Summer's on the way, another season's nearing its end, and we've got a Wednesday news and notes full of hope and possibility to get to. So let's get to it...
* A few weeks back Jay Spearing got himself a new contract as reward for his improved standing at the club, and now his late-season efforts have been recognised by England U21 boss Stuart Pearce who, in an attempt to momentarily be seen as a hero instead of the villain who's dragging a still not entirely fit Andy Carroll to Denmark, has added the Liverpool midfielder to his provisional 40-man squad. Since it's only happened because Bolton Wanderers' Mark Davies had to pull out due to injury it seems unlikely that Spearing will make the final 23-man squad. Still, it's still a nice bit of recognition for his recent string of quality performances.
Meanwhile, Jonjo Shelvey, Conor Coady, Jack Robinson, John Flanagan, David Ngoo, Andre Wisdom and
Thomas Ince will all be heading off to Romania with the English U19 side, and as far as Liverpool's future prospects go it might be this competition that's of more interest than the more talked about U21 tournament. Additionally, four younger players will be with England's U17 side to take part in another of the summer's series of European Championships for players who mostly don't have to shave except for a few odd exceptions like Andy Carroll and I'm not sure if the trophy he might be competing for that's up there on the left is supposed to look like a blender or beer stein but either way I forget where I was going with this. Oh, right, probably that it's kind of silly for either Carroll or Spearing to be in the running to play in one of these junior tournaments. But the U19s are shaping up to be interesting from a Liverpool point of view.
* Meanwhile, people continue to come around on the merits of Lucas, with his quartet of defense-splitting through-balls against Fulham providing an entry point for Liverpool Banter to ask if we've reached the point where he's better for the club than Mascherano would have been had he stuck around. To which the only answer from this corner of the interwebs can be an unequivocal yes. Mascherano might still be a better pure destroyer, but even that remains a tentative might, as much of the Argentine's defensive reputation was built on crunching last-ditch tackles that became necessary in part because his positioning was often less than ideal. On the other hand, Lucas' ability to read the opposition more often than not allows him to be in the right place to either put in a less flashy standing tackle--an act more likely to lead to recovering the ball under control--or interception. And when it comes to vision and ball distribution, Mascherano's tendency to charge around like a horse wearing blinders stands in stark contrast to the ever-improving passing range of Lucas. Meanwhile the caveat that while Lucas might be a more rounded player, Mascherano's defensive steel would be preferable to give Liverpool a leg-up against top competition is refuted by the reality that many of Lucas' best performances have in fact come against the likes of Chelsea and United, all the way back to his early days with the club as a largely derided squad player.
Still, that this is still a question that can be seriously asked shows how far Lucas still has to go to earn respect in some quarters. Because at this point the only suitable reaction to a question of Mascherano or Lucas is to fight off the urge to laugh maniacally at the mere thought that Liverpool would look better right now with the former defensive midfielder starting and the current one having instead been shuffled off to Napoli for the £3M or so Chrisitian Purslow is reported to have asked them for. Which does raise the question: who looks the bigger idiot now, Purslow for trying to sell Lucas for £3M or Napoli deciding it was more than they were willing to pay for him?
* Oh, hey, and it looks like we're dealing with another ten day window, with Rory Smith claiming that Dalglish will officially put pen to paper before the final match against Villa rolls around. No word on whether this is the same immanent signing of a deal as previous occasions that have lead to nothing, or if it's more like that time there was going to be big stadium news within the week, or whether something might actually happen this time around. Of course, if people keep saying things are going to happen then sooner or later something or other probably will and somebody somewhere will be able to claim insight and prescience as a result. And maybe this is that time.
All snark aside, it should be pointed out that Rory Smith is good people when it comes to reporting on Liverpool related matters. Moreover, the lead-up to a European qualification deciding final home game against Tottenham might be a good time for the PR and mood-savvy Fenway Sports Group to make use of the "Signing Kenny Dalglish to a long-term contract" card. Still, I'll believe it when I see it at this point.
In the meantime, while we wait for Dalglish to maybe really sign a contract this time around, the season's drawing to a close and we have an absolutely fantastically brilliant set of people who regularly take part in the comments. Probably there are more than a few who haven't yet thought to join in, either, but that's getting ahead of things a little bit. In any case, half the fun of this place is reading some of what everybody else has to say, and with summer coming on and with it a disturbing drop in football of a Liverpool variety to distract us all, Ed and I would like to open things up to all of you a little bit more around here. So, once the season ends, if you've got something you've always wanted to talk about or a post you've always wanted to write, a topic you don't think we've given enough coverage to or a slightly different take you think needs to be shared, then let us know at liverpool[at]theoffside[dot]com, because we'd like to get you involved in what we hope will be a weekly guest feature...