Ings shuns iconic shirt numbers


Once Ings, 22, had signed his contract with Liverpool this month, all that was left to attend to were the details: what time to report for pre-season, what holiday fitness programme and, of course, the question of his squad number. At Liverpool it just so happens that Nos 7, 8 and 9 are all up for grabs - the latter with Rickie Lambert's impending departure - and all of them, of course, heavy with history and significance.

Nothing quite tops No 7, the number that Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Peter Beardsley, Steve McManaman and Luis Suarez all wore in their time. No 9 belonged to some of the club's greatest goalscorers: Ian St John, Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres. As for No 8, that one is all about one player - and, with due respect to Emile Heskey, who wore the number before Steven Gerrard took it on in 2004, there is no bigger shirt to fill than that of the former captain.

Ings has opted for No 28. His reasoning was that it takes time and goals to earn a shirt worn by the greats. A free transfer, he will not have the burden of a big fee at Liverpool, and without the famous number he will not invite immediate comparisons with his predecessors. He wants one of the historic shirts in time but for now Ings has the number that Gerrard originally wore as he made his way to being a first-team regular.

Other Liverpool No 28s include Nicky Rizzo, Bruno Cheyrou, Damien Plessis and Christian Poulsen. It would be fair to say that, Gerrard's brief tenure aside, this is not a shirt with quite the same place in Liverpool's history.

Speaking after England Under-21s' victory over Sweden in the Czech Republic on Sunday evening, Ings said that he had given his new squad number at Liverpool a good deal of thought. “I stayed away from the low numbers,” he said. “You have got to take that pressure off yourself as a young lad coming through. That is what I think.

“I would make sure I am established before taking any of those numbers [like 7 or 8]. It is such a huge club. That was the thinking behind it. I wouldn't want to go to Liverpool and chuck a shirt on my back like that, it is pressure you don't need. The expectation at clubs like that is huge. Obviously I am going to work my socks off to earn that kind of number one day. For now I will take a high number and work hard.”

Ings has also told his new club that he will not need the three-week break promised to him after the Under-21s European Championship finals. Sunday's win means that a victory over Italy tomorrow will guarantee a place in the semi-finals on Saturday. Even a draw would be good enough providing Sweden do not beat Portugal in the other final group game. If England reach the final, Ings will not be home until a week on Thursday.

Nevertheless, he is determined to be on the club flight to Thailand, for a four-game tour that takes in Thailand, Australia and Malaysia, with the first game on 14 July. “I think Liverpool were giving me three weeks from the last game of this tournament,” he said. “I will be raring to go so I will probably only have two and join up with them on tour because I don't want to be playing catch up. I would prefer to be around the squad and ready to go for the start of the season.”

Ings had a wide range of options as his contract at Burnley wound down last season. With 11 goals in a relegated Premier League side, there were inquiries from Manchester United and Chelsea. Tottenham tried their best to persuade him, right to the end. It was Liverpool, however, who were the club that he wanted to join from the start and their faith in him has been unwavering. No training compensation fee has been agreed and the case will go to tribunal.

“I have been playing in position for a few years as a main striker. I can play in a number of positions, on the left, as a No 10, or off the right. The strikers at Liverpool are fantastic and there will be competition. The way I looked at it, I will get a lot more game time playing in different positions learning my trade as a young professional and I think Brendan Rodgers is the right manager for that.

“He is good with young players and as soon as I knew he was interested it was a no-brainer that it was best for me to join Liverpool.”

As for the Under-21s, it has taken two games and two substitute appearances for Ings to make the case for starting impossible to ignore and it will be hard for the England manager Gareth Southgate to leave him out of the starting XI to face Italy. Six of Southgate's starters against Sweden had spent part or all of last season in the Championship. With John Stones coming back into the team, that number goes down but it is hard to ignore the threat that Ings brings.

“I respect the manager's decision, I will make sure I am ready when called upon,” Ings said. “I want to start every game but you have to respect the staff. Everyone came on and made an impact. That is what the manager needs. You cannot have players come on and not make the impact because the game will slowly slip away from you. It is important you are ready.”

Ings' belief is that he can play any of the three positions across the attacking trio for the Under-21s. He began the second half against Sweden as a No 10 with a brief to stretch the opposition and ended the game as a strike partner for Harry Kane. With 32 goals between them last season in the Premier League alone that looks ever more like the way that Southgate will have to go come tomorrow. – The Independent

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