Less than two months ago Jon Flanagan feared the opportunity had passed at his beloved Liverpool. Today his inbox contains a text message from Jamie Carragher that reads: "Well done – the next Roberto Carlos." The transformation has been swift, the tributes deserved and it is a recovery the young defender believes was made possible by the mistakes of his father.
Flanagan should make his seventh consecutive start for Brendan Rodgers' in-form team at Manchester City on Boxing Day, having flourished in the left-back role he was handed for the Merseyside derby at Everton last month. If the position was unexpected for the right-footed full-back, then so was his reaction, a display that Steven Gerrard described as "one of the best derby performances I have seen for many years. Jon was our star man by a country mile." The turnaround had begun at Arsenal, and even the 20-year-old did not see it coming.
"At one stage I thought my future might not be at Liverpool," he admits. "With all the players that were in front of me I thought that I was never going to get a chance. That's hard for me to admit because I'm a Liverpool fan and I'm desperate to be a Liverpool player but I also had to be realistic and at that time that was the way I saw it.
"It was tough. I'd had a couple of injuries and I was working hard but an opportunity wasn't really opening up for me. I had a couple of chances to go out on loan but I didn't think they were right for me and my development so I just stuck at it and waited for my chance."
Flanagan made an immediate impact when thrown in by Kenny Dalglish for his Liverpool debut in April 2011, a 3-0 win against City at Anfield. "Even if it had only happened once I'd treasure that game but it made me want to play for Liverpool again and again," he recalls. "I didn't want that game to end." The homegrown talent made seven appearances at the tail end of that debut season, eight in what proved to be Dalglish's final campaign as manager but only two in Rodgers' first term in charge.
A dip in form in that second season coupled with a series of injuries stalled Flanagan's progress. But he drew on the experience of his father, John, who before becoming a successful local businessman had been on Liverpool's books as a promising young striker.
"My dad used to play here but he got let go when he was a scholar," says Flanagan Jr. "He told me about the mistakes that he'd made and admitted that he maybe hadn't had the right attitude. His message was that he didn't want the same thing to happen to me, that he'd missed his chance and he didn't want me to miss mine. That was a big thing for me because I was able to listen to that advice and take it into training.
"There aren't too many players who are fortunate enough to have a dad who's been in a similar position to them when they were younger, so it's up to me to make the most of that advice. He was a great player. I've heard many stories about him. He was a forward and he used to clean Kenny Dalglish's boots but he was just one of the many who didn't make the grade here."
Gerrard's post-derby tribute made a lasting impression on the Liverpool defender. "It doesn't get any better than to read comments like that from someone who was your childhood hero," he says. And Flanagan's confidence and form have improved by the game, the highlight being his first Liverpool goal in the recent 5-0 rout of Tottenham Hotspur. "Carra is always there giving me advice and after the game he sent me a little text. It said: 'Well done – the next Roberto Carlos.' It was just a laugh but it is good to have that kind of support from someone like him."