Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan has come through his most thorough test since recovering from 19 months out with knee trouble, playing 45 minutes for the club's Under-21s against Morecambe and the Kirkby Academy. The England international made a 30-minute cameo appearance against Fleetwood Town last week but ramped up his recuperation with his second start in as many games.
Flanagan played the whole of the first half against the Reds' League Two opponents, coming through unscathed amid a 4-0 win. Goals from Dan Trickett Smith, Sam Hart, Harry Wilson and Adam Phillips capped the impressive run-out, which also saw an appearance for highly touted Brazilian youngster Allan de Rodriguez.
The Merseyside-born full-back has undergone three bouts of surgery on a troublesome knee during the past two years but only now is he able to harbour ambitions of returning to the Liverpool first team. The 23-year-old has not played competitive football for his club since the Premier League win over Newcastle United on the final day of the 2013-14 season.
Jurgen Klopp has spoken at length over his excitement regarding the imminent return of Flanagan, who is expected to be slowly promoted into the Liverpool first team over the coming months while his fitness is monitored. The youngster represents one of the few home0grown players in Klopp's squad, and the German is eager to have him involved.
"I think in his situation he should train parts of normal sessions and I'm really looking forward to it because I like this player," he said in December, according to the official Liverpool website. "He had a bad, bad time [but] hopefully it's over and now he can start doing what he likes most. It's, for us, very good but of course he needs time."
The comeback of Flanagan eases a Liverpool injury list that is among the longest in the Premier League. Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel and Divock Origi are the most recent additions to the club's treatment table, which is seriously undermining their attempts to finish in the top four.