Jon Flanagan has felt a tangible rise in confidence since receiving massive praise from his hero, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, following his performance in the Merseyside derby last month.
The 20-year-old has started five of the Reds’ last six fixtures, winning the trust of manager Brendan Rodgers and impressing the watching supporters with his tenacious and determined displays.
Many considered the No. 38 to be man of the match against Everton, with Gerrard describing the defender as “our star man”, comparing him to Jamie Carragher and revealing the local lad received a round of applause in the dressing room.
“It’s always great for someone like Steven to say that about you,” Flanagan told LiverpoolFC.com when asked for his recollections of that moment. “He has been my hero growing up, so for him to say those nice words is great for me. In the changing room afterwards, all the lads and the manager said well done.
“It’s always good when your teammates recognize what you have done on the day. It does give you confidence going into the next game.
“I think I’ve done okay in the games that I’ve played in. I got back in the team at Arsenal, I thought I did okay. I thought Everton was my best performance. From there, I’ve just got to keep performing now.”
With Jose Enrique currently sidelined, Flanagan has been selected as an unorthodox replacement — much in the same manner that Carragher was regularly fielded at left-back in the early stages of his Anfield career.
The now-retired Liverpool legend retains an interest in the fortunes of his former colleague, pushing the Scouser to continue his recent progress by making the most of a rare opportunity.
“He is always texting me to say keep going and to do what I do. He is always there giving advice,” Flanagan explained. “I’ve got to adapt from being a natural right-back to left-back. It’s obviously different, from right to left, but it’s not that different. You just play your normal game.
“It has been great just to be back in the picture. Last year was disappointing — I played two games, that was all. I was out with a couple of injuries. I’m delighted to be back playing and in the team.
“I hadn’t played a Premier League game since last year. You’ve got to adapt. I’ve done okay in the games and I’ve adapted to the pace quite well. It’s a lot quicker, obviously. It’s the best league in the world and the pace is so fast. So you’ve got to be ready.”
The manager has been equally effusive in his praise for the young defender since his return to the starting line-up, and Flanagan also shared the words of wisdom passed onto him by the Northern Irishman.
“He has said to keep going and working hard. After Everton, he said it was a great performance and to keep working hard,” he concluded. “The manager is always saying to push on and get up and down the wing to get crosses in. I’m enjoying it. I think I’ve got fitter over the games, because I hadn’t really played much before the Arsenal game. My fitness is getting better and I’m feeling good.
“As a local lad playing for Liverpool, for all the fans to recognize your performance when you’re going off is a great boost for me.”
Photo via Twitter/@LFC