In the midst of his best run of form of the season, Liverpool's captain commented on a range of topics, most notably his club's--and football's more generally--focus on younger, emerging talent.
It's been a wonderfully long time since someone has invoked the term Moneyball--odds are the last time you heard/read someone using it, it was in the wrong context, factually incorrect, and used as a crutch to critique someone for using numbers and scouting and stuff. Numbers should never be trusted, and given that Liverpool have been operating without scouts since like, ever, I can't wholly disagree with torches being lit and pitchforks sharpened to fight the growing threat of numbers.
Another part of that strategy, or at least one Liverpool's owners have decided isn't a terrible idea, is to recruit younger players as opposed to those on the tail end of their better years. There's obviously a give and take with this, as older players tend to have more experience since they're actually old enough to, but with little resale value and blahblahblah I'm boring myself to death. Anyway, FSG have shown a propensity to try to bring in players of a certain age. This has brought about mixed feelings.
Count Steven Gerrard among those who see both the positives and negatives of a recruitment philosophy that places heavy emphasis on youth, with the captain yesterday commenting on the need for balance rather than getting too heavy in any one direction:
"I can understand the policy that everyone wants young, bright, British players. I can understand it but I don't agree 100% that that should be the only way. I think you've got to add experience to young gifted players as well because in this league and at this level you need experience.
"I learned bucket loads from Gary McAllister. I look at Aston Villa now and the majority of them are going to be fantastic players in time but in my opinion that team needs two or three old heads to guide them. Stilian Petrov is a big miss for them. To be successful at this level you need to get the mix right."
After a summer that saw three experienced, influential players leave the club--Maxi, Craig Bellamy, and Dirk Kuyt all potentially had bucket loads to offer, although I'm not entirely sure how that's operationalized--along with young players on the way in and getting plenty of minutes up until now, which happens to be in the midst of another transfer window in which young, bright, mostly British players are apparently being targeted, Gerrard's words are particularly relevant.
Unless there's going to be a mega-billionaire taking over any time soon, most would be in agreement that building for the future is a good idea. But when that building process comes at the expense of striking the balance that Steven Gerrard mentions, there can be significant growing pains, some of which we've witnessed this season. There's a handful of the old heads around, and Liverpool's captain is certainly one of them, and we'll have to hope that they're enough to bring along the promising talent we've seen this season.
Also important from Gerrard's interview, but unrelated to the above, is this, which is wonderful:
"Losing at Old Trafford and Goodison is the worst, although I never lose at Goodison!"