x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Premier League notebook: the future's bright for Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish believes Liverpool has set in place a foundation for a successful future, Sunderland's John Mensah will be sidelined for three weeks and Birmingham City are hoping Roger Johnson will be fit this weekend.

Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, believes the club have laid the foundations for a successful long-term future with their academy programme.

John Flanagan, 18, made an impressive debut at full-back in Monday night's 3-0 win over Manchester City. With Jay Spearing, another academy graduate, starting to develop in central midfield in the absence of Steven Gerrard and Martin Kelly making his breakthrough, Dalglish believes more players could make the transition.

"I wasn't surprised it didn't faze him," said the Scot of Flanagan's display. "The development of him over the last year has been fantastic and that is the reward for him. Circumstances may have dictated that we pushed him in earlier than we would normally have done but he stood up to it. For us that is really encouraging as well because it is a reflection of the work that is being done at the academy and if we have a strong academy it can only benefit us in years to come."

Sunderland

John Mensah will be sidelined for at least three weeks after it was confirmed he has torn a groin muscle. The 28-year-old Ghana international defender, whose time at the club has been plagued by injuries, suffered a Grade Two abductor tear just 11 minutes into Saturday's 3-2 home defeat by West Bromwich Albion and will sit out the rest of the month.

Sunderland have lost seven of their last eight games and Steve Bruce, the manager, now has a headache for Saturday's crucial Premier League trip to former club Birmingham City with Mensah joining Titus Bramble on the sidelines and Anton Ferdinand battling to shake off a hamstring problem.

Blackburn Rovers

Paul Agnew, Blackburn's press officer, has played down reports he could be installed as the club's new chairman. The 53-year-old has flown to India to meet club owners Venky's, but insists discussions will be about his current role and communication with the fans.

Asked about the speculation he could replace John Williams in the vacant chairman's role, he told the Lancashire Telegraph: "I'm in the dark over where that came from. Nothing has ever been mentioned directly to me. But if there is to be a restructuring of the club or whatever, I'm willing to discuss any role they may have in mind. Anything that is in the best interests of Blackburn Rovers, I will do."

Birmingham City

Birmingham City are hopeful key defender Roger Johnson will be fit for this weekend's crucial home clash with Sunderland. Johnson suffered concussion in the weekend draw at Blackburn and had to be taken off at half time - much to his irritation. Alex McLeish, the manager, insists he was right to replace the centre-back.

He said: "I had to drag Roger off. You know how he never wants to stop playing. He was just saying 'give me half time', but I said 'no chance'. He had a bit of a rant and a rave, as he does. But I told him there was no way I was going to compromise the health and safety of one of my most important players."

Bolton Wanderers

Gary Cahill, the England defender, has told his Bolton teammates to savour the Wembley experience. Cahill believes if they can relax then Stoke City will be beaten in their semi-final on Sunday and a place in the FA Cup final secured.

He told the Bolton News: "It's one of those things you have just got to relish. No one should be worried or afraid. You just have to go out there with a smile on your face and remember you're playing at Wembley in front of 80,000 people. I was there the other week, so I sort of know what to expect."