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'I love that from you': How Ryan McLaughlin angered Craig Bellamy but gained Kenny Dalglish's respect in first Liverpool session

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Ryan McLaughlin was at Liverpool from 2011 to 2016.

Ryan McLaughlin was at Liverpool from 2011 to 2016.

Ryan McLaughlin was at Liverpool from 2011 to 2016.

Back in 2011, Ryan McLaughlin secured a dream move from Glenavon to Liverpool and within a month was face to face with the first team stars - getting up close with one in particular.

Then just 16, the full-back had signed a three-year deal at Anfield and was making his early steps at the youth team base at Kirkby.

It was after just a few weeks that he was called over to the first-team training ground at Melwood by Mike Marsh, the Under 16 boss, for the first time.

It didn't take long for McLaughlin to get the attention of hothead striker Craig Bellamy and, for his feisty reaction, then manager and Reds legend Kenny Dalglish.

"The Under-18s were playing the first-team in a bounce game, so Mike asked me to help out by being linesman," he explained, speaking to Goal.com.

“Before we started, he told me to try and give us as many decisions as possible. He was my coach, so I was like ‘sure!’

“Nathan Eccleston was playing up front for the 18s and he goes through one-on-one against big Sebastian Coates. Coates takes him down and I flag for a penalty.

“Bellamy has sprinted over to me and honestly, he called me every swearword under the sun! There’s me, just out of school, and he’s in my face giving me all sorts.”

McLaughlin wasn't going to take it all on the chin, biting back at the Wales striker.

"I Had to," he says. “Kenny Dalglish pulled me aside after that game. 'I love that from you!', he said.

"I remember going back to the academy afterwards and it was all anyone was talking about. They were all like ‘that’s you ****ed, you can’t go back up there now!’”

It wasn't long before McLaughlin had a front-row seat for the infamous argument between Dalglish's successor Brendan Rodgers and 17-year-old star Raheem Sterling.

When Rodgers was addressing the squad's players about their attitudes, he pointed at the future England hero.

"You say steady to me again when I say something to you and you'll be on the first plane back," the boss barked.

The coming together was broadcast on the Being: Liverpool  behind-the-scenes documentary and McLaughlin  reckons that making the spat public was unfair on then teenager Sterling.

“I just don’t understand why the club threw him under the bus with that,” he said

“For a young kid, that could knock you completely. He was 17, and it made him out to be something he wasn’t. I look back and think ‘imagine that had been me’. Your family is watching it, you’d be devastated. Those things should have been kept behind-closed-doors.

“Rodgers calling him out, I’ve no problem with that. He’s the manager. But to air it? I felt that was wrong. It was poorly managed. It’s probably something that stuck with Raheem for a long time afterwards, which was unfair. He’s had that tag, when in reality anyone who spent time around him would tell you what a nice lad he is.”

McLaughlin would go on to leave Liverpool in 2016 and is now at League One side Rochdale.

The 25-year-old has made only six substitute appearances this season, owing to plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes inflammation and pain in the heel.

Out of contract this summer and having picked up the last of his Northern Ireland five caps two years ago, he's hoping a recovery from injury will see his best days still to come.

“It’s like being stabbed with a knife every time you plant your foot,” McLaughlin says. “It tore on me four times. I ended up getting it sorted, but then the season stopped!

“I’m due a bit of luck I reckon. I still believe I can play at a high level. Now I’ve just got to stay fit and prove it.”

Belfast Telegraph