After making his senior debut aged just 17 years and 42 days old, expectations were high for Ben Woodburn on Merseyside.
This belief was raised even higher when he hit the back of the net in front of the Kop just three days later, becoming Liverpool’s youngest-ever goal scorer by beating the record previously held by Michael Owen.
All this happened during the 2016/17 season, which weirdly has probably been what he would consider to be the best season of his career. The Welsh international followed his League Cup goal with five Premier League appearances for the Reds during the campaign, failing to make the score sheet, or register an assist.Embed from Getty Images
Since then, Woodburn has subsequently only made one more Premier League appearance for the Reds and has since been shipped out on loan to a number of clubs including Sheffield United, Oxford United and Blackpool.
The thinking was, after his progression had somewhat plateaued at Anfield, the youngster could gain valuable first team experience with a breakout season in the Championship. This is an approach which has recently been extremely successful for the likes of Rhian Brewster – now of Sheffield United – and Harvey Elliott, who has been tearing up Championship this season for Blackburn Rovers.
Unfortunately for Woodburn, he has failed to impress in any of his loan spells away from the club and is now wondering where his next steps will take him.
His loan spells at Sheffield United and Oxford United were nothing short of major flops. The winger managed a meagre eight appearances for the Blades, failing to get a goal contribution in any of them. Whilst his time at Oxford United continued his poor form, netting just the once in League One over 14 appearances during the 2019/20 season.
Woodburn’s most recent loan move sent him to Blackpool to reunite with former Liverpool u23 manager Neil Critchley. The Wales international failed to contribute in any of his 10 games on the coast, and has since cut short his loan and returned to Anfield.
It does seem to be a confidence issue for the forward, who took just five shots in the league while at Blackpool. However, that statistic is more understandable when you realise that his ten appearances there were the equivalent of 3.6 sets of 90 minutes completed.Embed from Getty Images
In his most recent appearance for Blackpool, he didn’t look sharp, with his lack of game time clearly hindering his play. It’s odd to see this version of Woodburn who oozed confidence when he burst onto the scene after his goals against Leeds United and Austria. He is now a shadow of himself and desperately searching for any piece of luck.
It seemed like Woodburn had the world at his feet and had the potential to follow in the footsteps of Welsh greats like Gareth Bale and Ryan Giggs. Instead, his career has stuttered since 2018.
Now aged 21, he has found himself as part of the crop of youngsters at Liverpool who need to move on for the good of their career. His next loan move could be vital in the youngster’s development in England, maybe a team like Cheltenham Town would be a good move for the attacker.
Cheltenham have been struggling for goals as of late and play at a slightly lower level than he is used to, however this could be the opportunity to kick start his career again. With initial expectations touting him for the top, hopefully something like this can start a journey of redemption for him.
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