What Next For Liverpool And Wales Youngster Ben Woodburn?


Ben Woodburn is one of seven senior and academy players that Liverpool have confirmed will leave the club this summer.

Ben Woodburn is one of seven senior and academy players that Liverpool have confirmed will leave the club this summer.

The 22-year-old became the Reds youngest ever goalscorer back in 2017 but has failed to sustain a regular place in the first team squad since, and following underwhelming loan spells at Blackpool and Hearts, his 15-year tenure at LFC is over.

Woodburn made his Premier League debut in November 2016 in a 2-0 victory over Sunderland at Anfield. He was just 17 years and 42 days old at the time, which made him the third youngest player to play for the Reds.

His display impressed Jurgen Klopp and the youngster made his EFL Cup debut just three days later, which was the night that he became Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer – a record previously held by Ballon D’or winner Michael Owen.

The Welshman came on with 25 minutes to play in the Reds league cup quarter-final against Leeds United, with the game goalless. Divock Origi netted the opener on the night, before Woodburn sealed the result with ten minutes to play. A cushioned set up from Georginio Wijnaldum found the number 58, who hammered home a half volley from eight yards at the famous Kop end – a goal that at the time, felt like the first of many.

He went on to feature nine more time for the Reds over the next six months and was thought to be a big part of Klopp’s plans for the following campaigns.

His performances for the Reds earned him a call up to the Welsh national side for their qualifiers against Austria and Moldova in September 2017, where after a win and four draws, the Dragons needed two victories to keep their chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup alive.

Woodburn was introduced with 20 minutes to play with the game goalless against the Austrians, and just five minutes after his arrival, he brought the ball down and fired a fierce 25-yard effort into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal, to send the Cardiff City Stadium wild and the Welsh faithful into dreamland.

Soon after, the Reds boss described the Welshman - along with Rhian Brewster - as ‘the future’ of LFC…
Ben Woodburn in action for the Reds

(Photo by Conor Molloy/News Images/Sipa USA)

But, despite setting the domestic and international stages alight at such a young age, the 2017/18 campaign didn’t work out as many hoped for the winger. In a season where he was expected to kick on and challenge for a place in the Reds side, he made just one appearance in all competitions for the senior team.

Although, he was rewarded with a long-term deal on Merseyside, which made Klopp’s feeling about his potential evident. In fact, after Woodburn put pen to paper, Klopp described him as having ‘the perfect balance of talent and attitude.’

Woodburn was sent out on loan to Sheffield United the season after, where he made just eight appearances before he was recalled by the Reds after he sustained an ankle injury. Over the next three seasons he spent time at Oxford United, Blackpool and Hearts, where he could only rack up 11 goal contributions in 65 matches, and had his fair share of injury troubles.
Woodburn after netting for Hearts

IMAGO / Pro Sports Images

He has continually impressed for the Reds in their pre-season tours in recent years, and at the beginning of last season, Klopp personally asked him to postpone his loan move to Scotland so that he could feature for the Reds for the first month of the season. Pep Lijnders has also made his admiration for Woodburn clear, off the back of his pre-season appearances last year, he said: “The energy he brings to the team is exactly what we stand for.”

So, what went wrong for the Welshman on Merseyside?

Often, we see young talents with the world at their feet fail to progress as expected, largely due to the overwhelming amount of pressure put on them from fans and the media. Perhaps having the label of the LFC’s youngest ever goalscorer and the expectations that the title came with took its toll on Woodburn.

Although, it’s easy to forget just how good this Reds team is. Over the last four years, they’ve been among the very best in world football, and it has been a near impossible mission for any player, let alone a youngster, to break into the side.

There is no doubt a talented player in there, and at just 22, the Welshman may well get another pop at topflight football in the years to come. Reports suggest that Hearts are not planning on signing Woodburn permanently and it remains to be seen where he will play his football next season.

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