Liverpool U21 boss Michael Beale was pleased with what he saw from Jon Flanagan as the defender stepped up his recovery from injury by featuring in a friendly against Fleetwood Town at the Academy on Tuesday.
Flanagan played a planned 30 minutes for Beale’s U21s side following 19 months spent on the sidelines, and put in solid defensive display at right-back in a 0-0 draw with the Lancashire outfit.
The manager spoke of his delight at seeing the 22-year-old return to action at the place where it all began for him.
“It was fantastic see to Jon back playing and that he's come through the time he played fine,” Beale told Liverpoolfc.com.
“I thought he showed, in the moments that he played, he's in a very good place and looks very fit. I think he might have been able to play longer but it's important that we just take small steps with him.
“A lot of the staff obviously worked with Jon working his way through the Academy, so it's fantastic for us to see him back playing and with a smile on his face.
"That's where he wants to be. He's at Melwood most days so we don't see much of him but when he is here, he seems really happy to be back.
“He's at the end of that long journey now and he had done ever so well in the year prior to his injury when he got into the England squad and was in the first team as probably one of our top three players when we went ever so close to winning the league.
“Everyone is so pleased to see Jon back playing. As I say, small steps but hopefully in the coming months we'll see him back in the first team.”
The defender's path from the Academy to the first team can serve as inspiration for everyone down at Kirkby, according to Beale.
He added: “He's a local lad like most of the other lads are here in the Academy and sort of a beacon for the rest of the boys to go after.
“He's the prime example of someone who has put a lot years of work in here at the Academy and gone to Melwood and shown that he's a good player.
"He's not froze amongst the senior players, he's gone on and become a part of a very much successful first team.”