At 20 years old, Martin Kelly has begun to establish himself as a gifted right back for Liverpool after making his move from the academy and the reserve squad to the first team despite injuries that sidelined him for two years before he turned 17.
Kelly’s determination to make it through the injuries has helped him become a stronger player and defender.
“I think its [the injuries] made me a stronger person, having such an injury at such a young age,” says Kelly. “I had a big operation when I just turned 17. So, it was quite difficult, but I overcame it and bounced back from it. You have to grab every chance really. I think I’ve done that.
“At the minute I feel really fit and I’m raring to push on.”
Kelly will be able to push on in the famed Liverpool jersey at least until 2014. The England Under-21 international signed a contract extension earlier this year that will keep him with the club until his 24th birthday.
With 12 appearances in all competitions for the Kelly already this season, the versatile defender has begun to establish himself in Liverpool’s first team and been one of Roy Hodgson’s go to defenders when someone on the back line goes down with an injury.
I spoke with the Liverpool right back about playing for Liverpool and moving through the Liverpool ranks.
Kevin Koczwara: What do you see in the academy right now? How do you look at it?
Martin Kelly: It [the academy] has some of the young players coming up and training with us [the first team]. I think they are doing a good job with the academy at the minute with the way players are progressing through groups, and the facilities are second to none.
When I was there the facilities were brilliant, the catering and the medical staff were very good. So, the academy looks good.
KK: What have you seen in your journey through the academy?
MK: I think Steve Heighway was a big influence on me getting through the academy and progressing on. He was one of the best trainers I’ve ever had. When I was younger, he use to join in sessions, and his training sessions were brilliant. You use to always put that extra effort in when he was there running the session. So, it was good at an early age.
KK: Anyone help you come through the academy and adjust to life as a first team player?
MK: I think all the players help. They have their own little part and their own attributes in how they do it. But, mainly the English ones, the likes of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, have helped a lot with positive motivation and pushing through training sessions . They’re both ball winners. For us young players to watch them day in and day out, we just want to base our game off top players like them.
KK: What do you see your role with the team being going forward?
MK: I think I need to try and establish myself as a first team regular and to to help the team if injuries problems do arise. Then, I can do that and be relied on if need be.
[It’s great for me] to just play as many games as I can. I’m getting the opportunity at the minute, and it’s fantastic for my development. I’m enjoying training with the players day in and day out, and it’s been really good for me as a player.
KK: Do you think you can be the future right back at Liverpool? Do you think you’re up to the task?
MK: Right now, I take every game as it comes. I think I’m progressing quite well. Still at the age of 20 years old, hopefully I’ve still got a lengthy career in front of me, and I’m learning from the best players and I think I’ve got the best chance to do as well as possible for my career.
KK: How has your adjustment been with Hodgson?
MK: It’s been really good working with Roy [Hodgson] since he came in. He has a great knowledge of the game, and he takes the training very seriously. It’s good to have such an experienced manager helping the young players such as myself. He knows so much about the game, it’s only good to learn from him as well as Rafa. He had good knowledge of the game, and it’s been good to work under both.
KK: What does Roy Hodgson tell you to specifically work on going into a Europa League game to work on?
It all depends on what team we are playing against. You know, sometimes he can tell me to push forward some more and help the winger on, other times you just sit back and support. It all depends on the state of the game as well as the opposition we are playing. But, its always about putting out sensible and mature performances in my point of view when I’m playing and showing that I’m up to playing in the Liverpool side.
KK: How has your experience playing in Europe been this year?
MK: Playing in Europe is great for me. I’m learning because you are against international players as well as foreign players and it gives you a good chance of getting to know the basics football in different cultures and how they play. It’s always good to play in those types of games because every game is different and you learn from a game that is different. It’s been really good playing in Europe. I don’t think the tempo is as fast as it is in the Premier League, but it’s a really good competition to be in.
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