BOSTON — Martin Kelly has been around long enough to recognize opportunity when it presents itself.
Having recovered from the ACL injury that wrecked his 2012-13 season and hampered his progress in 2013-14, Kelly is looking to earn regular playing time for Liverpool FC in 2014-15.
“Physically, I feel the best place I’ve been throughout my career,” Kelly said after Liverpool’s practice session Tuesday at Harvard. “I’ve worked a lot with the rehab and medical fitness staff. I feel really strong. I just need the run of games to keep myself fit.”
However, it won’t be easy for Kelly to reach his immediate goal. Some players are fixtures on Liverpool’s back line, while others seek to displace them.
Kelly, 24, was on the cusp of a breakthrough two years ago — before the injury bug hit — and he understands that he must impress Brendan Rodgers every day this preseason in order to regain the manager’s trust.
“You can only play when you get picked, and you’ve got to be putting in that little extra into training to catch the manager’s eye,” Kelly said. “I think preseason is a real good opportunity for someone like myself to get these chances to get back up to peak fitness. Once given these chances, you’ve got to take them. That’s football — especially at this elite level.
Kelly believes the upcoming campaign will be pivotal in his career. The versatile defender has played 62 games in seven seasons for Liverpool, and he is confident that he can add to that total this term, as the Reds will be competing on four fronts.
“I think the first goal is definitely to be playing now,” Kelly said. “I’ve had all of last season playing little bits. This season’s massive for me in terms of playing week-in, week-out. I’ve not done that in the past four years. I’ve played a handful of games, then been unlucky with injuries.
“We’ve got four competitions. It’s good for the likes of me, who hasn’t played as much, to be given the opportunities to take with both hands.”
Kelly’s journey to peak fitness, a place in Rodgers’ rotation and a potential return to England’s national team continue Wednesday when Liverpool faces AS Roma at Fenway Park. Kelly didn’t participate when the teams met at Fenway in 2012, and he’s keen to play at the iconic venue for the first time.
“It’s my second time coming to Boston,” Kelly concluded. “Last time, I arrived a little late after coming back from the Euros (2012 UEFA European Championships), and I didn’t get to play at Fenway Park, so I’m looking forward to playing this year. I know it’s got massive character and history and character, and it’s a great opportunity to play at a top-class stadium.”
Despite his age and youthful appearance, Kelly has enough veteran savvy to answer the door when opportunity knocks. And Kelly doesn’t mind if the door is in Boston, Liverpool or elsewhere. He has positioned himself next to it and is waiting for the moment.
Photo via LiverpoolFC.com