AFTER back to back goals against Norwich and Carlisle, and a goal at Goodison in the Merseyside Derby, it looked like as Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool career finally ended Danny Ings’ was just about to really begin.
Liverpool had struggled to get Ings to Anfield in the first place, having a January bid rejected for the single-capped England international and being told they would have to wait and battle it out with the likes of Spurs to secure his signature on a pre-contract.
Eventually, Liverpool got their man and a tribunal later ruled that the Reds should pay £8million for the striker, who in his first season in the Premier League at Turf Moor scored 11 goals in 35 league appearances, more than Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini — the Reds’ main forwards at the time — had managed put together.
Ings joined at an odd time for Liverpool, with supporters divided on the man who bought him, Rodgers, staying in position after a disappointing season that culminated in the 6-1 humiliation at Stoke.
The atmosphere was toxic in the stands, with an unimpressed Kop booing the performance of Liverpool against lowly Carlisle United. Ings, though, was a bright spark in dark times, his incessant running and tireless workrate immediately endearing him to a crowd that demands graft and guile, and hard work as well as the Hollywood.
The three goals in that spell suggested a man finding his feet after a big club move, a transition that has proved too great for many a goal getter. But then disaster struck. An anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee meant it was back to square one. Ings became the forgotten man as Jürgen Klopp got his feet under his Anfield table.
It was to his credit then that he stuck to it so manfully, a slightly uncomfortable video reminding Reds of Ings’ long and lonely battle to recover fitness.
Once fit and firing, it was match sharpness that was the next hurdle. Eyebrows were raised when Ings was seemingly demoted to the Under-23s but as ever his attitude was first class. His commitment unwavering, the goals racking up and a smile and clenched fist each time showing that Ings was determined to work his way back into Klopp’s plans.
After four months of toiling in gyms, playing in front of small crowds and remaining on the periphery, Ings finally got minutes in the League Cup.
Only someone with a heart of stone could waft away what happened next, as Ings damaged the ligaments in his right knee while making a challenge against Spurs and was again told to expect a season-ending spell on the sidelines.
Yesterday Ings was back at Melwood, starting the long road back again. A task which must test mental toughness to the limit. Klopp has been keen to stress he has a future at the club, as he said: “We will give him all the time he needs and then he will be back again and will be a Liverpool player, 100 per cent.”
Ings hasn’t made an official comment on the injury, but he did tweet this message:
And it has been heartening to see the support for their unfortunate teammate from so many of Ings’s peers.
The question now is can he bounce back? Will he return the same player? And will he get a chance?
History suggests if anyone can, Ings can.
The 24-year-old is no stranger to setbacks. At the age of 10 he was dropped from Southampton’s academy due to his height, a huge blow to a local lad.
He was nearly dropped again after being offered a scholarship at Bournemouth, but a loan to non-league Dorchester Town provided him with invaluable experience and gave him a platform to show his worth to his parent club.
Success on the South Coast saw him secure a £1m move to Burnley, to be reunited with former boss Eddie Howe, but his time at Turf Moor once again got off to a rocky start. Just days after signing for the Clarets he damaged his knee and was ruled out for six months.
The following season he suffered another knee injury in a pre-season friendly and was out of action for a further two months. Ankle ligament damage caused him to miss a few weeks towards the back end of the 2013/14 season, in which Burnley finished top of the Championship, and a hamstring injury saw him ruled out for a couple of weeks in their subsequent season in the Premier League.
In spite of those setbacks, his return of 43 goals in 130 games alerted the attention of Rodgers and Liverpool — and who could resist that call? — though injury has prevented him hitting the heights the club would have hoped for when he signed, with just 11 first team appearances in 16 months at Anfield.
Though on the pitch he showed determination and enthusiasm to succeed, he won many plaudits for the heart he showed off the pitch too. While playing for Burnley back in 2013, he was pictured giving his match worn boots to a young disabled fan which quickly went viral.
The best moment of today's games when Ings'y gave his boots to joe a young Clarets supporter pic.twitter.com/8AlxeasEip
— FordyFourEyes (@Fordyfoureyes) May 4, 2013
He then set up the self-funded ‘Danny Ings Disability Sport Project’, providing sports coaching to children with disabilities or learning difficulties in the Burnley area, which he continues to this day despite his move to Merseyside.
Ings has been quick to distance himself from the same reputation that many of his profession have landed themselves, and his charitable work and attitude towards life have certainly shown a different, heartening side to the player fans see on the pitch.
He said: “You can’t tar everyone with the same brush. I guess some players don’t do themselves any favours but there are some great guys out there.
“Luckily I’ve got family and friends to keep me grounded because there are a lot of negative people around who can suck the energy out of you. You know what people are like on Twitter.”
With that kind of attitude it’s difficult to believe that Ings won’t be able to bounce back from his injury and do everything in his power to make something of his Liverpool career.
The phrase tattooed on his left forearm is perhaps the most fitting to remember after his latest disappointment, as it reads: “The difference between the impossible and possible lies in the man’s determination.”