By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Trent Alexander-Arnold’s rapid rise from the fringes of the Liverpool starting line-up to securing a place in England’s squad for next month’s World Cup has brought back fond memories for former Anfield favourite Jason McAteer.
Alexander-Arnold, 19, has been included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Russia after impressing for his club as injury issues sidelined team mate Nathaniel Clyne for much of the season.
His appearances at right back, culminating in a place in the line-up that faced Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday, have seen Alexander-Arnold thrust into the limelight and former Republic of Ireland and Liverpool full back McAteer sees parallels aplenty with his own career.
“I see a lot of myself in him,” McAteer told Reuters.
“He’s just made the World Cup squad, didn’t play in any of the qualifiers and that was like me in 1994.
“I had a tremendous season for Bolton, got promoted and all of a sudden I was drafted into the squad, went to America and played in all four games.
“I’m not sure whether he’ll start, but he just might. I see a lot of what’s happening with him mirroring the same road I had.”
McAteer said Alexander-Arnold was still learning his trade but had done well to hold his own in a strong Liverpool side.
“He’s not the finished article by any means, there’s still a lot of things he needs to work on, but he’s done exceptionally well in his first season,” he added.
McAteer, who played in all of the Republic of Ireland’s games in the United States as Jack Charlton’s team reached the last 16 of the 1994 tournament, would then leave Bolton Wanderers to join Liverpool the following summer, where he played for four seasons.
Alexander-Arnold made his senior debut for the Merseyside club in October 2016 after progressing through its academy.
“If Clyne had had a fit season we’d be talking completely differently,” said McAteer. “But one man’s loss is another man’s gain and he’s had to take it with two hands and do the business and that’s what he’s done.
“He’s on the plane to go to Russia, so he’s been rewarded in that way. Whether he plays or not, I don’t know but it’s a great experience for him and it’s all part of the learning curve. It will stand him in good stead for the future.”
McAteer said the Liverpool defender also had the kind of attitude required to build on the success he has had to date.
“You learn more from your mistakes and losses,” he said. “We can all ride the crest of a wave and love it.
“But with his temperament, he wants to learn and he wants to know what his problems are and to make them better.
“That’s a breath of fresh air in this modern football society that we live in, because there are a lot of young players when it comes to them very quickly they don’t want to learn and they think they’ve arrived.
“He’s certainly not like that, he’s not that kind of lad.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)