For a 19-year-old, what better way to prove your quality than against Premier League opposition? Well, that was exactly what Liverpool youngster Cameron Brannagan did in their fourth round FA Cup tie against West Ham on Saturday.
Only a few would have heard of his name before this season despite wearing the captain’s armband for the Under 21’s. However, this campaign has seen Brannagan unleash his potential on the big stage and become a well-known new talent at Anfield.
It was former manager Brendan Rodgers who awarded the midfielder with his debut, coming on for fellow youngster Jordan Rossiter in the Reds’ opening Europa League tie against Bordeaux this season. Since then, he has excited the Reds fans with his confidence and winning mentality.
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Doubts mounted concerning Brannagan’s future when Jurgen Klopp took charge in October; however, when the 19-year-old was handed a three-year-contract, the future looked bright under the new Liverpool boss. Klopp described the youngster as a real talent who has ‘everything you need’ from a midfield player, just 24 hours after putting pen to paper on a new deal.
When Brannagan made his third Reds appearance against the Hammers at the weekend, he proved clinical to Liverpool’s solid performance. He was a major cog in their 3-0 victory over Exeter a fortnight ago which subsequently saw the Reds face Slaven Bilic’s side in the next round. However, with 74 places separating West Ham from the League Two outfit, the giant leap could have prevented Brannagan from continuing to outshine his team-mates – that wasn’t the case.
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Liverpool have lacked dangerous free-kick takers since the departure of Steven Gerrard and when Brannagan expertly swerved the ball into the mixer during the first half, the Reds could well have found their new set piece specialist. His intelligence and fancy footwork for such a young player is what sets him apart from his other youth teammates who often fail to produce such talent on the big stage.
He continued to keep possession throughout whilst showing off his hard working attribute. When he produced a shot that caused Hammers ‘keeper Darren Randolph to make a fingertip save, the Reds faithful could well have seen their next successor from the academy.
Liverpool’s midfield has proven a disappointment this season and what they lack is an injection of pace and penetration, the qualities Brannagan possesses. He was a stand-out performer in the side at the weekend and deservedly earned the plaudits of the Liverpool fans. The standing ovation the youngster received when he was taken off on 86 minutes highlighted his positive contribution and will hope to replicate his credentials when the Reds face West Ham in the replay.
What Brannagan must concentrate on, though, is his goal scoring ability and becoming a regular in Klopp’s plans. If anyone is to succeed Gerrard at Liverpool, the youngster is definitely a possible replacement and with more game time, he can undoubtedly become a Reds hero.