An anterior cruciate ligament injury might be the worst possible nightmare for a youngster who settled down so quickly in Liverpool and became a first team regular under Brendan Rodgers. 19-year-old Joe Gomez was the Reds’ most impressive performer during 2015-16 pre-season campaign since his £3.5 mil move from Championship outfit Charlton Athletic. A little-known name back then, Gomez was recommended by Sean O’Driscoll who was a part of Rodger’s revamped think tank and named as his new assistant replacing Colin Pascoe.
Gomez, who prefers to play as a centre-back, was handed his debut in Liverpool’s opening fixture against Stoke City starting as a left-back. The youngster could not have had a better inception as he not only helped his side to keep a clean sheet but also assisted Philippe Coutinho who scored the solitary goal of the game to earn three massive points in a tricky away fixture. He then went on making six further appearances before suffering an unfortunate season-ending knee injury on 13th October 2015 while featuring for England U21s.
Meanwhile, things changed rapidly at Melwood as Rodgers was already sacked and Driscoll left the job as well. Former Borussia Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp was appointed as the new Liverpool manager during that very international break when the mishap happened with young Joe. Klopp, who is highly acknowledged for his motivating traits, consoled and encouraged the Englishman to take his time to recover patiently and never rushed his comeback. After exactly one year of rehabilitation, Joe Gomez was welcomed in full training with a round of applause from his teammates.
It was the toughest one year of the young man’s early career who had no option but to watch his side’s pros and cons from a certain distance. Klopp was in selection dilemma when Mamadou Sakho was handed a suspension for using a supposed ban drug and the likes of Martin Skrtel, Alberto Moreno were badly out of form.
Klopp had no option but to utilise midfielder Lucas Leiva as a make-shift centre-back and was forced to start his under-performing defenders. Gomez would certainly have had a chance to cement his position, but could not offer his availability.
At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky though.
The phase of frustration seems to be over finally as he is now featuring regularly for club’s U23s since his return against Accrington Stanley on 13th November where he featured for 45 minutes in behind closed doors friendly. Klopp is patient with his progress and sights him as a serious option during the Reds’ second half of the campaign.
“I’ve got to do what I can in training and try to work my way back into things. At the moment, I’m focused on developing and learning under him, learning the team’s style of play and being myself again.”
Gomez is now optimistic and ready for a comeback- both physically as well as mentally. The 6 ft 2 in the defender is termed as a complete, versatile and composed ball playing centre-back with great physical attributes. Though he can provide cover for fullbacks as well, Klopp views him as a centre-back option holding a long term future ahead with Liverpool who are glittering once again under the German gaffer.
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