“Young players are a little bit like melons. Only when you open and taste the melon are you 100 per cent sure that the melon is good.
Sometimes you have beautiful melons but they don’t taste very good and some other melons are a bit ugly and when you open them, the taste is fantastic…”
That was the famous comment made by Jose Mourinho about Chelsea’s youth players during his first term as the manager. Young players often have the spark that is needed in a team, fresh legs, a different approach to the game and bursting with energy and potential. The Barclays Premier League has had some great performances by some young players. In this series we are focusing on the best of the young players that have shone this season and we hope that they will continue to shine in their career.
Jon Flanagan: Liverpool
Flanagan has been a bright spark in a leaky defense for title challengers, Liverpool. The England U21 international had been on the loan list during the transfer window but was unable to find a move away because no team wanted him. Players who were above the pecking order like Andre Wisdom were able to move away but Jon Flanagan was unable to get regular football. But there is always something bright for those who believe and when Flanagan got a chance to play thanks to Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique missing a game against Arsenal, he took the chance with both hands or both feet and has not looked back.
His performances in the left back position (he is a right back) have kept seasoned campaigner Aly Cissokho out and Jon has been a worth replacement for the injured Jose Enrique this season. He may not have the height or body to be a tough defender but he more than makes that up with his determination and tough tackling. His performances have been stellar and in the 3-3 Merseyside derby against Everton, the entire team gave him a round of applause when he came back into the dressing room. He even scored a great goal against Tottenham in their 5-0 win away from home. A mainstay of the defense for now, Jon will certainly hope he can help Liverpool to their first title in 24 years, the last time they won it, he was not even born. His performances for Liverpool might just give him a chance of getting into the England team for the World Cup, even if he does not get in, it has been an amazing season for a player who was unwanted at the start of the season.
Raheem Sterling : Liverpool
How does it feel to be a father at 18 years old? Raheem Sterling knows that, the English winger may have had a rough side outside the game with a lot of stories about women and assaults but this season he has been part of one of the deadliest attack forces in the Premier League. Along with Sturridge and Suarez, Sterling has ensured that Liverpool at least return back to the Champions League this season, even if they miss out on the league title.
Sterling has great pace and is a tricky winger, the fact that he scores goals as well is something which is a bonus. He does not seem to get phased by the big games as well since he has scored against Manchester City and Arsenal this season as well.His scoring record has also improved a lot, he has scored 12 goals in all competitions for Liverpool. He has played out of his skin this season and has made his place a permanent fixture in Brendan Rodger’s team and would be looking to do the same for the English team heading for the World Cup. You know you are doing something right when your manager says that you are the best young player in Europe. Sterling was also nominated for the PFA Young player of the year award and although that went to Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Raheem does have a bright future as he is still only 19 and he can only keep getting better.
John Stones : Everton
It seems the Merseyside clubs are having a competition as to who can produce the best young talent. With the likes of Sterling and Flanagan coming through for Liverpool, their neighbours cant be far behind. Everton have had a brilliant first season under Roberto Martinez with their slick style of play. Their defense has been good as well but injuries to Jagielka and Distin left them with a void to fill, up stepped John Stones to take care of the problem. The 19 year old was only signed from Barnsley in 2013 for a reported fee of 3 million pounds and made his Everton debut in August 2013 when he played against Stevenage in the League cup. He made his league debut against Chelsea in a 1-0 win over them in September, since January 2014 he has been a mainstay in the Everton defense due to the injuries to Everton’s center backs but that has not been a major worry since he has stepped up, big time!
Stones’ is known for his tough tackling and no nonsense defending, a proper defender people may call. He is versatile also as he can play both the right back and center back position. Already an England U21 international, he will be hoping his performances for the Toffees will push him up to another level and then represent the senior English team. There already is talk of a wild card place for Stones in the England World Cup squad and rumors have surfaced that there are some big clubs who will be vying for this signature come the end of the season. Things surely are looking up for the lad.
That is just part 1 of this article as we continue to look at the next set of players who have shone for their clubs this season. Jose might know what melons he has and doesn’t but we have spotted some really good, young players and we hope they will continue doing well for their club or even their national squad in the coming years.