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Warnock, Stephen

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by Dave Usher

Date of Birth - 12/12/81
Nationality - English
Position - Defender/Midfielder
Cost - Nothing
Games - 67
Goals - 1
Club Hons (Lpool) - 2005 Champions League
Club Hons (Other) - None
Intnl Hons - England Caps
Other Clubs - Bradford (loan), Coventry (loan), Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa

Had it not been for an unbelievably cruel run of serious injuries, Stevie Warnock would surely have been well established in the first team squad before he was even out of his teens, such was the promise he showed in his formative years at the Academy.

An England schoolboy international, and a member of the reds u18 side when he was just 15, Stephen broke his leg at the start of the 1999/00 season. That sidelined him for most of the campaign, and then just two games into his comeback, he broke it again. That ruled him out for the rest of the season, and just when he was ready to re-establish himself at the start of the 00/01 season, he broke his other leg during a pre-season game!

Thankfully it wasn't that serious this time, and only sidelined him until October. He returned to under 19 action and looked as if he'd never been away, turning in a series of outstanding performances and forcing his way into the reserve side. He was excellent for the reserves too, excelling in a variety of positions including left back, left midfield and centre midfield. He's an abrasive character, and likes to get stuck in, which considering the terrible injury problems he's had shows commendable courage.

The 2001/02 season saw Warnock emerge as the reserves most consistent performer after an injury to Gregory Vignal gave him an extended run in the side at left back. Such was his impressive form, he was rewarded that summer with a new two year contract. The following season was frustrating for Warnock, who couldn't force his way into the senior set up. He impressed on loan at Bradford, and other first division clubs were keen to take him on loan also.

Gerard Houllier told him there was no point in him going back out on loan, as he'd already proved he could hack it in Division One, and that he was needed at Liverpool. Gregory Vignal was sent out on loan to help clear Warnock's path to the first team, but as the side began to struggle Houllier wouldn't take a chance on throwing in the untested Academy graduate. Warnock was left kicking his heels in the reserves whilst Bruno Cheyrou and Djimi Traore embarassed themselves in the first team, until eventually Warnock's season was ended by injury.

The following season saw him sent to Coventry, literally as well as figuratively. A one year loan deal at Highfield Road saw Warnock really establish himself as a professional, although no-one from Liverpool kept in contact with him while he was there. Sky Blues fans voted him their player of the season, and he attracted interest from several division One clubs, as well as a Premiership club based in the North West.

Liverpool offered him a new contract, but the player was undecided about what he should do, despite the fact he's a lifelong red. Under Houllier it seemed unlikely he'd get a chance, but when the Frenchman was dismissed Stephen signed the contract, even before Rafa Benitez was appointed.

The new boss took an instant shine to Warnock, and involved him straight away in the pre-season games. Stephen made his league debut as a substitute at Spurs, and went on to impress both at full back and left midfield that season. An outstanding performance away at Leverkusen in the Champions League looked to have secured a lengthy run at left back for Stephen, but he picked up an injury in the Merseyside Derby game at Anfield a few days later, and struggled to regain his place.

It would prove a familiar tale, as every time he looked like putting a run together, he;d pick up a knock and find himself struggling to establish himself once more when he returned to the side. His frustration at a lack of regular first team football eventually got the better of him, and he moved to Blackburn Rovers in January 2007.

Playing regular football saw Warnock's game progress to the point where he was called up by England and eventually signed by Aston Villa.

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