A familiar name back on the bench in the Premier League last night as Manchester City made the trip to Wolves: Delap… Liam Delap.
Stoke City legend and coach Rory Delap’s son has been promoted to the first team fold under Pep Guardiola despite only being 17. Stoke fans have already had a glimpse of his talent when he led the attack against the under-18s in last season’s Premier League Cup final.
It seems like he has everything… apart from, perhaps, a long throw.
He was promoted to train with the seniors this summer, saying: “Obviously they’re the best of the best and learning from them and being around them shows what the highest level is like and what it takes to be there. Getting a taste of that gives me great confidence.”
Then he scored twice in a headline-stealing performance as the under-21s won 3-0 at Mansfield in the EFL Trophy, then scored again in the Premier League 2 curtain raiser against his old club Derby.
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So he was among the substitutes at Molineux, sitting next to Riyad Mahrez and Nicolas Otamendi, as well as youth team graduates Tommy Doyle and Adrian Bernabe.
But whether or not he could also offer Guardiola howitzers chucked in from the sideline will remain a mystery thanks to a mouthy parent at a junior game.
“I think he was put off when he was about an under-10!” laughed Delap Sr.
“One of the parents shouted that he was ruining the game when he took a throw and he hasn’t taken one since. I don’t think that will be part of his game.”
He added in an interview earlier this year: “I started in a similar position but I didn’t have his pace or power and it took me a few more chances to put the ball in the back of the net!
“He’s enjoying it and that’s all I’m bothered about. I’ve never pushed him into it but he’s a good lad and if he keeps his head down and works hard, he’ll have a chance in the game.”
Delap Jr has his dad’s distinctive running style, albeit with a bit more pace. He has the aggression too, as well as skill and power and intelligence.
“(Aggression) always been a part of my game. I need it in my game,” he said in an interview with the Manchester Evening News.
“When I’m on that edge it’s when I’m at my best, it’s just not tipping over that edge and everyone has told me that they’d never want to take it out of me, it’s just controlling that final tipping point of what is acceptable and what’s not.
“You can’t really teach it, it’s just something I have and I’m so grateful that I’ve got it but it’s just now working a mechanism that I can control it to keep myself on the pitch.
“I’ve got a lot better. I was a lot worse when I was younger so I think it’s just maturing and understanding what’s right.”
Delap Jr is 6ft 1in, a similar height to his old man who is now a Stoke coach working alongside Michael O’Neill – with both in the stands last night.
And it a back injury actually helped him hone those natural attributes.
He said: “My pace and my power are my two biggest strengths. My strength helps me a lot to get into goalscoring opportunities. When I’m in those I can finish most of the time.
“I’ve always been quite fast but I had a bad back injury about two to three years ago so I was in the gym loads then and got a lot of my strength. I’ve got faster through that because I couldn’t play football so I just worked on that and that helped a lot. It was just working through it, making sure I did everything right to make sure I came out better at the other end of it.
“I’ve always been one of the tall ones in the group, I’m 6ft 1in. I had a scan on my foot and my growth plates but I usually grow in the summer so I might grow, I might not. Hopefully!”
Delap Jr was growing up as his dad was helping Stoke establish themselves in the Premier League, supplying ammunition for Ricardo Fuller et al and winning world fame for his brilliant long throw.
But if he’s looking for inspiration from a front man, it’s not from Stoke or Man City or even Derby.
He said: “In the past you look at Man City’s strikers and they’re small and technical but I think I’m just a different player. It works well for me because I am different and I can show myself even more. It’s good.
“I’ve always looked up to Cristiano Ronaldo. Just the way he plays, the pace and the power. For me, he’s the best in the world so aspiring to someone who is the best in the world, your dreams just have to be high.
“Listening to people that he’s worked with, the extras and lengths that he goes to look after his body and get better every day just shows why he’s at the top level. You can have talent but talent on its own doesn’t work without effort.”