Liverpool rebuild from within

The present is tense, the future may be perfect.

As Liverpool's jubilant young squad left the White Hart Lane pitch on Wednesday evening after ejecting a much more experienced Tottenham side from the League Cup, the most tumultuous applause in the main stand came from a florid-faced, grey-haired figure who may have been wondering how many more times he will be cheerleading from the chairman's seat.

As Liverpool's jubilant young squad left the White Hart Lane pitch on Wednesday evening after ejecting a much more experienced Tottenham side from the League Cup, the most tumultuous applause in the main stand came from a florid-faced, grey-haired figure who may have been wondering how many more times he will be cheerleading from the chairman's seat.

David Moores' delight at this confirmation of the club's youthful talent was tempered by the knowledge that the following night's annual meeting could well be his last in charge. In the event, he resisted the temptation to resign on the spot, but appeared to have accepted that he cannot hang on for much longer in the face of the various takeover bids being prepared, hostile and otherwise.

The longest-running and most popular of those is from the local property millionaire Steve Morgan, who in a straw poll conducted by the two local newspapers was by Friday night running comfortably ahead of Moores and other more nebulous interest from Thailand, New England and one inevitable "mystery bidder". Meanwhile, the man responsible for producing so many of the bright young things who had given Moores reason to be cheering on Wednesday was also indicating his preference for backing local lads.

Steve Heighway, once a flying Liverpool winger and now the club's academy director, has eschewed the recruiting policies that have seen Arsenal and Manchester United accused of worldwide cradle-snatching. While Liverpool's first team may be as cosmopolitan as most, under the influence of a Spanish manager preceded by a Frenchman, no fewer than nine of the 16 players on duty at Tottenham were British or Irish passport-holders who had passed through Heighway's hands.

Never a controversialist, he pointedly refuses to debate Gérard Houllier's misgivings over the academy's productivity rate and also stops short of directly criticising Liverpool's chief rivals, while making it clear that he hopes the notion of clubs truly representing their communities may not be dead. "We haven't actively gone in like United and Arsenal for the best young European players round the world," he says, "because we believe that Merseyside is a distinct area with its own culture and we wanted to prioritise the opportunity for local kids."

To that extent he would be in favour of proposed legislation by Uefa stipulating a minimum number of players in a squad who come through a club's youth teams: "Anything that encourages clubs to give boys who grow up loving their club an opportunity to play for that club is good. There are thousands of kids who grow up in this city dreaming of playing for Liverpool, and to prioritise that chance makes sense. But at the same time, I'm also in favour of top-quality football and top-quality players."

Sir Alex Ferguson is on record as saying that the system of academies instigated by the Football Association under Howard Wilkinson in the Nineties is too restrictive in only allowing clubs to recruit from within one hour's travelling time for under-14s and 90 minutes for older age groups. Heighway, however, describes the system as "a national treasure", adding: "Somebody has to say what's best for the good of the game and the English game. There have to be rules when you're dealing with child-protection issues. There are people who break the rules, but we tend to run an ethical policy here and follow the Premier League line. Some clubs just have a more aggressive recruitment policy, with people all over the world leaving no stone unturned. Some clubs are out there and some are looking closer to home."

A look down the team list at White Hart Lane illustrated that the latter policy is bearing fruit. The full-backs David Raven and Stephen Warnock, and midfielders Darren Potter, John Welsh and Mark Smyth, are all Merseysiders; Neil Mellor, the goalscoring hero against Arsenal last Sunday, was born in Manchester, while Richie Partridge was brought over from Dublin and Robbie Foy hails from Edinburgh; most have been at the club since a very young age.

"Some have been here long enough to be entitled to a testimonial before they got in the first team," Heighway jokes. Even Zak Whitbread, the strapping blond defender whose name hints at more exotic origins, has a strong Liverpool connection: although born in Houston, he is the son of Barry Whitbread, who played with Heighway in the British Universities team before moving to the United States and then returning to work at the club, where he is now head of recruitment.

Rafael Benitez said after the Tottenham game: "I'm very, very proud of the young players." Their future is now in his hands, while Heighway turns to the next crop: "We've a very, very talented group aged 15 and 16," he enthuses. "Exciting times." Even if David Moores feels he is condemned to live in them.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor