A real shame this one.
The early years of Danny Ings’ career have seen him take a refreshing route to the top that seems to be all the rage these days. Starting out with Bournemouth in League Two, he, like his former South Coast club, has climbed the football ladder and was sitting pretty at the very top step upon joining Liverpool in June 2015.
Fans at both Bournemouth and his next club, Burnley, admired the energetic determination of a man who, rather than born to be a top player, has developed himself to potentially become one. It took a while for him to make this big league, and it wasn’t until his fifth full season as a professional he struck double figures.
When he did though, it was 26 in 45 games, followed by 11 for a relegated team in the Premier League. It may take him a bit to get going, but when he does he’s well worth the wait.
This is what makes his latest injury at Liverpool such a painful one. There’s no doubt he’s held in high regard by his teammates, an indication of both his popularity and the beautiful energy around Melwood these days. Fans have a lot of love for him as well because it’s clear he could, given chance, become a cracking player. All he needs is a good run of games, it seems, and he’s (twice) been robbed of that chance in the cruellest and most painful way.
I’ve never suffered a proper footballing injury before (clearly don’t chuck myself into enough tackles), so I can’t begin to imagine what it must feel, at first, to pick up such a painful injury, and second to have to miss out on so much action. Especially when you know, deep down, that you just need a good run of games to show the world what you’re made of.
There’s some good news for the lad though. Having suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to his left knee, Ings came back strong and looked like breaking the first team at last. Floods of goals in the youth teams showed he’s lost none of his pace, timing and sharpness and, for a while at least, boded well for the future. Another man full of goals could only be a good thing for the team.
He came back from that injury and that tells me he will this time.
The second positive is that it’s his right knee this time. Might not sound that positive, but if he’d suffered the same injury to the same knee this soon after returning, I’d be wondering if a proper comeback would ever be possible. There would, in that instance, be a high likelihood he’d come back again, get injured again, and it may all become a bit too much for him. That’s not the case and I’ve got faith he’ll return as he did the first time.
However, this is an injury, and they inevitably do bring some bad news.
There may just be, for one, a regrettable seed of doubt in Klopp’s mind over a player he regards as both a fine talent and a fine bloke. How weak are his knees if this is going to keep happening? And now they’ve both had a ligament injury, will they be weaker still now? Studies have shown that, albeit years down the line, the risk for loss of knee cartilage can be a considerable amount greater.
Modern medicinal techniques are always improving, and players sidelined for 9 months now might have been twice as long 20 years ago. However, while these techniques lessen the risk of cartilage damage down the line they by no means get rid of it and this might be something for Klopp to think about.
Which begs another question. If Ings features in his long term plans, and those plans are now cast in doubt, will he be seeking a replacement? Not only will Ings be absent at the start of 2017, but with no Saido Mané in January, Roberto Firmino will probably move onto the wing with Sturridge/Origi coming in to attack. This isn’t Klopp’s preferred system, and he may look for another option in the transfer market.
In all honesty it would be very un-Klopp to quickly dip into the transfer market before looking at the options he has in stock already. Will Origi do the job up top? He’s looked excellent when he’s played, but for some reason isn’t playing quite enough. Will Sturridge, just a handful of goals and a little more luck away from being on okay form, fill the gap? What about Sheyi Ojo or Ovie Ejaria filling in for Mané instead?
This, to me, seems the slightly more likely outcome. Klopp didn’t go nuts last January when his team were nowhere near his own – he worked with what he had. Now he’s built a squad in his image, and no doubt legislated for the odd injury, so it’s even more likely he’ll do the same again. Some fans may call for an attacking replacement, but have we largely not been saying for months we should prioritise CB and LB instead? I think our attacking options are still what they were before his injury and no reinforcement is necessary just yet.
January might have been Ings’ chance to break into the team with Mané absent but it won’t be his last chance. It’s easy to forget, when you look at him, he’s only 24 (he hasn’t aged well it must be said), and players like Alan Shearer, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Alessandro Del Piero all suffered the same injury at a similar stage in their career. While I’m not suggesting Ings is destined to hit that level of quality, they all went on to have stellar careers and there’s plenty of hope for our forward yet.
Let’s all continue to show him the love he’s had so far, pray for a swift and healthy return and watch this slow burner catch fire at last, because that’s what he deserves more than most right now.