Liverpool hero John Barnes believes the recent performances of the club’s youngsters suggest the future is bright at Anfield, but the former England international has warned against putting too much pressure on Raheem Sterling.
New manager Brendan Rodgers has endured a difficult start to his first season in the Liverpool hot seat, with his side failing to win any of their first five Premier League matches, as well as the club being unable to secure a deal for an additional forward player in the final days of the summer transfer window.
But despite that frustrating start to the Ulsterman's tenure, Barnes told FourFourTwo.com that the Liverpool manager will have been boosted by the performances of his young stars in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup win over West Bromwich Albion.
"The performances against Arsenal and in the league game at West Brom weren't good at all, but against Manchester United, Sunderland and Manchester City they were good, even though they didn’t come away with the right result," said Barnes.
"We all know about the debacle of the transfer window, and them not being able to get any players in, but against West Brom [in Wednesday's League Cup win] they played a lot of young players. Brendan Rogers will have learnt a lot from these players and will perhaps now think he can trust them more than he first thought because they acquitted themselves so well.
"So it showed that the future looks bright, because they have a lot of good young players. Ideally you want more experienced players in the first team, but maybe he’s going to have to give the young guys a go, and now he’ll be confident in doing that."
The youngster who has arguably impressed most in Liverpool's first team this season has been Jamaican-born winger Raheem Sterling. The 17-year-old started his first Premier League match against Manchester City in August, before featuring against Arsenal and providing an assist and winning the man of the match award in the 1-1 draw at Sunderland.
His performances saw him earn a surprise call-up into Roy Hodgson's England squad for the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine earlier this month. But Barnes, who also earned a call-up to the senior England side having been born in Jamaica, has stressed the importance of not heaping too much pressure on the youngster.
"He's a big prospect and he's been doing well, but I would urge people not to put pressure on the young boy," Barnes reasoned.
"He has been impressive, but it's only been five games and they are still third from bottom, so we can't get carried away in terms of the impact that he's had. We have to be very careful, let's just focus on the team, getting him to be part of the team, helping the team to develop and not putting pressure on him.
"If you look at the pressure that was on Theo Walcott when he went to the World Cup in 2006, it almost seemed to set him back a year or two, I wouldn't want that to happen to Raheem. He's a good prospect, he's got a good head on his shoulders, just allow him to develop slowly without any pressure."
By James Maw
John Barnes was speaking ahead of ESPN’s live and exclusive coverage of Man United v Spurs at 4.30pm on Saturday. Visit espn.co.uk/tv for detailscomments