Jon Flanagan learns lessons from the past to secure himself a bright future at Liverpool
Sunday 02 February 2014
Jon Flanagan was sitting in the Liverpool Academy listening to Phil Thompson make a speech about how not to become a footballer. The subject of the talk was Flanagan's dad, John.
"Dad used to clean Kenny Dalglish's boots but he didn't make it as a pro," said Jon.
"I remember Phil Thompson telling us how not to go wrong. My dad had told me many stories before so I already knew. He'd lost his own dad at a young age [in a car crash] and went off the rails a bit. His attitude wasn't the best and he messed up really. He's got a building and maintenance company now, a family business, so he's doing okay."
Jon's debut, given to him by the man whose boots his father had cleaned, had a dream-like quality. "Kenny only told me I was playing a few hours before the game; he just told me to go out and do my thing." He would be facing a Manchester City attack of Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. Liverpool won 3-0.
There were fears that Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were the end of a line; men who knew what a Merseyside derby meant because they had grown up watching them.
"I grew up 200 yards down the road in Utting Avenue," said full-back Flanagan. "When I was younger you would always know when a goal went in, you could hear it from the back garden."
Gerrard is a big Flanagan fan. "I don't think you would judge Jon in terms of ability or skill," said the Liverpool captain. "He is all about heart, desire, determination and fighting for the cause."
Flanagan is a late developer who did not force his way into England's youth teams. "You get young players who shine too early and then fade out but I was the one who kept going, plodding along and finally got in," he said.
* Tony Hateley, who scored 211 League goals during a career that took in Liverpool, Chelsea and Aston Villa, has died aged 72.
West Bromwich v Liverpool is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.30pm
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