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Welsh, John

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by Dave Usher

Date of Birth - 10/01/84
Nationality - English
Position - Midfield
Games - 10
Goals - 0
Cost - Nothing
Club Hons (Lpool) - 2005 Champions League
Club Hons (Other) - None
Intnl Hons - England Youth/U21 Caps
Other Clubs - Hull City

Widely regarded as the best prospect to emerge from the Academy since Steven Gerrard, Welsh began training at Melwood with the first team when he was just 17 years old. John was a regular with the u19s from the age of 16, and was a fixture in the reserves for three seasons, captaining the side for two of those.

Welsh is a former England schoolboy captain and has represented his country at all age levels up to under 21's. Strong in the tackle, neat and tidy in possession and with an eye for goal, Welsh is an all action midfielder who was ready for a first team call up long before it finally arrived.

He made his senior debut as a substitute in a League Cup tie at Ipswich in the 2002/03 season, and made two more substitute appearances the follwoing season, including one at home to Arsenal in the Premiership when he was booked within seconds of coming on.

Welsh attracted the attention of several division one clubs, including Coventry, Crewe and Sunderland, who all wanted the youngster on loan. Initially Gerard Houllier was reluctant to allow Welsh to leave, even on loan, but eventually he relented and agreed to allow him to join Sunderland. Unfortunately a broken toe sustained in a reserve fixture put paid to that move.

Despite his lack of first team involvement, Welsh was still called up to represent England u21's, and made a good impression when he played the full ninety minutes against Holland. Rafa Benitez's arrival, and subsequent cull of the French squad players blocking the local youngsters path to the first team gave hope to Welsh, but a slump in form at the start of the 2004/05 season meant he had to watch from the sidelines as the likes of Potter, Warnock and Mellor were given opportunities.

He appeared as a sub in the Carling Cup win over Middlesboro, and impressed in the short time he was on the field. Another impressive cameo followed at White Hart Lane in the next round, before he made his full debut in the FA Cup defeat at Burnley. The disappointment of that night was tempered by the offer of a contract extension by Benitez.

Welsh appeared as a substitute in the win at Leverkusen in the CL, and started in the defeat away at Crystal Palace. However, he was told by Benitez in the summer of 2005 that he is not in the club's long term plans, and after a successful loan spell at Hull City, he made the move permanently in an exchange deal which saw Paul Anderson join the reds.

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