Wisdom ready for Merseyside derby

If Liverpool are to turn their mini-revival into a sustained climb up the Barclays Premier League table, it seems certain youth will play a big part.

Liverpool vs Anzhi Makhachkala: Andre Wisdom

Brendan Rodgers' side claimed their first home win of the season against Reading last weekend with three teenagers in the starting line-up.

Winger Raheem Sterling, 17, has attracted most of the attention, and he demonstrated his vast promise again with the winning goal, but also playing a key role were 18-year-old midfielder Suso and 19-year-old full-back Andre Wisdom.

Rodgers was keen Wisdom should not be overlooked in the praise for Sterling and, since making a goalscoring debut in the Europa League against Young Boys in September, the academy product has been virtually ever-present.

Injuries to Martin Kelly and Jose Enrique gave the teenager his chance in the Premier League, but he has grabbed it with both hands and it would be a surprise if he was not in the team again for the Merseyside derby against Everton on Sunday.

Wisdom praised Liverpool's senior players for helping him make the jump, telling Press Association Sport: "It's been good making the step up. It's very competitive and hard but I think it's going well.

"With the players around me, the likes of Steven Gerrard, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson, it makes it that little bit easier because they're players with great amounts of experience and they pass it on to the young lads.

"It is difficult but that does really help, and it's important because to play in the Premier League you need more than just quality, you need to be mentally in tune as well.

"And that's hard when you're young because we're used to reserve team football where you might get 50 people turn up to the game, so to go and play in front of 45,000 is a big shock."

The intensity is certain to be turned up another notch at Goodison Park on Sunday, where Everton will be eager to build on their good start to the season with victory over their great rivals.

Wisdom is a Yorkshireman rather than a Liverpudlian but his aunt and uncle are Reds and he has experienced the occasion before, albeit as a spectator.

He said: "I've been to them and I can see the intensity and the fire in everyone's eyes. I've played in many reserve team and youth team derbies, and even in those the level of competitiveness is bigger than most games.

"It would be amazing to win. Everton have had a good start to the season but I think we have as well, even though the results haven't always gone our way. We just need to get the breakthrough, as we did last weekend.

"That's given the club a little lift and hopefully we can move forward and continue to keep our home record good as well as the away one.

"I think we should look forward and hopefully we can kick on by getting a few good results to help us up the table. But we just have to be patient. We're all willing to work hard and we all want the same thing, and that's to win games."

Breaking through into the first team alongside his fellow academy players has been the icing on the cake for Wisdom, who has nothing but praise for Sterling.

"Raheem's a great player, as he's starting to show to everyone," said the teenager.

"He got the goal at the weekend and it makes me proud to see a young lad, and he's younger than me, step up and start showing his qualities. And there's a lot more to come from him."

Sterling's form has already seen him called up to the senior England squad, and national team boss Roy Hodgson has talked about giving the youngster a first cap in the near future.

Wisdom added: "That would be a great moment for Raheem and his family and friends, and especially for the club, because it shows what kind of players we're breeding at the club, and there's a lot more good young players as well."

Wisdom has also made strides at international level, helping England win the European Championship at under-17 level in 2010 and being capped by the under-19s and under-21s.

The 19-year-old has his own senior England ambitions but for now he is fully focused on enhancing his burgeoning reputation at club level.

He said: "I just want to keep improving. I've got to concentrate on club level first because that always comes first and then, if England call, it's an honour to play for your country. But my mind's focused on Liverpool."



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