Spearing brings long-awaited local colour to the Reds

 

Merseyside loves a local boy, which is one reason why the 23-year-old Jay Spearing has become a popular addition to Liverpool's first-team squad. His style of play as something of a latter-day Sammy Lee appeals too, tenacity and determination matching that of those more established local heroes Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. So all in all, many fans would be more than happy to see the Wallesey boy starting in the FA Cup final ahead of expensive imports such as Jordan Henderson and the injured Charlie Adam.

The arrival last summer of the latter pair and Stewart Downing, at a cost of over £40m, cranked up the pressure on the midfield places, leading to speculation that Spearing would be farmed out on loan.

He decided to stay and meet the challenge and, helped by injuries to Gerrard and Lucas Leiva, has already increased his number of appearances for the fourth season running.

"With the club that I'm at, I knew there'd be big players going to want to come to this club," he said at the Melwood training ground on Friday. "I thought to myself I would get myself ready and fight and earn the place I personally think I deserve.

"I had that confidence to prove to the boss exactly what I could do. There was never any inkling to move on. Liverpool is where I have always wanted to be a part of.

"I want to get better and follow in the footsteps of players like Steven Gerrard, who also came through the academy like me, and if I can do that I will be very happy."

Progress so far has been just about everything Spearing could have hoped for as a wide-eyed seven-year-old first selected for training with his favourite club. Oddly, given his size, he played in central defence in the side that won the FA Youth Cup five years ago and the Premier Reserve League the following season. After moving to right-back, then midfield he was called up to train with the first team.

By 2008-09 he had played in two Champions' League games, the next season came a Premier League debut and one of those toughening-up spells with a Championship club (Leicester City, who reached the play-offs); then last season a total of 20 appearances and the reward of a new contract.

Now for the hard part: establishing himself as an integral part of the side. "I was fortunate enough last season for the manager to put me in for the last 10 or 11 games on the bounce and that gave me a lot of confidence going into the summer," he says.

"I sat down with my family and my agent and we said that this year was going to be a big year to show exactly what I'm all about. We knew new players would come in and that was something I'd have to deal with. I had to show my capabilities of competing against them and try to get in the First XI before they do.

"It took a little while to stamp my mark but towards Christmas I hopefully proved to people what I'm all about."

Having grown up among them he knows what those people want and how important it is to have at least one of their own in the red shirt. Gerrard and Carragher have always encouraged other young Merseysiders.

"Local lads are always going to be a massive part of this club," Spearing says. "The last one to come before me was Stevie G, and the impact he and Carra have had has been massive. On a daily basis Stevie will speak to me.

"My dream coming through was to play alongside him one day and thankfully that's happened. He's been an idol and he's been a good friend who's helped me out in tough situations on and off the pitch. When I was 18 I couldn't speak to him. I just put my head down. It took me a year or two to finally say hello to him."

No more shock and awe. Head up and shoulders back, Spearing is returning to Wembley with a chance to help win Liverpool's second cup of the season – as the Scouse who roared.

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