Jay Spearing: The reason why Aaron Ramsey didn't sign with Liverpool

Aaron Ramsey, Jay Spearing
Getty composite
The Reds turned down the chance to sign the Welshman in 2008 because they had high hopes for a homegrown midfielder that never lived up to the hype

Imagine Aaron Ramsey playing with Steven Gerrard. Or as an option in Liverpool's current midfield alongside the likes of Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson.

This could have been a reality for Reds fans, according to journalist and author Paul Tomkins, but instead the club backed the development of a talented local lad from their academy: Jay Spearing.

The English talent had been at the club since he was seven years old and Liverpool had such high hopes for Spearing that they turned down the option to sign Ramsey in 2008.

"Rafa [Benitez] told me that he had Aaron Ramsey at Melwood a few months before he joined Arsenal, ahead of a move of about £1 million ($1.3m)," Tomkins tweeted earlier this year.

"His account was that he was told we had Jay Spearing, so couldn't complete the move."

It was a decision that symbolised the mistakes Liverpool made as the club tried to get back to the top of English football a decade ago.

Ramsey, who joined Juventus in the summer on a free transfer, ended up signing for Arsenal from Cardiff in June 2008 for £4.8m (€5.6m/$6.2m).

The Welshman went on to make 369 appearances for the Gunners in all competitions across 11 years, scoring 64 goals, with the match-winning strike in two of his three FA Cup triumphs.

Spearing's career at Anfield never took off in the same way, with the midfielder playing just 55 matches during his five years on Liverpool's books, two of which he spent on loan at Leicester City and Bolton Wanderers.

However, the now-30-year-old is still playing in League One for Blackpool, after carving out a successful living in the divisions below the Premier League.

Born in Wallasey, right next to the mouth of the River Mersey, Spearing is a Liverpudlian through and through, and, after coming through his hometown club's academy, he made his Reds debut at 20, as a substitute against PSV in the 2008-09 Champions League.

Benitez also used Spearing off the bench in the famous 4-0 victory over Madrid at Anfield in the last 16.

"I could hear the crowd singing my name and I couldn't think straight," a delighted Spearing said post-match.

"Quite a few of the lads said congratulations at the end of the game and if I keep working hard I might get another chance."

The following season, Spearing got his first league start in the famous 1-0 loss at Sunderland – the match in which Darren Bent scored off a deflection from a beach ball.

Jay Spearing

However, after two further sub appearances, Spearing was loaned to Championship side Leicester City to continue his development.

With Benitez leaving the club and Roy Hodgson taking over for the 2010-11 campaign, Spearing was given an opportunity to win a spot in the first team despite competing with the likes of Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Raul Meireles, Christian Poulsen and Jonjo Shelvey.

Even with a mid-season manager change to Kenny Dalglish, Spearing managed 20 appearances in all competitions, including eight Premier League starts in a row toward the end of the campaign while Gerrard was sidelined through injury.

However, the peak of Spearing's Liverpool career came in 2011-12, as he played a huge part in the team's League Cup triumph and in the run to the FA Cup final, while also enjoying an extended run in the first team.

While he remained on the bench during the League Cup final against Manchester City, Spearing achieved an honour that most footballers never do: winning a trophy with his boyhood club.

"Those pics [from the League Cup final] are all up in my house now,” he told Goal in 2018. "I pulled my hamstring in the semi against City, but I was on the bench in the final. That was my dream, to win a trophy for Liverpool.

"I might not have played in the final, but I won a medal for Liverpool. It’s still hanging up on my wall and I’m very proud of it, trust me. I worked hard for it."

By this time, the Reds had struggled in the Premier League for three seasons, finishing seventh, sixth and eighth between 2009 and 2012 and it was clear that Spearing was not the man to elevate the club back to the heights they craved.

Former Reds midfielder Steve McMahon was highly critical of Spearing and said the midfielder was "not a Premier League player, let alone a Liverpool player", after watching him play against Newcastle in December 2011.

Jay Spearing Liverpool GFX

The beginning of the end for Spearing at Liverpool was when Brendan Rodgers was appointed for the 2012-13 season, after the plug had been pulled on Dalglish's tenure.

Rodgers brought Welsh midfielder Joe Allen with him from their previous club Swansea City and when it became clear there was no likely chance of regular starts, Spearing went out on loan to Bolton Wanderers before making the move permanent the following summer.

However, there were no regrets for Spearing upon his Anfield departure.

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"I had Steven Gerrard as my captain, Jamie Carragher behind me and Kenny Dalglish on the sideline,” he proudly told Goal last year . "What more could you want?

"When I look back on my career, I can say I did what I dreamed of doing, I played with the players I dreamed of playing with and for the club I dreamed of playing for.

"Not many can say that, can they?"