Merseyside derby: Brendan Rodgers happy to throw kids into heat of Goodison


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The Independent Football

Brendan Rodgers said he has no fears that his young players might be bullied out of tomorrow's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.

Although this is a fixture that Liverpool have dominated, especially at Anfield, Everton go into the 219th encounter with a spring in their step. They are in better form, they are at home and David Moyes' side looks tougher and more experienced. For the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey and Andre Wisdom, this will be an education.

"I have no qualms about putting them in at all," said the Liverpool manager. "They have shown already they can handle it. Andre Wisdom can take on the world. He is built like a boxer, is strong and quick. And for our longer term, they will have to sample these games."

This will be Rodgers' first Merseyside derby although, having sampled the viciousness that comes with a fixture between Cardiff and Swansea, he will know what to expect.

Rodgers talked of growing up with images of Liverpool and Everton fans sitting together in the "friendly derby". That image was seldom entirely true and has received a battering in recent years, especially at Goodison, where the atmosphere can be as intimidating as at any fixture.

Nevertheless, the way in which Everton marked the Hillsborough revelations by playing a moving version of The Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother", with two mascots dressed in red and blue standing in the centre circle, has gone a long way towards bringing the friendship back.