Jon Flanagan: Rejuvenated and firing on all cylinders
“Not good enough”. “Will never make it at Liverpool”. These were the words used when Jon Flanagan was thought of even at the beginning of this season. When he was put into the team to face Everton in the Merseyside derby, they were critics who said the Scouse youngster would find it hard against the likes of Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley. But now, all that those critics can do is eat humble pie. Flanagan has been one of the pillars of the Liverpool defense and his performances have ensured that he has kept the likes of Martin Kelly and Aly Cissokho out of the side.
Flanagan was thrust into the Liverpool side at a very young age. He was all of 18 years old when he made his debut against Man City and it was a plucky display on debut. But after a solid start to his career, Flanagan fell by the wayside, failing to impress Brendan Rodgers.
But, this season has been a coming-of-age season for Flanagan. His passion for the game is evident from the way he goes into tackle after tackle without any fear. Flanagan turned in another top class performance against Manchester United at Left-Back, not his most favoured position. But, with Glen Johnson moving to his preferred position at Right Back, it meant Flanagan had to make the switch. But, such was Flanagan’s impact that neither Juan Mata nor Adnan Januzaj found any favours playing on United’s right wing.
Flanagan’s biggest strength has been his ability to tackle cleanly. Most of Flanagan’s tackles get the ball without getting a trace of the opposition, and it his willingness to press the ball high up the pitch that makes the tackling ability more pronounced.
Brendan Rodgers’s decision to play a diamond in midfield put huge responsibility on the shoulders of the full backs, but Flanagan and Johnson responded admirably to their manager’s call, ensuring that the likes of Mata, Januzaj, Patrice Evra and Rafael had a torrid afternoon.
Flanagan is passionate about the cause, and that is to be expected from a young man who grew up supporting this club, and is now living the dream. But, what is admirable in Flanagan is the way he manages to channelize that passion effectively, and give a tough time to the top Premier League wingers.
Flanagan has played at Right Back, Left Back, or sometimes at wing back in a back five. That just shows his versatility, and his willingness to don various hats for the team’s benefit. This season, with injury plaguing Jose Enrique ‘s season, it was imperative that someone stepped up to play the left back role, especially with Aly Cissokho struggling to adapt to life in the Premier League.
Flanagan ensures great competition for places when Enrique is back, and an England call for the World Cup might not be a surprise. What has been surprising though, is that he hasn’t found a place even in England’s Under 21 squad, which has baffled supporters and critics alike.
For Jon Flanagan, his boyhood dream has just begun, and what a beautiful story it would be if he could help in a title-winning Liverpool season!