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Slipperduke's Glamorous Assignment


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Liverpool’s senior side may not be performing as well as we all suspect they could, but Reds supporters can rest easy in the knowledge that the next generation are doing just fine. Liverpool’s reserve side dished out an emphatic 2-0 beating to Manchester United’s second string on Wednesday morning in a hotly contested game in Warrington watched by over 10,000 enthusiastic fans.

Former Liverpool defender Gary Ablett is in charge of the reserves and this result takes his men nine points clear at the top of the table. Ablett, who won two league titles in the 1980s, has turned his team into a homage to those classic Dalglish sides, playing everything out from the back with crisp, short passing. It’s refreshing to see that, while the senior side routinely resort to the long ball, the patient, superior ethos of the club is still alive and well at the level below. In the old days of succession from within, Ablett would be in with a chance of replacing Rafa Benitez and, on the basis of this performance, Liverpool could do a lot worse.

Mind you, they weren’t short of experienced players. Harry Kewell played a full 90 minutes and looked so good that it was like a watching a former professional footballer turning out for a friend’s pub team. He was so bewitching and dangerous that I actually had to look in my diary and make sure it wasn’t 2001 again. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel played a half each at the back to help recuperate from their injuries and, in the middle, poor Xabi Alonso dictated the play. Quite what the Spaniard is doing in Ablett’s team is absolutely beyond me. He is a magnificent footballer, surely more worthy of first team football than Lucas?

Liverpool fans would also have been delighted to see a vibrant performance from their number 8, a fiery local lad who kept trying to pick the game up by the scruff of the neck. Nope, not Steven Gerrard, but young Jay Spearing. Insiders at the club reckon that, of all their young prospects, Spearing has the potential to go the furthest. Like Gerrard, he has played in defence in the past, but has since evolved into a dynamic central midfielder with a certain degree of omnipresence. Wherever the ball went, you could see his little bald head trying to keep up with it, even in the final moments. It’s obviously far too early to predict whether or not he can do as well as Gerrard in the future, but there’s certainly something about him. Keep your eyes peeled.

There were no such bright spots for Manchester United fans, but it was good to see Gary Neville in action again. Neville has been out for almost a year with a worrying ankle injury and he settled into the game with the composure and professionalism that has served him well in his long career. It is notable that Kewell only sparked into life when he moved away from Neville’s part of the pitch.

United’s only achievement in the game was to provide one of the most astonishing misses I’ve seen in years. In the last minute, with the score at 1-0, a cross was swung into the Liverpool penalty area, evading everyone. Danny Simpson, the young United defender was standing on the goal-line, not two yards away from it, but actually on the goal-line and he headed it…well, along the goal-line. It was incredible. Simpson could actually have just closed his eyes and it would have hit him and gone in. Naturally, as always happens after a miss of this kind, Liverpool kicked the ball out and Kewell ran the length of the pitch to score and wrap up the game.

The result means that Liverpool have almost secured the reserve league with a number of games still left to play, always the sign of a healthy squad of players. Life in the first team may be fraught with stress and tension, but behind the constant talk of DIC, The Gruesome Twosome and the Rafalution, this proud old club looks in fine fettle.