Thursday, January 20, 2011 by Paul Grech
The talent of some players is easy to spot. They have the passing ability or the fancy tricks that catch the eye and stand in memory. For them, everything seems to come easily; perhaps too easily considering how many ultimately fail to progress when it starts getting difficult.
It is such determination that marks out John Flanagan. Nothing that he does gets anything other than his full commitment. He throws himself in every tackle, every pass, every run he makes. Comparisons can be ruinous for those of his age but it is impossible not to see similarities between him and Jamie Carragher. It is hardly surprising to learn that it is on the Champions' League winning defender that he tries to model his game.
Those who have been following Carragher for some time, however, know that there is more to him than commitment. And so too with Flanagan. His tackles might be hard but his awareness of what is happening around him allows Flanagan to anticpate passes most of the time rather than having to dive in to get the ball. When he does have to tackle, there is an impressive maturity to him because very rarely does he concede what can be considered as silly fouls, the kind which senselessly result in free kicks from dangerous areas. As with some of his most illustrious predecessors, his tackles might be hard but they're also fair.
A defender's role today, however, isn't simply limited to stopping play but also being able to play the ball and support attack, a need that is even more pressing for full-backs. It is an aspect of his game that needs improvement and, typically, he has been working hard to do just that. The progress he has made since stepping up to the reserves has been astounding. Few knew of Flanagan when he first joined up that set-up but since then he has consistently been one of the best players. From an unknown he has become someone being spoken about as having a chance of making a further step up.
For that to come about there is still some time ago - and perhaps a loan period elsewhere to gain experience - but if he keeps improving as he has that is a gap that should be bridged.