Liverpool’s 18-year-old defender Andre Wisdom has been rewarded with a new contract for the club after progressing through the academy and reserve sides and into the first team squad.
Centre-back Wisdom made it onto the bench for the last league game of the season at Villa Park and although that opportunity came in part because of injuries to other defenders there is no doubt at all that the club consider him a player with huge potential. Wisdom was one of a number of the club’s youngsters who got the chance to train with the first team following Kenny Dalglish’s return as team manager.
Damien Comolli, Liverpool’s Director of Football, spoke about the deal to the club’s official website: “We are delighted; he made fantastic progress last season. He’s got great potential and a great future ahead of him. Andre is another player who is versatile. He can play, is good on the ball, intelligent and physically very strong. He has all the ingredients to be a top defender.”
Comolli, the club’s Director of Football, said Wisdom mustn’t take the new contract as an excuse to relax, there’s still much work for him to do: “We have shown for a while that if young players are good enough they will be rewarded. I told him when he signed it is just a step. It’s an achievement in a way, but he should not just sit on this contract and wait to see what happens; he should show that he is hungry and wants to keep progressing.
“We know he is very young and that his position at centre-half is very difficult to break into in the first team because of the responsibilities of the position, but Andre has all the qualities and skills to get there.”
There was also some recognition from Comolli for Kenny Dalglish’s influence with the lads from the reserves and academy: “Kenny has got a way of saying the right thing at the right time to them, boosting their confidence and making sure they’re relaxed, whether it’s in a game or a training session. For players like Andre, he saw what happened last season with Jack Robinson, Jonathan Flanagan and Jay Spearing, so he must be thinking he could be the next one – and that’s what we are pushing him to do.”
Jay Spearing is a little older than the other players Comolli mentioned but his progress last season saw him used on a regular basis and rewarded with a new contract of his own. Spearing had previously signed a new deal in 2009 at the same time as another promising youngster, defender Stephen Darby, keeping the pair at the club until 2012. Unfortunately Darby’s career at Anfield now looks to be over after the club announced he would be going out on loan for the whole of next season.
Darby, 22, has had loan spells at Swindon Town and Notts County in previous seasons and will spend next season on loan at League One Rochdale, after which he’ll no longer be under contract at Anfield. His chances of getting into the first team were further restricted by the assured performances of Martin Kelly and the rapid emergence of John Flanagan.
Doncaster, MK Dons and Oldham were among the other clubs reported to be vying for his services and Rochdale are delighted with the deal. Announcing the loan on their website, the club said “Darby has tasted in action in the Champions League as well as the Premiership” and that his “services were in demand by a host of other clubs”. ‘Darbs’ will fly out to Spain on Friday morning to join his new teammates for pre-season training.