At the end of the 2012/13 season, Liverpool youngster Cameron Brannagan was just a squad player in the Under 18s, playing in a more defensive position when he did play. Just 6 months later, the 17 year old was a regular in Alex Inglethorpe’s Under 21s, represented England at Under 18 level and has made the substitute’s bench for the first time.
At the end of the 2012/13 season, Liverpool parted company with Under 18s manager Steve Cooper, who had guided his young Reds to the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup and this may have been a trigger for Brannagan’s substantial development. As mentioned in the introduction, Brannagan found it tough to feature in every Under 18 game, as Steve Cooper seemed to have preferred the then captain Jordan Lussey and 16 year old Jordan Rossiter in midfield.
After Cooper left the club in May 2013, Liverpool appointed Mike Garrity in temporary charge until a suitable replacement was found. This suited the youngster because Garrity is in charge of the younger generation of Liverpool footballers, he would have seen that Brannagan’s preferred position was as an attacking midfielder so he was given some valuable game time in the Number 10 role until the club appointed Neil Critchley as Head Coach. Since then Garrity and Inglethorpe promoted the youngster to the Under 21s to play in his preferred attacking midfielder position.
In this new position, he has thrived making that place his own in Inglethorpe’s Under 21s despite playing against players who are up to 4 years older than him. This season alone, Brannagan has played most of the Under 21s games this season including games against Dutch giants PSV, where he happened to score as well. The impressive thing is that he is still eligible to play for Critchley’s Under 18s and he only drops down to add much needed experience when the Reds play in the FA Youth Cup, showing that he has already established himself as a Under 21 regular. In his short time with the second string, Brannagan has scored 5 goals and in doing so becoming the joint top scorer this season. This run of form in his much loved Number 10 role has also seen Brannagan called up to England Under 18s side. Although you may think that it is only the Under 18s, he is still playing above his age group, against some of the best young talents in the world. Like with the Under 21s, the youngster made the Number 10 position his own by getting an assist in the recent 2-1 defeat to Croatia. What also would have helped Brannagan with his development is the signing of his new contract and the man that made that happen, Brendan Rodgers.
Once he signed his first professional contract with this boyhood club in November, it allowed Brannagan to play with no fear and his future has already been tied down. With this comes confidence and this confidence when playing against older, more experienced Under 21 players impressed manager Brendan Rodgers, who rewarded the youngster with a place on the substitute’s bench against Oldham in the FA Cup in January. His call-up came just at the right time. Rodgers is now in his 3rd season as Liverpool manager, meaning that he is settled and it is essentially his first season with the staff and the players he wants. As you may or may not know, Rodgers worked as a youth team coach for Chelsea and is one of very few managers in the Premier League who likes to play the younger generation of players. That is why players like Jordon Ibe, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Rossiter and now Brannagan have been given a chance at first team level. The 17 year old is showing great potential in his new role with his team mates and a new manager, and with a new contract signed last year, the only way I can see Brannagan going is up and through the ranks if he continues to perform on the pitch.
Since then he has consolidated his place as an Under 21 regular and has featured for Liverpool Under 19 side in the UEFA Youth League and recently scored in the Reds 3-2 win over Real Madrid last month. It is Real Madrid’s bitter rivals Barcelona who have recently expressed an interest in acquiring the midfielder prodigy, and it is still not clear whether the Catalan giants will make a fresh approach after Liverpool rejected their first offer. It is unclear whether Brannagan will stay in the Under 21 setup in future months or move up to Brendan Rodgers first team as a squad player, but with competition being so fierce in Liverpool’s midfielder, even more so with the rise of Rossiter and Jordan Williams, Brannagan could find opportunities limited. After his remarkable journey from squad player in the Under 18s, can Brannagan repeat this in the first team, or will lower league clubs come calling from his signature in January?
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