Making your Liverpool debut as a teenager — while admirable — is hardly a signifier of whether a player will have a fruitful career. For every Michael Owen, Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard, there is a Jordon Ibe, a Jack Robinson, and a Nathan Eccleston — currently plying their trade at Bournemouth, QPR and Békéscsaba 1912 Előre, respectively. It is a sign of talent, certainly, but talent alone is rarely enough to ensure long-term success.
That doesn't stop fans from placing lofty expectations on every single youngster who pulls on the red shirt, however. Ben "I can't believe he's not 12" Woodburn is part of the most recent batch of talented starlets coming out to Melwood — alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria, Sheyi Ojo and Harry Wilson — and is the one who has made the biggest impact, becoming the third youngest debutant and youngest ever goalscorer for the Reds over the course of only four days.
The Wales youth player took home the Academy Players’ Player of the Year award at the club’s official end of season awards ceremony on Tuesday night, and looks set to build on his encouraging debut season. Judging by his words, that is exactly what he has in mind.
“I think it has been a good season for me and hopefully next season will be just as good if not better,” Woodburn said after Liverpool won the mini-derby against Everton on Monday.
“I’ve had a taste [of first-team action] and like everyone would do I just want as much as I can of it.
“It is obviously different and a big step up but the first team lads made it so much easier for me. They are so good with all the young kids and they made it feel normal.”
With Champions League football hopefully returning to Anfield next season, there are opportunities aplenty for the ambitious young man, both as Jürgen Klopp will have to rotate his squad in order to keep players fresh through the longer season, and to travel with the first team and experience what European football feels like.
However, while it is lovely to follow Woodburn's journey and development, he remains 17 and relatively unproven at the top level. As such, it would be preferable if his contributions to the first team are limited to cup competitions, and that the team is strengthened from the outside by bringing in top talent in the summer.