Part One: English Talents Ruined by Injury

Liverpool were devastated to learn this week that both Danny Ings and Joe Gomez had suffered ACL knee injuries, and will miss the entire season.

Gomez received his injury whilst playing for the England u21’s, while Ings suffered his injury just days after making his debut for England.

Both players had been bright sparks in a season of disappointments for the Reds, and both have bright futures.

Unfortunately, these two players are the latest in a long list of talented English footballers to suffer from serious injuries. Over the years, many potentially great players have been succumbed to major injuries.

Dean Ashton, John Flanagan and Ledley King are three such talents.

Dean Ashton

Dean Ashton is the epitome of lost talent, and his tale is one of the most tragic in recent times.  Ashton was forced to retire in 2009 at just 26, cutting short a vastly promising future. In fact, Ashton suffered the career-ending injury while on duty with England, where he won his first cap, making his early retirement all the more poignant.

The talented striker worked his way up through the English leagues. He scored 74 goals in 178 appearances for Crewe (2000-2005) before moving to Norwich City in 2004. He managed 18 goals in 46 games for the Canaries, before signing for West Ham in January 2006 for £7 million.

Ashton was an instant hit in the Premier League, and was instrumental in the Hammers’ march to the FA Cup final. Ashton scored in the final, but was unable to prevent Liverpool from emerging victorious after a penalty shootout.

Ashton missed his entire second season at West Ham due to a broken foot. It was the start of a string of serious injuries sustained by the striker. Though he impressed when on the pitch, Ashton’s injuries prevented him from really kicking on.

Sadly, due to injury, Ashton only managed 56 appearances for West Ham, scoring 19 goals.

He failed to make a single appearance in the 2009–10 season and announced his retirement in the December of 2009.

He is the embodiment of a talented English player ravaged by injury.

John Flanagan

Liverpool fans don’t need to cast their gaze back too far to recall the last talented English youth in their ranks who sustained a serious knee injury.

John Flanagan hasn’t played for the Reds since the tail end of the 2013/14 season. Flanagan – who rose up through the youth academy at Melwood – was beginning to shine in the Premier League. Flanagan was a regular at left back (despite being right footed) for the majority of the 2013/14 season, in which Liverpool finished second in the league.

Flanagan made his debut in 2011, but it was not until two years later that he cemented a place in the Reds’ side. A favourite amongst fans, Flanagan earned favourable comparisons to Steve Nicol and even Brazilian legend Cafu, who took a shine to the Scouse full back. Flanagan made 25 appearances for Liverpool that season, and scored one goal, a wonderful strike against Spurs (below).

His fine form led to his first and only England cap to date. Liverpool and England fans will hope that Flanagan can overcome his persistent knee problems to fulfill the vast potential he undoubtedly possesses.

Ledley King

Ledley King only made 321 appearances in his professional career, which spanned from 1999 to 2012. King will feel that he should have made an awful lot more. A mere 21 caps, and two goals, for England doesn’t do the gifted centre back justice.

On his day, King was long regarded as one of the finest players in the country.  A one club man, King was a cult hero at Tottenham. King battled with chronic knee injuries throughout his career, and was forced to retire in 2012 as a result.

Due to injury, King trained just once a week towards the end of his career, making his efficient performances even more remarkable.

King did leave behind a legacy; there was a statue erected in his honour in Mile End Park in 2011. Thierry Henry also said the following of King;

“I don’t like defenders who hold the shirts of other players. The only defender here who doesn’t do that and sometimes still gets the ball off my feet easily is Ledley King.

“He is the only guy who doesn’t hold players. He will get the ball off you without you even noticing. For me, that is a good defender.

“He plays without any contact yet is somehow still strong and gets the ball without doing any fouls.”

But for the impact of his constant knee injuries, King may have been remembered as one of the all-time great English centre backs.

Part Two will further discuss promising English players hindered by injuries.

by David Smith

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