Why John Flanagan's progress has been a surprise, a new Carra and striking practice with Rush and Fowler - this and more in our latest column with Academy director, Frank McParland.

This week marks two years since I returned to the club, so it seems particularly poignant that one of our youngsters made his first-team debut against Manchester City on Monday night.

John Flanagan gave an accomplished performance in our 3-0 win over Roberto Mancini's side, rarely putting a foot wrong in what many are hailing as the finest bow from a right-back since Rob Jones kept Ryan Giggs quiet way back in 1991.

It was a great moment for everyone here at the Academy, from the players and staff right through to his family and Flanno himself.

He's been in and around the squad for a while now and it's great that so many of our lads have been involved.

He's come on so much as a player and that's testament to his desire to improve as well as the work of the coaching staff who have helped him grow as a player.

When I returned to the club two years ago he certainly wouldn't have been one that I thought would go on to play in our first team.

He was very aggressive and was too eager to dive into a challenge. He didn't take care with the ball and wasn't particularly fit at the time. His understanding wasn't that great and I just put him down as an 'okay' player.

I've spoken to him a lot over the last two years and I can see that the work Rodolfo Borrell has done with him has had a massive effect.

Rodolfo was with him every day drilling ways he could improve into him. He was running through how to pass, when to pass, positioning and when to overlap. Between him and Rodolfo we have come out with a player who has played a game in the first-team.

The coaching programme that we have got has helped him but he's a credit to himself. We don't know how many matches he will go on to feature in but judging by that game, he certainly wasn't out of place.

I was working on some paper work earlier and glanced up to see Conor Coady's Euro Diary on LFC TV. He's another one who has been involved in the first-team set-up and he has done really well with the U18s this season. He spoke really well throughout that in-depth interview and it was great for his development that he was involved in the Europa League clash in Prague.

It just shows we have some good talent coming through the ranks.

At the moment the lads are just cover because the boss has had to contend with a lot of injuries. Are the likes of Flanno and Jack Robbo ready for the first-team? In an ideal world, probably not but when they get an opportunity it is up to them.

If you are good enough you're old enough.

Jack will never let himself or the Academy down. If he is on the bench like he was against Man City, or if he gets the chance to start, he'll do the club proud.

Looking at the big picture, Flanno's debut has been the highlight of what has been a brilliant week or so here in Kirkby.

On Thursday night we signed up our latest U8 players and Kenny Dalglish and Jay Spearing came along to welcome them.

Jamie Carragher was also in attendance as we have just recruited his son to play here.

I'm sure supporters would love the idea of another Carra coming through the ranks. He is here on merit and Jamie was keen to avoid any special treatment for himself at the signing. He was here with his wife and they both remained in the background alongside all of the other proud parents.

It's great for all of our age groups to see both current and former players wandering around the Academy and that seems to be happening more and more these days.

We had Robbie Fowler training with the reserves last week and you can never underestimate how beneficial that is to our young players.

I spoke to him last Friday and he told me he was going to go to Bury to help them out with some coaching but I stressed to him that he is welcome here any time.

It was actually a great day because Robbie was there watching a session where Ian Rush was coaching some of our strikers in the art of finishing. Rushie's going to come in every month and do a little bit with all of our front players and, again, that is a massive plus.

We've also had Stig Inge Bjornebye visiting from Norway, so we had three of our ex-players in last week. Roy Evans came into see Stig and Phil Thompson often pops in too. It's just great to have so many important former players here - Like I say, it can only be good for our kids.

There really is a huge feel-good factor sweeping through the complex nowadays and I think that has been reflected in the crowds we've had at matches.

I was watching the U16s' game against Sheffield Wednesday alongside Damien Comolli last Saturday and as we got to the U18 pitch, we were both surprised at how many people were there.

I've never seen so many people interested in watching our U18s. When we scored there was a real noise of celebration and that is great for our lads to experience.

We are just under two years into our programme and we are beginning to see some results which is very positive for everyone involved. Now we have to keep working hard and push on so that we reach the levels we have targeted.

Frank was speaking to Paul Hassall

Watch the U18s take on United live on LFC TV and LFC TV Online from 11am>>

Get the latest LFC news direct to your smart speaker
Never miss a beat Google Amazon

Hillsborough: The Forest view