At the end of the 2011-12 season, Liverpool defender Martin Kelly had one of the brightest futures at the club. He had became a regular in the Liverpool starting line-up, earning him a seat on the plane to Euro 2012.
When new manager Brendan Rodgers took over, Kelly was a key member of the squad, starting right-back in Liverpool's first fixture against West Bromwich Albion and forcing £16 million signing Glen Johnson to play on the left hand side.
However, the Whiston-born defender's fortune flipped upside down as he ruptured his cruciate ligament and kept him out for the rest of the season. When he did return last season, Kelly made just two starting appearances and came off the bench six times.
Kelly hoping to return stronger
In those games, the 24-year-old's form looked a distant memory of his former self. Kelly has blamed those performances due to his injury horror, however he is now looking past his set-back as he attempts to gain his position back in Brendan Rodgers' starting XI.
Talking to the Daily Post, he said: "If you had spoken to me at this time two years ago I was in the Liverpool manager’s plans and I was in the England squad. To get a massive injury like I did really set me back
“It’s hard to overcome but I don’t think you lose talent, it’s just match fitness.
“It was just a case of getting over the injury from the year before.I came back into training this time last year over in Asia but I wasn’t going into tackles full pelt.
“It’s no good for a player to come back into an elite team like Liverpool and be hesitant. It took a while to get over that. Once that’s behind you, you need a run of games.
“But it’s always been difficult to get that run of games, especially last season when we were out of the Cups and there was only one game a week. I wasn’t able to get that run last season so it was tough for me trying to get back to full fitness. In training you can’t replicate game situations.
“That’s why this pre-season is vital for me. I’m feeling good and I’ve always said I just need to play matches. Hopefully I’ll get that this pre-season and take it from there.”
Competition from Johnson
If Kelly wants to gain his place back in the starting side, he has tough competition doing so. England international Glen Johnson currently fulfils the role of right-back and with his attack-minded style of play, something Brendan Rodgers is an admirer of, he could be difficult to budge.
Rodgers is also apparently chasing Atletico Madrid defender Javier Manquillo who also plays in the position.
Kelly has also played centre-back in his career, however that seems an area which is overloaded; Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger. Mamadou Sakho, Kolo Toure, Sebastian Coates and Tiago Illori already compete for that role and Rogers is rumoured to be bringing in Southampton defender Dejan Lovren, another who will compete to feature in the position.
If Kelly wants to swap to his unnatural side of left back, Jose Enrique is back from injury and The Reds chase Sevilla defender Alberton Moreno for £18 million, and he won't be drafted in to warm the bench. Jon Flanagan, another youngster, spent most of last season playing left back and put in some superb performances for the club and he is ahead in the pecking order.
Inspiration from Flanagan
Nevertheless, Kelly is taking Flanagan's role in the Liverpool side as inspiration to break into the side.
He added: “Look at what happened with Flanno last season. Massive credit to him for sticking in there and waiting for his chance. He was given it and took it in his stride.
“He’s been a breath of fresh air for the side and hats off to him. He’s one of my close friends in the team and I’m made up for him.”
Kelly will look to put in some eye-catching performances in Liverpool's pre-season games, starting tonight against AS Roma.