How good will Liverpool’s youngest ever first-team player Jerome Sinclair be feeling this week as he tells his Year 11 classmates what it feels like to play for the club. His unexpected debut at the Hawthorns in the Capital One Cup took me by surprise I must confess, but it would have been an out-of-this-world experience for him, especially as the side won.
I follow my former club’s fortunes closely so it pleases me so much that the new manager Brendan Rodgers is prepared to give youth a chance. At 16 years and six days, Sinclair is beginning to make Raheem Sterling look like a veteran, eh?
When I was his age, I was at school dreaming of one day playing for Newcastle United but I had to wait another couple of years before it came true for me. The fact that Jerome was picked ahead of some other highly talented kids, at his tender age, tells me how highly he must be regarded at Anfield. Liverpool have a number of kids emerging at the moment, so credit must go to the club for the work they’re doing behind the scenes.
This competition is just fantastic. Not only is it a magnificent trophy to win, but it’s also the platform for so many brilliant young talents to be given their chance with the big boys. We now have another new name to look out for at Liverpool and that’s tremendously exciting for the fans, who always love to see a youth team player come through the ranks.
One of the big upsets of Round Three was Leeds United’s win at home to Everton, who will be kicking themselves at exiting the Capital One Cup so early on in the campaign. It must have been a competition David Moyes fancied his chances of winning in 2012/13.
Neil Warnock divides opinion and while I might not always enjoy his attitude and the way he antagonises others, I do like him as a manager and admire the work he’s done at his various clubs. He’s the kind of boss who extracts that little bit extra from his players and, as his record suggests, it normally leads to success.
I’ve played in cup ties at Elland Road a number of times and it’s always one heck of a good atmosphere, so it doesn’t surprise me too much that Leeds came out on top in this one. It’s a ground that can intimidate some players, and Southampton won’t relish their trip there in the next round.
The exit of Manchester City at home to Aston Villa was also a shock, not least because Roberto Mancini can field two equally strong sides. I didn’t see that 4-2 loss coming at all, but it may just get Paul Lambert’s spell in charge at the Midlands club up and running.
They were poor at Southampton at the weekend, but having beaten the Premier League champions away from home, there’s now no excuse for them not to reach those lofty standards more often. Lambert will tell his players that they have no reason not to feel confident if they are capable of beating City at the Etihad – and I make him right on that.
With City out, and Chelsea facing Manchester United in Round Four, the competition suddenly has a wide open look about it, and that’s wonderful news for many of the so-called outsiders.
How individual managers treat the Capital One Cup is down to them of course, but if I were in their shoes I’d go all out to get to Wembley for the final. I was lucky enough to make it on several occasions and rest assured, all the players left in the cup would happily run through brick walls to reach the showpiece event this season if it was down to them.
Winning cup ties breeds confidence, so as the likes of Leeds and Aston Villa approach their league fixtures at the weekend they will be glowing with that extra touch of confidence.
The Capital One Cup is hotting up, and looking ahead to the next batch of matches it’s already producing some of the most interesting encounters we’ll see all season.
Roll on the end of October…