What Next for Ben Woodburn?
Things haven’t entirely gone to plan for 21-year old Ben Woodburn. A series of underwhelming loan spells have seemingly hindered his progress in recent years.
His last top-flight appearance came against Brighton in May 2018, although he has been back amongst the substitutes during the latter stages of the 2020-21 campaign.
As the summer window nears, however, opportunities for the Welshman to prove himself are running out fast, particularly with his current contract set to expire next summer.
That being said, with chances being given to the likes Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, there remains a possibility for the forward to prove himself next term.
It’s far from uncommon for managers to give younger players the chance to experience first-team football during the pre-season, and Klopp clearly isn’t afraid to mix things up.
He recently handed Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams starts against West Brom on May 16th in the latter stages of the prior season just gone, whilst Woodburn was joined on the bench by fellow youngsters Leighton Clarkson, Billy Koumetio and Neco Williams.
Although the Reds managed to escape with all three points on this occasion, too many changes can sometimes curtail momentum and subsequently result in unpredictable outcomes.
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After bursting onto the scene in explosive style, Woodburn was expected to excel in the EFL, however, his loan spells have so far proved to be hugely underwhelming.
Admittedly, he has suffered plenty of misfortune along the way and a number of factors can be attributed to his lack of progress.
As reported by several sources, Woodburn was at a ‘real low’ following his unsuccessful spell at Bramall Lane, and the unforgiving nature of the Championship did not allow the young midfielder to fully showcase his talent.
He played just 155 minutes for promotion-chasing Sheffield United and was unable to have an impact on the Blades’ squad.
Having previously worked with Oxford United boss Karl Robinson, a move to the Kassam Stadium appeared to be the ideal switch for the Welsh international.
He got off to a hugely promising start and scored his first goal for the club against Bristol Rovers in mid-August, however, his run of games came to a crashing halt against Accrington when he broke a bone in his foot during the first half.
With one goal and five assists in his first 13 games, Woodburn had certainly made an impression in Oxfordshire, however, he never quite managed to recapture that level of form upon his return.
Woodburn teamed up with another familiar name in 2020, joining forces with former Reds youth coach Neil Critchley at Blackpool FC. After showing some initial promise at Bloomfield Road, the talented playmaker was forced to miss four League One matches.
In his absence, the Tangerines put together an impressive run of form and, as a result, he was unable to force his way back into the starting eleven.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 16, 2020
Despite his struggles on the Fylde Coast, Critchley lavished praise upon the 21-year old and suggested that he will “prove what a good player he is” over the next couple of years.
Woodburn’s Next Move
Following a string of impressive displays in the Premier League 2, Woodburn is likely to be involved in Liverpool’s pre-season training camps this summer, however, he may find his opportunities limited once the campaign gets underway.
Although Gini Wijnaldum’s departure, reported here at empireofthekop.com, is likely to present some opportunities in the centre of the park, Klopp’s men are expected to strengthen this summer and they have already been linked with a number of transfer targets.
With the Reds keen to improve on their disappointing 2020-21 campaign and fans hoping to see their side challenge for the title once again, Liverpool are expected to splash the cash in the coming months.
The youngster may be largely restricted to cup appearances and he may have to seek first-team football elsewhere.
Prior to his loan spell at Blackpool, both Hull City and Sparta Rotterdam were reportedly interested in his services, however, he may benefit from time in the Bundesliga or at a bottom-half Premier League club.
Liverpool must manage Woodburn’s career carefully, and although he still has time on his side, he cannot afford too many more disappointing and time-consuming loan spells.
With first-team opportunities likely to be limited, the club must decide which direction is likely to prove the most profitable and helpful for his development this summer.