s in their 0-0 draw with Fleetwood Town last week, where he played 30 minutes before being substituted. With the right back edging closer to fitness, there will be a closer look at the other players who are on the sidelines at the Academy.
Firstly Madger Gomes is currently out with an ankle injury. The attacking midfielder sustained the knock in Liverpool U21s’ 2-0 win over Celtic in the International Premier U21 Cup on 12 December and was scheduled to be out until the middle of January. Gomes has been an important player for the U21s this season scoring three goals in all competitions, and may target the game against Middlesbrough on 18 January to return.
So too will Jack Dunn. The forward has had an injury-stricken last couple of seasons with Liverpool, but has returned to training in the past week. After the Reds’ 0-0 draw with Fleetwood, U21 manager Michael Beale told liverpoolfc.com that: “Dunn is the closest one to being fit, and he’ll be fit in the next two or three weeks.” The forward started the season in flying form, where he netted four times before injury hampered his progress.
The reason Dunn is the closest to being fit is because both Lloyd Jones and Jordan Williams have only just started their rehabilitation process from their injuries. Jones, currently on loan at League One side Blackpool, suffered both ankle and knee injuries in a game against Chesterfield in September, and required surgery, which ruled him out for three months. After the operation, Jones told Blackpool’s official site of the timescales he has to try and achieve. He said: “I’m over the worst of it now. I’ve been set a target to be playing by February nut I’m hoping to be back in mid-January.” That is only, two weeks away.
Swindon loanee Williams has also been out with a knee injury since late September. The Wales U21 midfielder has suffered several setbacks since but is back running. Despite this, no exact timescale has been set on his injury, but Beale will continue to nurse his comeback.
The Liverpool manager will however be able to bring back Daniel Cleary to the fold though for their next competitive fixture. The Ireland U19 international is one of the more experienced defenders at this level and recently picked up a knock in training. However, Beale confirmed that he’ll only be out for a short period of time. He said: “Young Daniel Cleary will probably be out for ten days to two weeks then he’ll be back as well.” The young Reds visit Southampton on 11 January, so that may be a game that both the player and management may be targeting to return.
Finally, the U21 boss hinted that right-back Ryan McLaughlin could play a big part in his side’s games in the second half of the season, if he doesn’t go out on loan. The Northern Irishman played 45 minutes in the goalless draw against Fleetwood after returning from a loan spell at Aberdeen. Beale also revealed how McLaughin has ‘had an injury-ravaged couple of years but actually the first part of this season he’s been fit all the time.’