By Sam Lee
Former Liverpool assistant coach Steve Clarke believes the club's young English players are beginning to blossom at Anfield. Clarke worked alongside Kenny Dalglish between 2011 and 2012, a period which saw Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll, among others, brought to the club.
Brendan Rodgers, who replaced Dalglish as manager ahead of the 2012-13 season, said on Tuesday that he has "set out on a journey" to prove that British players are technically and tactically good enough for the highest level.
Rodgers has continued the development of Henderson and Sterling, as well Daniel Sturridge, who he signed from Chelsea in January 2013, and Raheem Sterling, who arrived in 2010, as the Reds have made themselves contenders for the Premier League title this season.
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"At any football club you do what's best for the club. Kenny did that and he brought in some players he thought would be successful, some work out and some don't, that's the way it is," Clarke told Goal. "But I think you can see this year how Jordan has improved. Obviously working with Brendan has helped him, he’s had a terrific season.
"Raheem was a talent that was already recognised, they paid a decent amount of money to bring him from QPR. He was an obvious talent.
"When you work there as a coach you see it, on the training pitch when the young guys come into the senior group and they are comfortable and settle in straight away, you can see the ones that are going to make it and the ones that are going to struggle a little bit. Raheem was one of the ones who looked comfortable in the group."
Clarke also believes the public perception towards Luis Suarez is changing thanks to the Uruguay internationals' impressive form this season.
Suarez had claimed over the summer, while serving a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, that he would never win personal awards in England because, he believes, he is disliked by the press and supporters.
But Clarke thinks that is starting to change: "I think in football the most important thing is what you do on the pitch, how you show yourself on the pitch, and I think some of the performances from Suarez this year have been outstanding.
"He came to the club in a January window which is difficult, but he settled quite quickly. In the second season he had a little bit of a difficult time, a lot of the chances he had were going just the wrong side of the post, whereas this year everything is going in.
"He’s great in training, his attitude every day is to work as hard as he can and to be as good as he can. He’s very competitive in training. As you see on the pitch, he’s a very competitive player. The players love him.
"Obviously he’s full of confidence and if you’re a striker and a goalscorer you rely on your confidence a lot. I think this year has been a great year for Luis."
Clarke, who won the FA Cup as a Chelsea player in 1997 and then as Jose Mourinho's assistant 10 years later, was speaking as part of the Budweiser Open Trials, in association with BT Sport, where he will help choose and manage the amateur footballers who will play in front of professional scouts at Wembley in April.
“There is no doubt that many talented players slip through the net despite the vast scouting networks some of the clubs have," he added. "Budweiser Open Trials could be the break some of these lads need to make a career for themselves in the game.
"The trialists’ dedication won’t be in question, but it is my job to mould them tactically and technically to give them the best chance of success.”
Watch the first part of the Budweiser Open Trials on BT Sport on Saturday, March 8, as part of its FA Cup coverage, and subscribe to YouTube.com/BudweiserUK to keep up to date with all the action