The contrast between promising Liverpool youngster Robbie Threlfall and outgoing one-time promising Liverpool youngster Anthony Le Tallec couldn’t be much greater. Le Tallec was signed in the Gerard Houllier era with the Frenchman believing his young compatriot would be something special very soon. All kinds of kind words and high praise were thrown at the player before he’d even signed for the club: unfortunately for Le Tallec, he believed it all a little too much. Threlfall meanwhile is determined to prove to manager Rafa Benitez he can do well for the club – but knows he has to work for a place in the first team.
Le Tallec has spent most of his time since joining the Reds out on loan to one club or other. Under Houllier this was mainly done to give the player some experience in competitive football. Under Rafa it’s more down to an attitude problem. Rafa wants players who know their place, players who know they won’t play every game, and even then won’t always play in their favoured position. Le Tallec made the mistake of demanding a regular first-team place as soon as Rafa arrived, and was dispatched out on loan almost immediately as a result. Rafa allowed him back later in the season, even giving him a game in the Champions League against Juventus. The player did a good enough job, but again he expected too much on the back of this. He reportedly felt that training with the reserves was beneath him and made that clear to the rest of the reserve squad, who of course were outraged at the arrogance.
He spent last season on loan again, no longer on loan to gain experience to help his future Liverpool career, but on loan to try and reduce his contribution towards the club’s wage bill. He couldn’t have got a clearer display of how little Rafa Benitez thinks of him when he looked at how his pre-season back in the Liverpool fold had been going. When the first team travelled to Asia for the tour he was kept back with the reserves at Melwood. When the biggest part of the reserve squad went to Holland yesterday for a tournament Rafa wasn’t going to send Le Tallec. But he didn’t want him to train with the first team either – so he gave Le Tallec a week’s holiday! The first-team squad will be joining up with the reserves later in the week, but Le Tallec will be kicking his heels at home hoping his agent finds him a club.
Liverpool have been spreading the word across Europe, including the Premiership, that Le Tallec is available, and there has been a little bit of interest. He joined the club in 2002 along with Florent Sinama-Pongolle, after both had impressed at international youth championships, both signed from Le Havre. Pongolle had the better attitude of the two, but he too burned his bridges eventually after making claims that he’d never met a Liverpool fan in Liverpool! Pongolle finally left the club this summer after also spending much of his Anfield career on loan away from Anfield.
The attitude of the French youngsters was so unlike that of twenty-year-old Robbie Threlfall, who has the kind of attitude that will stand him in good stead in Rafa’s eyes. He doesn’t expect too much, he’s not demanding a first-team place, he’s just determined to show his worth at Melwood in front of the coaches as he trains with the reserves. In turn he hopes it brings him a chance to be a part of the first-team squad at times over the season: “I just want to keep playing regularly for the reserves and prove that I’m good enough to join up with the first team again,” said the defender. “Hopefully, if I can impress the manager I’d love to get on the bench or even play in the Carling Cup.”
He is aware of Liverpool’s ongoing battle to bring left-back Gabriel Heinze to Anfield, meaning another player will be ahead of him in the queue for a starting place, but sees that as an extra incentive to do well: “I have played centre-back but left-back is my position. I don’t think I’m big enough to play in the centre – ideally, you have to be six foot plus but I seem to have stopped growing and I’m only five foot eleven. Obviously new players are being brought in all the time and some of them will play in the same position. It doesn’t worry me though. It’s part and parcel of the game and I see it as a fresh challenge – one that will hopefully bring the best out in me and make me a better player.”