Jurgen Klopp may be trying to play down the potential of Ben Woodburn, but Liverpool appear to have a future star on their hands.
Woodburn has only just completed his GCSEs this summer but has caught the eye in pre-season with goals in Liverpool’s victories over Fleetwood and Wigan.
The 16-year-old can play across the frontline, and impressed with his movement and cheeky finish at the DW Stadium on Sunday.
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) July 17, 2016
Klopp admits that coaches are “singing big songs” about the Reds’ youngsters, of which Woodburn is the stand-out player, at Melwood and Kirkby, but when asked whether the teenager could appear in the first-team next season, the German replied: “Of course not. Ben is 16. Of course not.”
However, last term Klopp showed a willingness to give young players an opportunity in cup competitions, which could provide Chester-born Woodburn – who joined Liverpool’s academy aged eight – a chance to make his mark.
The starlet’s rise to prominence this summer has come as no surprise to under-16s coach Des Maher, who wrote in his academy column for Liverpool’s website: “I can also tell you he is one of the most level-headed young men you could ever meet. 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.
“He is a quiet boy who just gets on with his job and he is really well focused. In all honesty he is a boy who is always a pleasure to have in the training session. He made his under-18s debut last season at the age of 15 and did extremely well as everybody knows, but when he drops back down to the under-16s because of his education programme you would never ever know he had been playing at a higher level. He is a credit to himself and his family.
I don’t think it’s good for young players to be overhyped so I’ll just say I saw Ben Woodburn play football today and leave it at that.
— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) July 17, 2016
“He did so well last season and our U18s coach Neil Critchley couldn’t keep him out of the team. He scored lots of goals and provided numerous assists. Ben took his opportunity and held his place in the team for the rest of the season.
“Away from the pitch, the staff at Rainhill school also deserve a lot of credit because he has done fantastically well with his education and he achieved a lot of his grades in the year prior to him finishing school. This meant we had more access to him on the training field during the daytime, and under the guidance of our first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders he has come on in leaps and bounds.”
Woodburn, who has been likened to Aaron Ramsey having captain Wales at under-17 level, could have a further chance to stake his claim for first-team involvement next season when Liverpool travel to Huddersfield Town on Wednesday.