It's great that Ben Woodburn has been called up to the Wales squad by Chris Coleman, and with Harry Wilson set to join him during the international break, Liverpool will have two youngsters shadowing Gareth Bale for the next week or so. There is always extra pressure on young shoulders when international duty is placed upon them, but fortunately Wales is not the perennial circus that England is.
Chris Coleman has brought much to Wales since succeeding the late Gary Speed and guided his nation to the semi-finals in Euro 2016. His approach over the past four years has been sensible, but calling up a young player for the first time without contacting his club manager might not be. For Jürgen Klopp, it was clearly an unexpected and disappointing way to call up a youngster for the first time.
“Actually, I was surprised about this,” Klopp said about the lack of contact from Coleman. “I don’t know exactly how it’s normal here. This should not be a criticism. But usually when you call up a player, a 17-year-old player, I thought it would be possible to call me. I’m not sure if he knows him well. He didn’t play in the team so far for Coleman I think. Because of the age, it would be better?”
Woodburn is Liverpool’s youngest-ever goalscorer and has been on the fringes of the first-team squad this season. A lack of depth in the squad has led to the 17-year-old being named in the matchday squad a number of times, resulting in seven appearances in his debut season. Although the budding Welsh international lacks experience, Klopp has no doubts about the attacker’s ability to handle international recognition at such a young age.
“If he stopped learning now, that would make no sense at 17,” Klopp explained. “I’m not in doubt about this. We didn’t hide him. We used him all the time. He’s a fixed part of training. He can deal with nomination for Wales 100 per cent.
“It’s a little bit like my situation. As long as you give me the time, as long as we give him the time, everything will be good. He has to learn, he has to develop, he has to improve, all of this. That’s why I said there are now two managers responsible for him. Until now, it was only my job.”
Much has happened this season for a player who turns 18 in October, but the key will be managing expectations with each forward step he makes. The best way for his potential to be developed at both club and international level is for Klopp and Coleman to at least have some dialogue in the years ahead.