The 18-year-old striker’s agent launched an extraordinary attack on the club on Wednesday, much to the surprise and disappointment of the Reds
It’s safe to say the honeymoon has been over, for Bobby Duncan and Liverpool.
What once looked like a romantic homecoming has, in sudden and explosive circumstances, turned into the messiest of rows.
How did it come to this?
There had been whispers in recent weeks that all was not right between the club and its 18-year-old striker.
Reports of rejected loan bids, and the absence of Duncan from the under-23 squad at Southampton on Monday night, suggested there was, at the very least, an issue which needed resolving.
But nobody, least of all Liverpool, saw this coming.
The statement released on Wednesday by Saif Rubie, Duncan’s representative, was remarkable.
It made a number of allegations against Liverpool, the most serious of which were that the club were guilty of “mentally bullying” and “destroying the life” of the teenager, with both academy director Alex Inglethorpe and sporting director Michael Edwards coming in for heavy criticism.
And the accusations came via Twitter, that most public of platforms. Duncan himself retweeted the statement, though he would later delete it. Wise, given the content.
Liverpool, naturally, dispute the accusations and issued a statement of their own later on Wednesday afternoon. Unsurprisingly, theirs was rather more circumspect in its wording.
They were, it said, “aware of and disappointed by the unattributed comments and unfounded allegations that have been made in the media”, but refused to engage in “either inaccurate speculation, inflammatory statements or public discourse.”
There would, it said, be no further comment, although their statement ended with: “We will, however, continue our efforts to work privately with the soccer professional to find resolution in the best interests of all involved.”
Hopefully that has been the case.
Liverpool, sources have told Goal, are surprised and concerned that Duncan and his team have chosen this route.
The teenager, who has been the cousin of Reds legend Steven Gerrard, has been a popular figure among Academy staff and team-mates, and made a good enough impression at Melwood to earn game-time for Jurgen Klopp’s senior team during pre-season.
He scored in their friendly at Tranmere in July, and featured on their three-game tour of the USA later that month.
By all accounts, his application in training and matches was exemplary.
This, though, has been an unedifying episode, one which will do no favours for a talented young footballer at the beginning of his career.
Rubie’s statement referred to “stress” and “deep mental health issues” being suffered by the soccer professional and, whatever your opinion on the agent’s conduct – or his social media output, both today and beyond – we should bear that in mind when passing judgement.
Bad advice and bad decisions do not equal bad people.
The issue with Liverpool, or at least one of them, has been that the soccer professional believes he has been ready to compete for first-team football, and that he accepts it won’t come at Anfield.
Three offers were made this month, two from Fiorentina and one from Danish side FC Nordsjaelland, to take Duncan on loan with an option to buy next summer.
All were rejected.
That appears to have been the catalyst for this week’s explosion, which saw Rubie take on not just Liverpool, Edwards and Inglethorpe, but become embroiled in a social media exchange with Reds legend Jamie Carragher, who urged Duncan to dispense with his services before it was too late.
Duncan, remember, has already lost the best part of a year of his young career following a dispute with former club Manchester City.
“It was hard at times to get through it,” he told Goal back in May. “City were holding my registration back and I couldn’t do anything.
“I had other clubs coming in for me but the only club I wanted to join was Liverpool.”
A boyhood Red, his first season at Kirkby brought goals, progress and success.
He scored more than 30 times as Barry Lewtas’ under-18s won the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 2007 (he scored in the final) and missed out on the Premier U18 League on goal difference only. His partnership with Paul Glatzel was one of the most exciting in youth football.
Article continues below
How quickly things change.
Glatzel will miss the bulk of the season after rupturing his cruciate ligament for the first-team at Tranmere and it looks, for different reasons, like it could be a long road back for Duncan, too.
It wasn’t meant to be this way.