Sheyi Ojo‘s season-long loan at Wolves has been terminated early following Liverpool’s injury crisis and the teenager falling out of favour at Molineux.
One of the standout talents of Liverpool’s U21s setup, Ojo was primed for a breakthrough season on loan in 2015/16.
But joining a Wolves side littered with promising young players and an academy bursting with potential, the 18-year-old may have struggled from the start.
With supporters questioning the club’s motive on Ojo’s arrival, the forward needed to make an immediate impression to win over the Molineux.
Unfortunately, despite some promising signs early on in the season, Ojo has made little progress and found himself out of contention at Wolves in recent weeks.
Ojo at Wolves
Though the days of bottom-of-the-table battles under Mick McCarthy in the Premier League are long gone – with Wolves suffering back-to-back relegations in 2011/12 and 2012/13 – the arrival of Kenny Jackett in 2013 has ushered in a new era.
Wolves should now be genuine challengers in the Championship, with Jackett overhauling the squad to include a number of high-potential youngsters.
Ojo joined Wolves in August, arriving in a squad that also featured Dominic Iorfa (20), Benik Afobe (22), Kortney Hause (20) and former Liverpool midfielder Conor Coady (22).
While Jackett’s side were well set up defensively, Ojo’s arrival saw the former Wales international look to address his side’s problems in attack, and with the forward having impressed for the Liverpool U21s in 2015, this seemed a wise move.
Ojo came into the Wolves side to play an impact role, utilising his pace and power to provide a late push from either flank.
Ojo made 19 appearances for Wolves in all competitions, 18 as a left winger.
This has included a one-goal, one-assist display in September’s 3-0 win away to Fulham, replacing Nathan Byrne at half-time before putting the result out of the Cottagers’ reach with a dominant performance.
Unfortunately, these have come few and far between for the England under-19 international, as Ojo scored just three goals and made four assists in total.
The Londoner has played just 722 minutes for Wolves in all competitions, and by way of comparison, this is just seven minutes more than Joe Allen has played for Liverpool this season.
He’s only been in the Wolves squad once in their last seven games – coming on for the final two minutes against Charlton.
The Wolves View
“That is his aim, if he does that it means he will be doing well.
“I would be happy with that. It has to be his aim but he will be pleased with what he has done so far and happy with the game time he has got and the effect he has had.
“He is a natural wide-left player with good pace and I just feel he is going to continue to improve over the course of the season.
“He will want to be in a position where he is starting on a regular basis. He has seen plenty of game time so far and has deserved that.”
Coady expressed a similar anticipation two months earlier, saying Ojo would be “a fantastic player for the club”:
“He’s very direct, he gets the ball and he runs. You saw the run in the first half [against Newport in August] when he won a free-kick just outside the box—that’s what he brings to the team.
“He’s a confident lad and I think when a young lad is coming into a professional game if you lose the ball you can be shy to get on it again, but he’s certainly not like that.
“He’ll go and get the ball and try again. He’s going to be a fantastic player for the club.”
“He went out on loan last season and then got recalled back so it goes to show that if you do well on loan you get the chance to be called back and go straight into the first team.
“That’s my main aim to keep doing well and I do get the call back, I just need to impress the manager.
“I’m learning now at Wolves and getting more experience but the main aim is to come back and impress the manager, and hopefully I can start playing for Liverpool on a regular basis.”
But did Ojo’s performances match his ambitions, and did the Wolves supporters take to the 18-year-old?
How the Supporters Feel
To get the lowdown on how Ojo has fared in his five months on loan from a supporter’s perspective, we spoke to Wolves blog Compton Stars:
How have Wolves fans taken to Ojo during his time at the club?
Many fans including ourselves were very disappointed at this signing before he had even kicked a football, because Wolves had wingers of a similar age who, in some fans’ eyes, should have been given an opportunity to develop, instead of developing another team’s players.
I am sorry to say I think the majority of fans have been disappointed, quite clearly Sheyi has lots of ability but in our opinion he doesn’t have the desire or application to be playing at this particular level at this time of his career.
Frustratingly he has all the tools in his locker but for some reason seems reluctant to use them.
What I will add is he has made far more of an impact in the last 15 minutes off the bench than when he starts.
What role has Ojo played in Kenny Jackett’s first team?
Sheyi has really struggled to establish himself as a regular starter during his time at Wolves.
Out of a possible 25 league games he’s made five league starts with a further 12 appearances coming from the substitutes’ bench, included in this are two league goals and three assists.
Primarily all these appearances have come on the left wing.
What are the highlights of Ojo’s time at Wolves so far, and what has most surprised you about him?
The main highlight that stands out to us is scoring the second goal in a 2-0 away victory at Birmingham City in the local derby—a goal that sealed Wolves the victory.
Ojo has already spoken about finding consistency in a Wolves shirt, and there is clearly a long road ahead for him, but do you see his future being in the Liverpool first team?
It’s very hard to predict.
Sheyi certainly has bags of ability but is quite a distance from the Liverpool first team—it’s all potential at this stage—if we were to put our heads on the block we would predict he will play at a decent level moving forward, but if that’s going to be at Liverpool only time will tell.
I think the best thing for Sheyi Ojo and Liverpool Football Club at this stage would be to recall him and to send him to a top end League One club, where he will play regularly and develop more.
With Wolves signing a player in his position recently we can only see his game time being even more limited.
The Future for Ojo
Though he is only 18 years old, Ojo was expected to make a bigger impact than he has on loan at Wolves this season, but his mentality is yet to run parallel to his advanced physicality.
Spending a season in the Championship should aid a young player’s development, but this may have come too soon for a player who is still at an early stage in his progress in the Liverpool academy.
With Jackett signing Legia Warsaw winger Michal Zyro at the end of December, Ojo’s game time was only going to be severely limited from this stage.
It’s clear to see why both clubs were happy to terminate the deal early, with Ojo perhaps benefitting from being back at Liverpool and then possibly heading back out on a short loan deal towards the end of the season.