James Milner and Joe Allen have both hailed the 'incredible' performance of Jon Flanagan against Stoke City in midweek.
The 23 year old, affectionately known by Kopites as “the Scouse Cafu”, ended a 20 month injury nightmare by returning to the starting line up to help the Reds progress to the Capital One Cup Final following a dramatic penalty shoot out victory over the Potters on Tuesday night.
Flanagan was pressed into action ahead of schedule due to injuries to Nathaniel Clyne and Connor Randall, but he not only completed the full ninety minutes, he also managed to get through the first period of extra time before eventually being replaced by Jordon Ibe.
Jurgen Klopp singled him out for special praise after the game, saying “My man of the match. He was great.” Two of his team-mates have also joined in the praise for the popular scouser.
“Incredible, I can’t say enough good things about him,” Milner told the Liverpool Echo. “I’ve played with him at England before so I know what a quality player he is.
“He just always makes the right decision. The amount of time he’s been out, I don’t think there are too many players who could have come and played 100-odd minutes. The physio has probably pulled him.
“The desire, the hard-working that no-one sees in the gym until five or six o’clock every day: the long hours (wondering) am I going to get back? Watching the lads go out and train, play games while you’re stuck in there with the physios – and the physios have put a lot of work in with him as well.
“So to play for the length of time he did and how well he did; Stoke were pretty quiet on that side and they’re a quality team going forward. It was an unbelievable performance from him and amazing to see. The fans want to see a local boy do well. It’s a great story.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Allen, scorer of the winning penalty, who, like Klopp, went out of his way to praise his young team-mate immediately afterwards. “I want to give a little mention to ‘Flanno’” said the Welshman.
“To start the semi final after so long out and to keep going as long as he did is incredible. The lads can’t quite believe it, but that sums ‘Flanno’ up, that’s the way he is and it’s incredible how deep he can dig”.
Flanagan’s return has come at a good time for the Reds. First choice full backs Clyne and Alberto Moreno have had to play more games than Klopp would ideally have liked this season due to the lack of experienced cover, but with games coming thick and fast over the next few weeks Flanagan coming back into the mix gives Klopp more flexibility to freshen things up. Watching Moreno of late has been like playing Roulette as you never know what you're going to get.
His versatility means not only can he cover on either flank, but when he gets back to full match sharpness he’s also a legitimate starting option at both full back spots. Having missed a season and a half the kid who grew up in the shadow of the Kop will be anxious to make up for lost time, especially now there's a Wembley final coming up.