Brendan Rodgers today paid tribute to Jon Flanagan’s determination and resolve to force his way back into his first-team plans and admitted: ‘We’re seeing a different player now.’
The defender made his return from injury as a second-half substitute against Bournemouth on Saturday - his eighth appearance of the season so far since being named as a starter against Arsenal at the Emirates on November 2.
In contrast, Flanagan tallied just two first-team run outs during 2012-13 and Rodgers believes the 21-year-old is now seeing the fruits of his hard work on the training pitch.
"We're seeing a different young player from when Jon came into the team," said the boss.
"He obviously played against Arsenal, but then he came in to start against Everton. He had a run of performances then where he was outstanding - and we saw him grow and develop as a player with each performance. It was unfortunate he came out of the team injured.
"I now see a young player around the training ground that looks full of confidence and has got the belief now that he belongs in the squad. It's a wonderful testament to his character.
"His enthusiasm for football is brilliant. He's a very good footballer, a clever defender, and just having him back in the training group has shown us what we've missed in those few weeks since he's been out.
"He had a little spell back in at the weekend and in that period, he was in the box up to about four times, so it shows that real attacking intent that he has.
"It's great to have him back and available, and we'll decide whether he plays or not."
Rodgers admits he's been delighted by the development he's witnessed in Flanagan over the course of his tenure - but was eager to stress there's still plenty of work to be done.
"He deserves all the credit because when I came in here, it was clear he wasn't in the plan initially," the manager continued.
"But his perseverance, determination and the respect he showed - he's never once let it get to him, we had number of conversations of where he could improve his game and he played in a number of positions - he kept working and working.
"I'm a coach that's out on the training field every day, so I see the development in players and this was a young boy that had merited his opportunity to play - and he's taken it.
"It's a big credit to him. It's absolutely fantastic. Hopefully he's gained confidence from the performance level he's set.
"Like I said to him a number of months back, just make sure you don't think that you have cracked it because there's a long way to go."