THE bottle of champagne sits unopened on the mantelpiece, a reminder of his man of the match performance at Arsenal last Sunday.
Jay Spearing has had to bide his time at Liverpool but his perseverance and dedication have paid off. The Wirral-born midfielder’s career is now flourishing and the plaudits coming his way are richly deserved.
Talks with the Reds over a new long-term deal are at an advanced stage and the 22-year-old is also preparing for fatherhood.
These are exciting times for the Academy graduate but there’s no chance of Spearing getting carried away ahead of today’s clash with Birmingham City at Anfield. Having set the bar high with his recent displays, he’s determined to keep reaching those standards.
“Every single time I get on that pitch I have to prove I deserve to start the next game,” he said.
“You could say it’s pressure but it’s something I thrive on. I have to show everyone what I’m capable of.
“My dad is the first one to congratulate me when I’ve played well but he’s also one of my main critics. He says to me that I’m only as good as my last game and that’s exactly what I go into every game thinking. Every game that comes along, I have to be better and better.
“As soon as one games goes, I can’t dwell on whether I’ve played well or not. I have to look at Birmingham on Saturday and think I can play well again.”
The highs and lows of life in the Premier League were graphically illustrated for Spearing by last Sunday’s dramatic finale at the Emirates.
His trip on Cesc Febregas in the box was a rare error in a gutsy display but it looked to have consigned Liverpool to a cruel defeat. However, Dirk Kuyt’s last-gasp spot-kick swiftly transformed his mood.
“I tried to win the ball but it was a silly challenge to make,” he said. “I wanted to dig a hole and hide in it but I had to get on with it.
“There was no point dwelling on it and the team showed the togetherness we have by fighting back and taking a point.
“It was one of the greatest things ever when Dirk slotted it.
“It was a massive boost for me to be declared the man of the match.”
Spearing, who joined the Reds when he was seven, has had to fight to make the grade at Anfield. After being promoted to Melwood by Rafa Benitez in 2007, he was turned from a youth team centre-back into a central midfielder.
However, with Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Steven Gerrard for competition his chances were severely limited.
He went out on loan to Leicester City towards the end of last season but returned last summer on a mission to force his way into Roy Hodgson’s plans. Under Hodgson he was a regular in the Europa League but since Kenny Dalglish took over in January he’s taken his game to a new level.
“I have had to be patient for two or three years now and different managers have given me different opportunities,” he said. “I used to come in and then be out the next week.
“It is hard. There were times when I thought to myself ‘what’s going on? Am I going to break through at Liverpool?’ There have been times when I thought I might have to look elsewhere. But I knew that if I kept grafting and kept showing that I wanted it that one day it would come for me.
“Alonso and Mascherano dominated the midfield over a couple of years. I was battling on in the background and learning from them. With them going, I did think this was my chance to come in and maybe prove what I was capable of doing.
“Stevie G is someone I’ve got to try and compete against every day. Him being injured has given me a chance to come in.
“I always dreamed of playing for Liverpool. I want to get more and more games and become a regular in the side.”
A new deal is in the pipeline and he will need little persuading to sign on the dotted line.
“My agent is speaking to Damien Comolli,” he said. “Any time when the club comes to you and wants to talk to you about a new contract it’s an extra bonus for you to go out there and play well.”
Dalglish’s faith in Spearing has been richly repaid and the midfielder knows he owes a lot to the Kop legend. Today will be his fifth successive league start. I was maybe a little bit too young to see what Kenny did for the club during his playing days but just hearing about everything he did, seeing on television what he was capable of and just seeing his presence around the club now means I’m able to appreciate it,” he said.
“He started in five-a-side when he first came. I tried to kick him but he’s still too quick for everyone!
“The place has been buzzing since Kenny came in. He has given us all a lot of confidence and brought the team together. That showed on Sunday when we went behind so late on but we stuck together and showed fight.
“I have to thank him for what he’s done for me and particularly for the chances he’s given me.”
Spearing’s pressing concern is helping the Reds beat Birmingham today but he’s also preparing for a major event later in the year.
“I’m due to become a dad in October so hopefully everything will go well,” he added. “It will mean I’ve got another reason to work even harder and try to do well.”
Jay Spearing attended the UK final of the FIFA Interactive World Cup on EA SPORTS’ FIFA 11 as part of PlayStation Access. Register at –www.facebook.com/playstationaccess and for more information visit www.easportsfootball.com