England U-20 starlet Martin Kelly has come along way since signing professional terms with Liverpool in 2007. The 19-year-old has impressed in Egypt despite his side's disappointing displays as they face an early exit following defeats against Uruguay and Ghana. That form has been replicated for his club too, as the young defender has recently forced his way into Rafael Benitez's first team squad after an encouraging pre-season in which he featured in the majority of Liverpool's games.
Despite being born in Whiston Hospital in the south of the city of the Beatles, Kelly actually grew up in Bolton and went to watch Wanderers with his father as a boy. However, he has since changed his allegiances, insisting he now wants Liverpool to win every game they play. "I've been at Liverpool for a long time now so I suppose you could say I have grown to become a fan and I want them to win every game," he told FIFA.com.
After helping the Liverpool reserve team to the league title in 2008, Kelly was tipped for a first team call-up the following campaign. That call duly arrived in December of that year when he replaced Jamie Carragher as a late substitute in a 3-1 victory over PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Champions League. Kelly has another chance to follow in Carragher's footsteps on Friday when England meet Uzbekistan in Suez. Carragher is actually the last England player to score at a FIFA U-20 World Cup, a record which has stretched for eight matches, or 761 minutes and 12 years.
"I've gone close, but not close enough," rued Kelly. "We've got one more game left and that's one more chance for me to get my name on the score sheet. I fancy my chances from set pieces. I feel as though if I attack the ball, I'm big enough to tuck one in and we've got players here who can deliver a good set piece. It's the last game in the competition for us so we want to go out with a win and put the two defeats behind us. We don't want to go home without a win I can tell you."
The ‘never say die' attitude, epitomised by Carragher at Anfield, has obviously rubbed off on the youngster, who cites the versatile defender as one of his biggest influences. "Jamie has been great with me, but he's great with all the young lads to be fair," he added. "The way he trains is fantastic and he's always giving me advice. It's always great to watch him."
Kelly has gone on to taste more first team action in a short loan spell at Huddersfield Town at the end of last season in which he scored the decisive goal in a 3-2 triumph over Walsall. But now Liverpool's No34 is now clearly relishing the challenge of forcing his way into Benitez's plans on a more regular basis as he continues his development.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to training with Liverpool and take it from there," he said. "I had a great time on loan at Huddersfield and I learned a lot. It's definitely toughened me up as a player and helped me develop quicker. It's just great to play every Saturday afternoon in front of a full house and passionate fans."