In 2016, 17-year-old Ben Woodburn became the youngest-ever goalscorer for Liverpool, breaking Michael Owen’s long-standing record in front of the Kop. At the time it seemed like we were seeing the rise of another young star for Liverpool. Two years later, Woodburn has been surpassed by other young up-and-comers, most notably Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has made the first team’s right back position his own.
Sadly, for every Alexander-Arnold there are dozens of Woodburns: young players with buckets of talent, buckets of drive and ambition, but still fail to breakthrough at the biggest clubs. Perhaps a new signing shuffles the player down the pecking order. Or worse, perhaps an injury derails the player’s march to the first team. Of course, there are dozens of other reasons for young talent to simply not work out at a big club.
Simply, it’s hard to come through the ranks, especially when these clubs are competing for the biggest honors.
If you haven’t noticed, Woodburn isn’t in or around Liverpool’s first team. Instead, he was loaned out to Sheffield United. That loan spell, cut short by injury, only allowed the young player 8 appearances, 6 off the bench, for a total of 156 minutes of Championship action.
Now, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is trying to decide what is best for the Welshman’s future. ool. T
“We have to see,” Kloppo explained to the club’s official website. “There are a couple of clubs interested, but to be honest if these clubs don’t give me the guarantee that he will play, there is absolutely no reason from my point of view to give him on loan.
“Football is, in parts, a ‘dirty business’ and people really forget immediately – if you have two or three games and are not that convincing, people think ‘oh, he lost it’ or whatever. Ben Woodburn is an outstanding talent, still pretty much a kid, and I am happy to see him here, running around, completely fit and really settled in the squad.
“In the summer, I think he lost a bit of patience and it was really long he was already with us. The first-team situation didn’t really change and then you maybe – and it’s normal and can happen – lose patience. Then you have a rather average experience at another club and you come back and see here everything is still like it was before.
“Now he trained [on Friday] for the first time so I think if something happens with a loan, then it will happen at the end of the week. We will really try to give him as many sessions as possible so if he goes somewhere, he is really in a good situation.”
Hopefully Klopp & Co. can find a good place for Woodburn to continue developing. As things currently stand, it’s difficult to see Woodburn get a run of games with this squad (and if he were to get a run of games, we’d be in deep shit, injury-wise).
Klopp also discussed the loan system in general, which currently has Liverpool players plying their trade in Germany (Marko Grujic), Scotland (Ryan Kent), and in the Championship (Harry Wilson).
“The world we create these boys puts pressure on them earlier and earlier and earlier and earlier. As long as we stay patient and cool and relaxed about their situation and can still wait for development, everything is fine for them.
“They can go somewhere, they can succeed there, they can fail there, they come back and we judge the situation new and we will stay by their side and try to make the best for them. Maybe not all of them will have a career here, now or in the future, but then they need to have the best career they can have at another club because of the education they got from Liverpool.”
The boss’s comments are really interesting and completely in line with his caring, “player’s manager” persona. It’s not easy to come through the ranks at Liverpool, but there is no reason to halt a player’s progression just because they can’t cut it (or at least can’t cut it yet) at one of Europe’s elite clubs.