Dave Brammer, the agent of young Liverpool forward Ben Woodburn, has hinted that the shutdown of football due to the coronavirus pandemic came at a bad time for his client.
The 20-year-old broke a bone in his foot last October while on loan at Oxford and swiftly returned to his parent club for treatment, only to suffer a similar problem in his other foot two months later just before he was due to rejoin the League One side. He has now recovered from those setbacks but his return to football has been delayed by the stoppage of the sport amid the prevalence of COVID-19. [via Liverpool Echo]
In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Brammer said: “Ben is fit and ready to get going again. Unfortunately he’s had that tough time with the injury but just as he was ready to play, we’ve hit the lockdown. Ben is champing at the bit and hoping to sneak some football in before the end of the season.”
Woodburn’s agent also spoke of a change in role for the 20-year-old in recent months, saying: “Position-wise, Ben is now a slightly different player to when he first burst onto the scene. He can still play wide, but I would call him more of an attacking midfielder, more like a number 8 or a 10 in a more central role. He can go wide if he needs to but I see his long-term future operating more centrally.”
Woodburn has indeed adapted to a central playmaking role in his most recent appearances, having played primarily in that position at Oxford before his foot injury last autumn. That represented a sea change from his time with Liverpool’s senior and under-23 sides, for whom he operated mainly as a winger on either flank.
His adaptation to a central attacking midfield position has seen him become a frequent creator of goals – he registered five assists in just 13 games for Oxford, just two fewer than he managed for Liverpool’s underage teams and Sheffield United (where he had a brief loan spell) in 32 appearances over the previous two seasons. [via TransferMarkt]
Woodburn enjoyed a breakthrough at Liverpool in 2016/17, making nine senior appearances that season and becoming the club’s youngest-ever scorer when he netted in an EFL Cup win over Leeds. However, he has managed only two competitive appearances for the Reds’ first team since that campaign and his injury woes have prevented him from obtaining a full season’s experience at senior level (as per TransferMarkt).
With Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane near-automatic selections for Jurgen Klopp’s side and young attackers such as Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster already out on loan and performing commendably, there currently seems little chance of Woodburn establishing himself at Liverpool. If the Premier League season resumes and the Reds swiftly wrap up the title, Klopp might give him and other youngsters a chance to feature in the final few fixtures.
However, Liverpool Echo writer Paul Gorst recently hinted that another loan move seems the likeliest recourse for the 20-year-old and, given the queue of attacking options at Anfield and his lengthy spell on the sidelines, Woodburn probably will need another spell away from the club to get a sustained chance to prove his worth – if he isn’t again blighted by injuries.
Liverpool fans, are you hopeful that Woodburn will get some first team opportunities if the season resumes? Do you hold out much hope for him making it long-term at Anfield? Comment below with your views!