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London – Steven Gerrard admits Liverpool are taking a major gamble by putting their faith in raw rookies at the expense of more experienced stars.
Liverpool captain Gerrard believes the growing trend in English football to throw untested youngsters into the first team and faze out the wise old heads could backfire on clubs, with his concern triggered by the current youth revolution at Anfield.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers and the club's American owners have made it their policy to sign young players and the likes of Joe Allen, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge, all yet to celebrate their 24th birthdays, have been recruited over the last six months.
Gerrard, 32, is unsure whether that is the right plan to ensure Liverpool, currently eighth in the Premier League, get back to challenging for the Champions League places again.
The England midfielder cited the signing of Gary McAllister, who arrived at Anfield as a 35-year-old in 2000, as crucial to his own development and he is convinced balancing the age of the squad is a vital element of a successful run.
“I disagree with the (youth) policy to be honest,” Gerrard was quoted as saying in several English newspapers on Saturday.
“I've seen many signings throughout the world who have gone to clubs at the age of 28, 29 or even older and done fantastic jobs. Gary McAllister when he came here, for one.
“I can understand the policy that everyone wants young, bright, British players - but I don't agree 100 percent that that should be the only way.
“I learned bucket loads from Gary McAllister.”
Liverpool are not the only club who have focused on youth this term, with Chelsea yet to offer new deals to veterans Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, while Aston Villa's fight against relegation is being undertaken with a vastly inexperienced squad.
“The main example at the moment is if Chelsea don't keep Frank Lampard. Someone is going to get a bargain. What is he, 34?” Gerrard said.
“It's not my business what Chelsea do but if they don't renew Frank's contract someone else is going to get a really good player for a few years.
“I look at Aston Villa now and the majority of them are going to be fantastic players in time but, in my opinion, that team needs two or three old heads to guide them. To be successful at this level you need to get the mix right.”
Gerrard and his young Liverpool team-mates will get a close-up look at the value of experience on Sunday when they travel to Old Trafford to take on a Manchester United team still driven by Paul Scholes, 39, and 38-year-old Ryan Giggs.
Even Robin van Persie, by far the Premier League's most influential player in the first half of this season, is already 29. But that didn't stop United manager Alex Ferguson paying £24
million to sign him from Arsenal.
It is a policy Gerrard agrees with. “Once these players are long gone I think they'll be appreciated even more. It'll be a bit similar at United when Scholes and Giggs eventually move on,” he said.
“That's why Alex Ferguson is holding onto them. If someone of his calibre, who has done what he's done in the game and with his knowledge, knows how important it is to keep hold of those players, that tells you how important experience and top pros are.” – Sapa-AFP