He hasn’t gotten the first team chances many expected he would this season, at least not so far, but 18-year-old Welsh winger Ben Woodburn is still making his mark at Liverpool and has impressed enough to have been given captaincy of the club’s UEFA Youth League side by youth coach Steven Gerrard.
“I think Ben needs to play so if Jurgen doesn't need him it's an excellent opportunity to come and play with his friends who he came through the system with, be the captain and leader in this team, and set the example,” said Gerrard, who again had Woodburn as his captain on Tuesday against Maribor’s youth team.
Woodburn has been consistently strong for the youth and reserve teams, spending most of his time with the U23s domestically with manager Neil Critchley and the U21s in Europe with Gerrard, and even if he’s only made one first team appearance so far, that number is expected to grow before the end of the season.
And when those chances do come, as in pre-season it isn’t entirely clear if it will be wide—as he plays for Wales and has with Liverpool until this season—or in midfield as a shuttler in the eight, which is where he has continued to get much of his time this season at the youth level and highlighting his versatility.
“I thought he was excellent as an eight, controlling the middle of the pitch for the majority of the game,” Gerrard added, reflecting on his latest performance. “I’m pleased with Ben because his attitude and mentality when he comes down to train at the Academy is 10 out of 10, and that gives everyone a lift.”
“We all know Ben is going to play different types of football this year, he knows that and is happy with that. The challenge is when he comes down to this level can he approach it like a first-team game and so far he has been excellent.”