The 24-year-old has already become a mainstay in the Liverpool first-team during his first few months at Anfield, just highlighting the significant progression from the youth ranks of Tottenham and Crystal Palace as an aspiring teen growing up in south London.
All things considered, Nathaniel Clyne‘s career thus far has gone swimmingly. His progression from an aspiring child growing up in the rigours of south London, into becoming a mainstay in theLiverpool first-team recently, just reiterates how important development is, at the highest level of football today.
At the age of 24, he’s still relatively young and has plenty of years left to play his trade – ultimately, he’ll strive to keep improving. In this way, his performances will gain more recognition, which was a weekly occurence as he moved from club-to-club as a teenager.
Clyne’s performances stood out, and rightly so
Through no fault of his own, it must be stressed. Strict academy guidelines state that youth players, moreso those under the age of 16 (at the time, he was), cannot travel over an hour-and-a-half to the club’s training ground. If this is the case, they have to seek a club closer to their residency.
The side in question, is Tottenham Hotspur. Over the past few seasons, they’ve established themselves as one of the only clubs in the top flight, that actively give opportunities to their more promising players, and Clyne would have easily entered that bracket – if he’d been allowed to stay in north London.
Started his playing career as a striker before being shifted back
Initially starting off as a striker, Nathaniel caught the eye. His versatility and energy allowed him to track back, helping his teammates defensively. Something he still does today, the collective suggestion was made to shift him into a more defensive-minded position of the pitch. An area where his energy could be utilised effectively on either flank, but his defensive qualities could also be tested.
At full-back, naturally. A right-footer, the Stockwell-born youngster opted to switch into a right-back slot, and hasn’t looked back since. Spurs couldn’t sign him on scholarship terms given the regulations, but Crystal Palace certainly could. Snapping him up efficiently and under-the-radar, Nathaniel continued his development there, before again, he caught the eye.
Time for a change of scenery
The rest, as they say, is history. Southampton came calling, and it’d have been arguably naive of him to reject a move of such calibre. Leaving his comfort zone – as well as his mother Ann – behind in London, it was a big sacrifice to make. Was he fazed though? Not at all. Instead, Clyne had a consistently calm, collected aura about himself.
Not only in his displays on the pitch, but the way he conducted himself off it, too. Naturally to this day, I’m yet to hear of him getting drunk at nightclubs, being charged with violent assault, or doing things that footballers – as role models – shouldn’t be doing.
Having already made his bow on the international stage for England, it undoubtedly meant a lot to both Nathaniel himself, as well as his family. From an aspiring child in the streets of Stockwell, to representing his country in-front of millions? It doesn’t get much better than that.
He’ll hope for many more opportunities to come in that respect, but his instant impact upon the Liverpool team just emphasises how good he is. A £12m signing from Ronald Koeman‘s men mid-way through the summer transfer window, Manchester United were also interested in his services.
“Even when I was playing up front, I always had a lot of energy and a hunger to run after people – win the ball back. I was really good at it, so eventually they decided I was better off as a defender.”
As opposed to opting for a switch to Old Trafford, he was eager for first-team assurances – given the chance to justify that. With the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Angelo Henríquez and Nick Powell just a few of the young talents that have seemingly come and gone from the heights at the Theatre of Dreams, you can emphathise with his reluctancy to have gone there in the end.
At Anfield, he’s already settled in quickly. Himself and Joe Gomez, look like seasoned veterans, and their pricetags are looking lesser by the week. Consistency, quality, and confidence in your ability – check.
Clyne’s a realist, as well as an optimist. He knows the challenges which lie ahead for the Reds, not least under new management following Brendan Rodgers’ sacking recently.
“I have got where I always wanted to be, but now I have to work hard to keep improving and stay here [at the club]. It is going to be difficult because there are a lot of people who can play right-back but I have to try to make the position my own.”
Make the right-back spot his own? Already completed. Time to conquer the international stage, and continue to improve – just like we all know he can, and will.