Jay Spearing is returning to Anfield, where he began his career, at the age of 33, but the diminutive midfielder won’t play for Jurgen Klopp’s first team and instead will be looking to bring along the club’s young stars
Jay Spearing returns to Liverpool as part of a growing trend of experienced players mentoring young talent.
Once League Two side Tranmere Rovers decided to release the midfielder, who started under Kenny Dalglish in the 2012 FA Cup Final defeat against Chelsea, Liverpool invited him to join the club’s youth set-up – but with a difference.
In addition to being a hands-on coach with the Under-18s, the midfielder will feature for the U-21s in Premier League 2 as one of the three over-age players allowed. Many observers believe that the gap between what is in effect reserve team football and the Premier League is too big, with the days of the old Central League and Football Combination – which would involve players with first team experience – long gone.
It’s why so many clubs send players out on loan to the EFL to help them become street wise, eventually able to meet the demands of their parent club. But in an effort to broaden youth team knowledge, clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United have turned to players nearing the end of their careers, but with coaching qualities, to play alongside the promising kids.
Last season Manchester United signed their former Republic of Ireland central defender Paul McShane at the age of 35 to coach and play in their Under 23s side to help develop the raw talent.
It was a role he enjoyed. “It’s about getting across the intensity needed to play professional football at a high level,” he explained. “Actually being involved alongside them in games can definitely help get the message across.
“Afterwards you can talk openly with them and point out how they might have done certain things better. I think there’s an instant respect when they see that you can carry out what is expected on the field.”
It’s this knowledge and the ability to mentor which Liverpool hope to tap into with Spearing which will hopefully assist the careers of young players on the threshold of the first team squad like forward Kaide Gordon and midfielder Tyler Morton.
Liverpool’s youth director Alex Inglethorpe who has created the opening for Spearing who made 30 first team appearances and was part of the 2007 FA Youth Cup winning Anfield side says: “Jay has played in all four divisions and this experience will help the development of our young players.
“He is also someone who lives and breathes the club and his enthusiasm on and off the pitch will be infectious.”