“I heard someone said ‘The Prince of Wales’ – I love it!”
Those were the words of a gushing Klopp, following Woodburn’s international exploits last September. Then, the teenager produced a long range strike to defeat Austria 1-0, before following up with an assist to seal a 2-0 win over Moldova. Woodburn looked to be a star in the making, with many predicting greatness for the 18 year old.
However since then, things haven’t quite kicked on as many would’ve expected. In fact, the youngster only managed a 6 minute cameo all season in the Premier League, coming on as a sub for Salah in the 4-0 win over Brighton. His only other senior appearance was in the EFL Cup, which was a competition that Liverpool exited early.
Despite his lack of first team appearances, his appearances for the youth team showed that he clearly have the qualities to succeed. After all, he captained the U19s to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League, scoring 2 and assisting a further 2 in 8 appearances.
Too good for the youth league, yet surplus to requirements for the first team, Woodburn finds himself stuck in a limbo at the moment. His lack of playing time means that there’s a real danger of his Anfield career stalling. Hence, what should Liverpool’s youngest goal scorer do in order to get his career back on track?
Head Out On Loan
With opportunities limited at Liverpool, Woodburn could follow in the footsteps of fellow Welsh and Academy player Harry Wilson by heading out on loan. Wilson proved that a carefully planned loan move could pay dividends, with the 21 year old scoring 7 goals in 14 appearances for Hull City. Wilson also started both of Wales’ games at the China Cup back in March.
Asked why Wilson played whereas Woodburn didn’t, Wales manager Ryan Giggs replied by saying: “I started a lot of the players because they were in that rhythm of playing regularly. A lot of our players aren’t playing regularly and it makes a difference.” Giggs’ message is the clearest warning yet that players have to be playing consistently to make further progress in their careers.
Finding a temporary club isn’t a problem, with a queue of potential suitors ready to snap up the talented youngster on loan. Rangers, currently managed by legendary Red Steven Gerrard, is one of the clubs being linked to the Academy graduate. Gerrard, who coached Woodburn at the U19 level, would be an ideal mentor for Woodburn given their past connection. After all, Woodburn would’ve a manager that trust him and is ready to give him a regular run in the first team. Ovie Ejaria recently made the move to the Ibrox Stadium, so there’s every possibility that Woodburn could make the similar trip.
However if moving abroad isn’t Woodburn’s cup of tea, there is yet one other option to consider.
Make Full Use Of Cup Competitions
With Liverpool completing the signing of Shaqiri, the Reds are well stocked in the attacking department. Hence the only realistic opportunity for Woodburn would be the cup competitions. Given Liverpool’s participation in the Champions League, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Klopp giving the second stringers a run in the domestic cups. It is this period where Woodburn can impress Klopp and stake a claim for a regular spot.
However, there’s the risk of Liverpool crashing out early like they did in the previous season. Doing so would further limit Woodburn’s involvement for Liverpool, with the teenager unlikely to play a significant role in the Premier League. It would represent another blow towards his development, and may prove to be the final nail in the coffin.
As it stands, Woodburn is standing at a crossroad in his Liverpool career. 2018/19 could prove to be a definitive season for the young Welsh, with a wrong decision likely to end his promising career. Woodburn has all the tools to succeed, it’s only a matter of whether he could make full use of them to reach his peak.