Welsh steps up

John Welsh turned 21 in January, is the captain of Liverpool reserves, and has been a Liverpool fan all his life.

He was promoted to train with the first team squad by Gerard Houllier back in the 2001/2002 season, yet found his firt-team chances limited under the Frenchman.

Rafael Benitez has more faith in his younger players however, and in a season that’s seen Stephen Warnock make regular first-team appearances, perhaps now the time has come for Welsh to become a first-team star himself.

Welsh made his champions League debut last month, coming on for the last twenty minutes of the second-leg game against Bayer Leverkusen. Then over Easter he made two appearances for the England Under-21s – the second one being his full debut, in which he scored. At Anfield yesterday he made his first Premiership start, playing in the midfield position vacated by captain Steven Gerrard, who’d been pushed into attack.

He played extremely well, and certainly did not show any nerves. Under the surface though things were different. Welsh said: "I was nervous and excited when the gaffer read out the team but I had to pull myself together and concentrate very quickly on the game ahead. Bolton are a tough, physical side and you must handle it."

Welsh signed a new contract in January and now knows he’s made a good decision:
"It has been one of the best months of my football career."

With every player’s future at the club to come under scrutiny this summer, Welsh’s chances have to be taken when they come.

It looks like Welsh will get his chance: Igor Biscan scored yesterday but has already told the media he’s likely to leave in the summer. Hamman has not yet signed a new deal, although it’s not clear whether he’s been offered one yet. Salif Diao was loaned out during the transfer window. Xabi Alonso showed excellent form prior to having his leg broken against Chelsea, and if Gerrard stays is likely to form the central-midfield partnership of choice for Benitez next season. Welsh would be more than capable of becoming the third-choice player for that position.