To say that Ben Woodburn’s season hasn’t gone to plan would be an understatement. After a 2017-18 where he showed great promise in limited action, the 19-year-old headed off to Sheffield United in search of regular playing time and to take the next step.
Instead, he got stuck on the bench for the Championship side and, with his loan cut short, has spent the past few months with Liverpool’s youth. On Wednesday, though, he was given a chance to start for Wales. And he made a mark, scoring the winning goal.
“He will definitely be an option that I look on for Sunday,” said Wales manager Ryan Giggs when asked if Woodburn would be rewarded with another start for the national team. “He’s a great kid. He looks fit again and he is a talent and he’s a goal scorer.
“He’s at a very good club who will look after him. Very often the first loan move just doesn’t quite happen, for whatever reason. There are always different reasons. It just didn’t quite happen. But now he’s back, he looks fit. It’s an important end to the season.”
In a reversal to how this sort of thing usually works, a couple of quality starts for Wales could be what puts Woodburn on the map for more minutes at Liverpool before the season ends—proving he has the match fitness to play a role in the final stretch.
With Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keïta dealing with ongoing injury issues there is, just maybe, a window of opportunity for Woodburn to see the pitch for the Reds again this season despite that they find themseles in the midst of a high pressure title chase.
Even if it’s just minutes with the U23s Woodburn gets the rest of the way, though, Giggs says he isn’t worried about the player’s long-term prospects, believing the young winger is too talented and too determined not to come good over the longer run.
“When you’ve got that talent, that doesn’t go away,” Giggs added. “Now he’s got himself in really good physical condition, and he’s a threat. The last few camps, he’s been really good in training. I was dying to give him a game so it was great to see him score.”