BRENDAN RODGERS is as excited by Andre Wisdom’s new long-term contract at Anfield as he was when Luis Suarez committed his future to the club.
The 19-year-old defender penned a new deal yesterday – after being given his senior bow earlier this season by Rodgers.
And the Reds boss spoke of his delight after Wisdom joined Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey, Suso, Brad Jones and Suarez in signing new deals since Rodgers arrived at the club.
“It’s a really exciting time for Andre and all the young players at the club,” said Rodgers. “I’m as delighted as I was when Luis Suarez signed a new deal in the summer because every player that commits is a symbol of our togetherness and our unity here – and he obviously wants to be a part of that.
“I’m delighted for Andre because he’s a young player that’s really impressed me with his attitude and football qualities over the course of these first six months and he’s grabbed his opportunity.
“For Andre the message is to continue to work hard and learn from the great coaches and the people that are around you and make sure that your next contract is signed here at Liverpool.”
Rodgers has overseen the progression of a number of Academy youngsters from the youth ranks through to senior football.
And he shares the satisfaction of the supporters at seeing so many young stars making the breakthrough.
“I think every club is the same, they like to see their own come through – players that committed to the club when they were youngsters,” he explained.
“That’s something that’s exciting for supporters to see. They see young boys come in and develop and then grow into hopefully icons for the club that produced them.
“The exciting thing going forward for our club is that I’ve come in here with a specific vision to an order of how to work, but also part of that is for young players and they will be fundamental.”
Wisdom was capped by England Under-21s before he had even made a senior Liverpool appearance, and the powerful youngster scored when he made his full debut against Young Boys in September.
Since then he has made 12 senior starts – including notable performances at Stamford Bridge in his preferred position of central defence and at right-back in the 5-2 rout of Norwich.
Still only 19, the new deal ties Wisdom to the Reds for several years.
Born in Leeds, Wisdom was snapped up from Bradford’s youth academy when he was just 14 and Anfield coach Gary Ablett was so impressed with what the teenager had to offer that he picked him in a squad for a reserve match soon after his 15th birthday.
An important member of the team that reached the FA Youth Cup Final in 2009 against Arsenal, he won the Victory Shield with England’s Under-16 team in 2008.
Called up for a place on the subs bench in Liverpool’s final Premier League match of 2010/11 at Aston Villa in May 2011, he signed a new deal early in July 2011 but did not figure in a senior matchday squad in 2011/12
Martin's Kelly injury early on in the 2012/13 season, however, opened the first-team door and only injury has kept him out since.
“It was an easy decision to make – as soon as they offered it to me, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands because it’s a great club and I just want to continue to play for Liverpool,” said Wisdom.
“I am happy with the progress I’ve made so far and hopefully I can progress more in the second half of the season and continue to keep playing.
“There's still so much hard work ahead.
“There is big competition within the team and everyone wants to play football. I just hope I can keep progressing and continue in the way I have been.”
Managing director Ian Ayre was equally pleased.
“It’s fantastic news. It’s another great example of a player committing to the club and what we’re trying to achieve under Brendan,” he said.
“He’s a great young player, shown a fantastic improvement, broken into the first team and made a huge contribution – and rightly so, we’ve provided him with a new contract and a long term one. Getting talent like him, Raheem and others to commit at this point is absolutely essential to the future.”