Monday, December 05, 2011 by Paul Grech
It is an unfortunate reality of the game of football, one which dictates that an injury to one player means an opportunity for another. So it will be for Jay Spearing who seems to be the player within Liverpool's squad who can best replicate the job that Lucas Leiva carried out and which someone else will now have to do in the Brazilian's injury forced absence.
Ironically, in certain aspects Spearing's career mirrors Lucas'. He too has been deemed as not being good enough by fans unwilling to look past first impressions. His is a presence that many look at skeptically with the belief being that he isn't big enough to play in such a central role that is normally the fighting ground of giants like Yaya Toure.
Like Lucas, no one would have blamed him had he asked to leave or if he'd accepted one of the opportunities to go out on loan placed before him. But instead he chose to stay at Liverpool to fight it out despite the apparent futility of such a decision.
Unfortunate or not in its origin, this then represent his make or break moment. Now is the time for him to show that he is fit for a starring role and not just a supporting one.
It won't be easy. Implausible as this might have seemed two years ago he will have to play in Lucas' shadow where his every game will be analysed using the standard set by the Brazilian as a measuring stick. Which, given how well Lucas has been playing, is a tough ask.
Yet such thoughts do a dis-service to Spearing who has been playing very well whenever opportunities have presented themselves. Perhaps his displays haven't been as eye-catching as Lucas' but they have been effective, confident and determined.
Not that this should be surprising. Pushed forward by Steve Heighway as being ready for the first team when he captained the FA Youth Cup winning team in 2007, Spearing eventually progressed as one of the better players at reserve level. There he rarely failed to impress, dominating most games and showing that he was on a different level to most of the other players on the pitch.
That, however, wasn't enough to get him into the first team. It was only when Kenny Dalglish took over as manager that he started being looked at as a squad member who could be relied on, rather than simply someone for the occasional meaningless cup game. Still, with the investment in central midfield during the summer, he was the one who ended up suffering the most.
Now he can show his true value. Now he has the opportunity to prove that there's no need for Liverpool to bring someone else in that role in January. Now he can prove that he's big enough for Liverpool.