The great Bill Shankly was once quoted saying, " There are only two teams in Liverpool : Liverpool and Liverpool reserves." Along with a rich history of being one of the biggest sides in the world, the club has produced gems of its own who have gone on to make their club, their city, and their country proud. The likes of Billy Liddell, Ian Callaghan, Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard have progressed from the academy of the reds which has proved over the years of being one of the best institutions for youngsters in England.
One such player who has garnered attention in the past few days is the 16-year-old Ben Woodburn who made his debut against Tranmere Rovers and has gone on to play all three preseason games for Liverpool this month. Woodburn has been brilliant in all the games till now and has rightly gained appreciation from Jurgen Klopp and all his academy coaches. Along with Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria, Woodburn has been a revelation this summer and can become another fine talent to emerge from the famed Premier League academy.
Born in Cheshire, Woodburn joined Liverpool's academy aged eight and has gone on to representing the reds in the age groups till U18 level which he played in when the Welshman was just 15. Woodburn has also represented Wales in every age group and like Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal, has captained the Wales U17 side. Currently in Rainhill High School, Woodburn has just recently completed his GCSE's which just goes on to prove how much progress the youngster has made.
Style of play:
Versatile and smart are the kind of attributes one can associate with Ben Woodburn as the youngster can play anywhere in along the front line as it is being proved in the preseason games where the Welshman has operated on the wings and also as a second striker to Danny Ings. He has grabbed attention with his blistering pace and exquisite turns which are the main points of his game.
Woodburn grabbed attention when he was called up to the U18 squad aged just 15 and scored a brace against Manchester United which included an overhead kick. He grabbedthe attention of most of the coaches when he latched on to a 60-yard pass and lobbed the ball over the opposition keeper to score a brilliant goal against Cardiff City.
Woodburn has consistently delivered for the youth side which shown in the preseason games where he displayed his versatility and maturity playing different roles in different games. He pulled the threads at Tranmere Rovers and prices that he can play as a deep-lying playmaker. Against Fleetwood Town, Woodburn showed excellent link-up play with the likes of Roberto Firmino and Ryan Kent. In the game against Wigan, it was his immense pace and quick movement which caught the eye.
Liverpool under 16's coach, Des Maher has said in his column for the club's website that :
"He knows how much he has to learn but nothing fazes him and with an attitude like he has he could go far in the game.Six weeks ago Ben was training with my under-16 group and here he is playing for the first team in pre-season.It just goes to show the club believes in the younger talent and if you are good enough you will get an opportunity no matter how young you are. It is a fantastic boost to our under-16 group."
Though he has secured a place in the first-team squad this summer, Woodburn lacks the finishing touches at times and often is guilty of losing possession at crucial stages of a game. Also, this new found fame and popularity has resulted in many talents to detract from their path but that won't be the case as his teachers and coaches have described the Cheshire-born as a level headed and calm individual.
The road ahead:
Jurgen Klopp has not gone over the top with singing praises for Woodburn and knows how to deal with an exceptional talent. This is too early for the Welshman to cement his place in the first team squad and needs a season or two, playing in the youth leagues to improve his game and also increase the experience of playing at the highest level. There is no doubt about his talents and Woodburn is lucky that the reds have Jurgen Klopp at the helm now who is known for promoting talents since his Mainz and Dortmund days.Published 20 Jul 2016, 12:47 IST