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Bright future for the Liverpool FC youngsters

Liverpool’s progress to the Carling Cup quarter-finals came with the added pleasure for boss Rafael Benitez of seeing that his kids are alright.

Defender Jack Hobbs and midfielder Nabil El Zhar were hugely instrumental in the 2-1 defeat of brave Cardiff.

Hobbs, 19, made his full debut alongside the experienced Jamie Carragher, and coped well with Cardiff’s veteran front pairing of Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

While El Zhar, French-born but of Moroccan background, struck a stunning 25-yarder to help send Liverpool on their way into the last eight.

For Hobbs there was glowing praise from Liverpool’s own veteran defender Sami Hyypia, who watched his young protege underline his growing promise.

Hyypia said: “He is better than me when I was his age, and he is not slow to carry the ball out of defence, prehaps something I do not do these days.

“It was a great start for Jack, and hopefully he now has many more games to go in his career at Liverpool.

“He is still young and has lots to learn, but he is willing to learn every day. Sometimes he asks for advice and I am more than willing to give it.

“His strength is his height, and I can see a lot of myself in him. He has similar qualities that I have, and this is not a bad start for him. If he keeps improving he can be one for the future here at Liverpool. ”

El Zhar, 21, was born in Ales, France, and has played for the French youth side and Morocco’s Under 20s.

The former St. Etienne youngster said: “It was a big dream to score in front of the Kop and now I am living that dream. I don’t know if I have scored a better one than that and I hope it is the first of many in a Liverpool shirt.

“I don’t have the words to describe the feeling when I scored, it was simply amazing. It happened so quickly.

“You have to forget about the big names you are playing with and try to show people what you can do. I hope I did that.

“But I now have to try to keep at this level. I must get up in the morning, go to training and continue working hard. I scored but I have got more work to do to play in this team. I have to keep my feet on the ground. All I’ve done is score - I haven’t done anything in this team yet.”

Wednesday’s Carling Cup tie was El Zhar’s first senior start of the season, adding to the three appearances he had notched up since joining in October 2006.

With Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun, fit-again Harry Kewell and Sebastian Leto battling it out for places on the wings, and with Jeremaine Pennant recovering from injury, El Zhar knows he may have to be patient for his next chance.

But he added: “I am better on the right wing because I’m right footed, but I also feel OK on the left and up front. I would play as a defender at the moment if it meant I played!

“I have to work hard and improve - and you can only improve when you play with the kind of players I did against Cardiff. I’ve just got to work hard for the reserves and try to prove to the boss that I’m ready to play some games this season. He (Benitez) said I will play some games if I work hard and prove what I can do.”

Jack Hobbs thanked Jamie Carragher for helping him through his full debut on Wednesday night – even though the former England man left him with earache!

The 19-year-old revealed Carra was "on at him" throughout the 90 minutes against Cardiff, not that he's complaining.

"He kept on at me all night, which is really good. He dragged me into positions and guided me, which obviously makes life a lot easier on your debut.

"I might have a little bit of earache but it's all good."

As well as a headache, Hobbs ended his big day with a broken nose, though he was back in training today after having it reset.

Despite the pain, the youngster was understandably buzzing after his first appearance in front of a packed Kop.

"It felt amazing but really surreal," he revealed. "Especially in the second half when I could see the whole of the Kop. That was really special.

"I had a couple of glimpses up there and it was like nothing I've ever experienced.

"To be marking Robbie and Jimmy Floyd as well – they are two of the biggest names in the game. I really enjoyed it.

"It's quality to be playing against Robbie Fowler at Anfield. Some of the lads still call him God, and it's definitely something I'll never forget.

"He said 'Alright Jacko' at the start of the game.

"I think I did alright against him, though I missed a couple of headers that I should have got. But we won 2-1 and got through to the next round, so happy days."

Hobbs – who captains the reserves – hopes he can now start pushing Carra, Sami Hyypia and Daniel Agger for a first-team place.

He added: "That's the first one done but now I want to push on and get more.

"I know I'll have to be patient. Rafa has an idea of using his whole squad and you might get a chance when players need resting, like Hyypia here.

"I've just got to work and train really hard, but I do feel ready for top-flight action. This was a big test because it was my first competitive game for any senior side, and I'm not going to come up against a more experienced strikeforce than Robbie and Jimmy Floyd.

"I'm quietly confident in myself but I still want to try and get better every day.

"I really hope this could be the start for me at Liverpool. Playing in front of that crowd every other week would be amazing."

Copyright - Liverpool Daily Post

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