Ben Woodburn, still just 17 years of age, is ready to play top level football. But he still needs to be handled with care and to have the pressure put on him—the minutes he’s asked to play and the responsibility he shoulders—limited. So says Wales manager Chris Coleman.
“It will be up to Jürgen Klopp and Ben now how close he is to their first team,” Coleman said, speaking to the press after his players headed back to their clubs following a successful week for Wales where they added two wins to their record—and Woodburn had a hand in both.
“Jürgen felt it was a bit early for Ben, but then we’ve all got opinions which is great about football. I felt if he was in the first team for Liverpool and scored that great debut goal at the Kop end [last season] he was ready. We know Ben’s got the capacity to open a defence.
“We still have to protect him and give him guidance, which is why he didn’t start against Moldova. He’s used to working with really good defenders at Liverpool but nothing prepares you for a 90 minutes out there. It’s completely different. He’s very young and we have to take it slow.”
That may prove harder to do for Wales than Liverpool, with Woodburn’s international side having less depth at his position and the player having already seeming to have established himself as, at the very least, the first attacking option Coleman has on the bench.
For Liverpool, with the arrival of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and return of Philippe Coutinho, however Klopp’s lineup shakes out there is at least one more player ahead of him in midfield or on the wing. Still, there will be minutes to be had and even games where he starts.
Woodburn is most likely to be involved for Liverpool this season on or just after September 16th, when following a tough pair of games against Manchester City and Sevilla, they face Burnley in the league. They then face Leicester in the League Cup mid-week on the 19th.