I've said this before, but before this season I never got the Jay Spearing buzz. All I remembered was a cameo against Real Madrid after the tie had been long settled. He ran around a bit, looked active (and ugly), had a half chance, and the Kop gave him the honor of singing his name. They tend to do that for homegrown products.
Rafa Benitez tossed out Spearing for a couple of starts last year, and he was in the same dark room that Maxi tends to inhabit. Overrun, out-thought, he just looked completely out of his depth. We never saw him after a woeful performance at Sunderland where the beach ball became famous. And yet still Spearing would get mentions as a promising youngster for the system. I didn't know why. I though he'd proven he wasn't going to be first team material. After the Northampton disaster, Spearing could only get a look in the Europa League.
But just as with Martin Kelly, John Flanagan, and a host of other non-academy products, Spearing benefited greatly from the arrival of Kenny Dalglish. And now he looks like he could be a real piece one day.
Positives: Spearing came into the lineup for good in March against Braga, and wasn't ever out of the starting lineup again once Gerrard became crocked. He proved to be a box-to-box midfielder who could run all day and even showed an eye for a pass. Didn't score, but he did win a penalty at Sunderland and was involved in the play for many others. Heart on a sleeve type of player, wasn't afraid to get into a tackle or launch himself into the box for a chance. Also wasn't afraid to fire with either foot, though couldn't dent twine.
Negatives: Can get a little reckless. Rushes his passes at times, as well into a challenge. His penalty at Arsenal was an example, as though it was soft it was a tackle that didn't need to be made right then. If he's going to be advanced in midfield, then he is going to have to score at some point. Missed a few sitters. Small too, one wonders if he'll have trouble with opposing midfielders who are bigger and stronger. It's still unclear what his best position is. Is he a holding midfielder? Somewhere between that and most advanced? Don't we have like eight of those?
Outlook: When the season ended, I stated I have no problem with Spearing being the fourth central midfielder after Gerrard, Meireles, and Lucas. But it appears that he's going to be lower than that. The purchase of Jordan Henderson, and possibly Charlie Adam, would appear to be an attempt to upgrade on Spearing. And I guess you can't complain about that. Spearing is only 22, and appears headed for a loan spell, which again could be a good thing. But with no European campaign, there doesn't appear to be enough games to get both Henderson and Spearing involved enough. His time is coming, but not yet.
Other Notes: So much for that Ashely Young idea.
-Reports are that Liverpool are close to Stewart Downing, but it's going to cost 19 million. That's far too much for a winger who isn't all that young, and isn't all that fast. Yes, Downing would stay wide and provide crosses for Andy Carroll, but that's about all he can do. I think we can do better.