- Gareth Roberts from ‘Well Red‘ looks at why some fans are writing off the latest product of Liverpool’s youth academy – and argues it’s time to give the player a chance.
GIVE ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile, so the saying goes.
And in the myopic world of football analysis it couldn’t be more true. It seems that once a criticism is put out there everyone jumps on it and repeats it ad infinitum, regardless of the evidence.
For Jay Spearing it’s height.
Look at almost any Liverpool FC forum for a discussion on the 20-year-old and it will be there: “He’s too small.”
But too small for what? To play football? Well it’s played on the floor isn’t it? And when have you ever watched a football match and thought ‘If he was a inch taller he would have scored that goal/made that tackle/won that header’?
And that’s all we are talking by the way – an inch.
Because Javier Mascherano, also a midfielder of course, is 5ft 7ins – and no-one seems to mention his height as being a problem, so why pick on 5ft 6ins Jay Spearing?
It seems to me some people are happy to find the smallest excuse to be negative about anything connected with LFC but – in this case – size doesn’t matter.
If Spearing was to go down the Michael Owen route and produce a marketing brochure about himself it’s unlikely it would include the phrases “commanding presence in the box”, “capable of towering headers” or “literally head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch.”
But that’s not a criticism. My point is why keep slating him for being small? He’s not a centre half or a centre forward so why does it matter?
If he were to produce that brochure it would more likely say “tough tackling midfielder”, “good passer” and “capable of threading that killer final ball”.
Fernando Torres doesn’t seem to mind. In the summer he stated that Liverpool needed “small players with quality”.
Admittedly he was talking about Valencia’s David Silva, Juan Mata and David Villa but also name checked Paul Scholes, Carlos Tevez and Yossi Benayoun.
It would be a bold man that suggested Spearing will ever be in that class – but who knows?
In his cameo appearances as a sub against PSV Eindhoven and Real Madrid last season – and his full debut at Leeds last week – he has done well.
Spearing’s wanted the ball, found space, moved it on. He’s unfussy, hardworking and clearly with ability.
If there was any doubts over his potential he would have been on his way by now, not signing a three-year contract in the summer.
Rafa Benitez has regularly displayed his ruthlessness with players, particularly promising youngsters – think Paul Anderson, Adam Hammill, Danny Guthrie.
So he must see something in Spearing, the Wallasey lad who joined the club at eight, skippered the youth side to the 2007 FA Youth Cup and was part of the reserve team which won the league in 2008.
Steven Gerrard certainly likes what he sees.
After Spearing’s impressive showing against Real Madrid last season he said:
“I was delighted for Jay because I think a few people will have been surprised by the way he performed but I wasn’t one of them.
“First of all, you have to give credit to the manager for giving a young player a chance in such a big game and Jay certainly did not let him down.
“I see him in training all the time and he has got a good touch, he passes the ball well and he keeps things simple and it was good to see him show what he is all about in a game like this. He certainly will not let anyone down if he is given more chances in the future.”
For now Spearing will wait for his next chance, hoping to add to the 120 minutes (yes, that’s all) he has so far clocked up in a first-team Liverpool shirt.
And while he waits for that chance, maybe some Liverpool fans should give him a chance – however small.
SEVEN OF THE SMALLEST – THE PREMIER LEAGUE’S POCKET ROCKETS
Javier Macherano 5ft 7ins
Steven Pienaar (Everton) 5ft 7ins
Leighton Baines (Everton) 5ft 7ins
Aaron Lennon (Spurs – smallest in the league): 5ft 5ins
Jermain Defoe (Spurs): 5ft 6.5ins
Nick Barmby (Hull): 5ft 7ins
Geovanni (Hull): 5ft 7ins
Read more from Gareth at his Well Red LFC blog: robbohuyton.blogspot.com