Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson.
Two of Wales’ great young hopes. Two players on the books of Liverpool – one of the world’s leading clubs. Both highly rated at that club and learning under one of the world’s top coaches – Jurgen Klopp.
A match made in heaven.
Or is it?
We’ve been frustrated at their lack of game time, and left wondering if Klopp had a bad family holiday in Rhyl after letting wee Joe Allen go, keeping keeper Danny Ward on the fringes and not going all out on Woodburn and Wilson.
So, we thought we’d ask someone much closer to Premier League club to give us the lowdown on their thoughts. Step up Gareth “Robbo” Roberts from Liverpool podcast and website The Anfield Wrap, visiting Cardiff City ahead of the new season:
“Both of them are highly rated at Liverpool – the manager really likes them – it’s just where do they get their game time?”
This seemed to be the recurring theme of our chat with Gareth.
To be fair he made some great points. Liverpool are all about pace and power, and obviously already have world talents in their front three with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino & some bloke called Mo Salah.
For Woodburn, he’s 5ft 9in and fairly slight. Given that he’s still only 18-years-old that’s not that surprising, and while he’s no slouch he also doesn’t have that searing pace that you see from Bale, Salah or Mane.
Gareth feels that finding Ben’s best position is key to his future with The Reds.
“I watched him in a training session for Liverpool and he’s not shy. He was smashing into tackles, looked great on the ball and was always demanding it, even off the senior pros”.
Having also seen him in a recent pre-season friendly at Chester, Gareth says he thinks the youngster has been “smashing it at the gym”.
“That’s no bad thing though. He’s going to come up against lads that are big physical units, and the Premier League can be unforgiving, so I think it’s good that he’s improved in that area.”
Gareth goes on to say that he feels Ben’s future could be in a more central role where his quickness of thought, and speed of thought will be better served rather than out wide where it’s all about pace.
And it seems that idea of a ‘best position’ is something that Harry Wilson has also had to deal with.
“Wilson is another one who is not shy, and got a real talent. The new contract shows that the club still reckon he can make it with them but it’s another case of whether his size and pace isn’t quite good enough to get him into the Liverpool first team squad right now.”
Gareth understanding from reporters working the patch and his contacts at the club that there is still hope and a will to see the lads progress into the first team.
He feels that last season it was a bit of a backhanded compliment to Woodburn that Klopp kept him at the club rather than let him out on loan. That the manager felt he was close enough to the first team to not let him leave, especially after Philippe Coutinho headed off to Barcelona.
But, for Ben’s progression, it’ll be interesting to see if that remains the case this season.
Wilson has shown exactly how good a loan spell can be for a youngster needing to learn his trade. Seven goals and three assists in 13 appearances for Hull City is an impressive return and helped drag the Tigers away from the drop zone. (Oh how a certain Chris Coleman could’ve done with borrowing the talented Welshman for a bit at Sunderland).
“It felt like Wilson’s loan to Hull was a test he passed it with flying colours and that’s where his new contract came from. Maybe he goes out again on loan but the club now believe he has a future at Anfield.”
So where will either of them end up?
According to Gareth’s contacts, pretty much every single Championship side wants Wilson. Celtic have also been “sniffing around, but batted away”.
Woodburn’s a different issue. Top end of the Championship clubs maybe, some Premier League interest, but with Adam Lallana’s star fading and Danny Ings potentially on his way perhaps he’ll be needed for the first team squad.
Although, the signing of forward Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City and, potentially, Nabil Fekir from Olympique Lyonnais may complicate matters for the young Welshman.
As Wales fans we want both lads playing. But, the message is we have to be patient.
Unfortunately they play in a league where it’s become so difficult for youngsters to break through.
On the flip side, they play for a stable club, with a manager in a long-term position who has given youngsters like Trent Alexander-Arnold a chance.
We have to just hope that maybe Klopp did win on the slot machines at Rhyl’s Palace Fun Centre after all.
Main image in this story – Photo: Influential Photography
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