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 By Mike Whalley

Rodgers backs Flanagan for England

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers feels England boss Roy Hodgson should turn his attention to Anfield, and in particular Jon Flanagan, as he prepares for the 2014 World Cup.

Jon Flanagan's season at Liverpool has been interrupted by injury
Jon Flanagan has impressed for Liverpool this season.

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Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling are all full internationals, while Flanagan has played for his country at U21 level.

And the Liverpool boss believes Hodgson would benefit from making more regular trips to watch the club in action before selecting a squad for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

Hodgson did watch Rodgers’ side draw 1-1 at West Brom on Feb. 2, but his assistant Ray Lewington has been a more frequent visitor to Reds games in recent weeks.

And Rodgers also thinks the Three Lions boss, who himself had a six-month spell in charge at Anfield from July 2010, should pay a visit to check out Flanagan.

He said: “Ray’s a trusted lieutenant for Roy, and I’m sure he will know the level these players are playing at.

“If you look at young Jon Flanagan, coming into the team at the level he’s playing at -- and the quality he’s playing at, especially in big games -- he’s been outstanding.”

Flanagan is about as locally-produced a player as Liverpool could possibly have brought through; he grew up on Utting Avenue, 200 yards from Anfield, and his father John used to be on the club’s books, without making the first team.

“When I was younger, you would always know when a goal went in -- you could hear it from the back garden,” the defender said recently.

He looked set for a bright future when he made his Liverpool debut in a 3-0 Premier League win over Manchester City in April 2011.

But having made occasional appearances the following season, he started to lose his way, and fell out of favour after a mistake at Blackburn.

Flanagan was then part of the Liverpool side who fell to a shock FA Cup fourth-round defeat at League One side Oldham in January 2013, and his future first-team prospects looked bleak.

But he won a recall against Arsenal on Nov. 2 after Glen Johnson was forced to pull out at short notice with a facial infection.

And the young defender began to suggest that he could become a first-team regular with an impressive performance at left-back against Everton in the league three weeks later.

Since then, only a hamstring injury collected just before Christmas has stalled Flanagan’s progress, as he has looked comfortable both on the left side of defence, and in his natural right-back role as cover for the injured Glen Johnson -- another of Liverpool’s England internationals.

Asked if Flanagan has England potential, Rodgers said: “Yes. And I think he’s shown it. It [the World Cup] might come too soon for him this year. But there’s absolutely no question he’s got all the qualities to play in that position.

“Obviously, Glen Johnson’s in there, and [Tottenham defender] Kyle Walker’s been a regular there. But Roy will know as well as anyone the pressures of representing a club such as Liverpool.

“You’ve got a young player such as Jon Flanagan, at 20 years of age, performing in the way that he has done. And the key for Jon is consistency. The key for Jon is making sure he doesn’t believe he’s cracked it, which I think he’s probably learned from the last time he was in and then out of the team, through injury, or whatever.

“He’s now taken his opportunity, and you see that hunger. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how tactically good he is. He played against Santi Cazorla last weekend, a player who jumps inside. We asked Jon to make sure he went in at the right moments. If he can do that here in these types of games, he can do it at international level, for sure.”

Rodgers argues that the success of Flanagan, and the rest of Liverpool’s England contingent, is proof that British players can play stylish football.

He added: “It’s been a life’s work for me, since I started as a young coach. British players were always told that they weren’t good enough technically or tactically. I set out on a journey to prove that wasn’t the case when I started, because they can be. I think we had coaches in this country, who maybe didn’t have the faith or the nerve to play how Europeans would play.

“I’ve always said it: It’s the easiest thing in the world to do to get your goalkeeper to smash the ball as far as he can up the pitch away from the goal -- and then when you haven’t got the ball, everyone drops back in.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world to coach. You could get someone, with all due respect, working with kids on the park to do that. Maybe even some of you guys [the media] could do that. But as I said, British players can work that way.”


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