The hunger and desire to succeed will ensure Ben Woodburn will see it all “click” into place in senior football, with youth certainly still on his side.
It’s a tale well told, a goal against Leeds United saw Woodburn become Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer in 2016 and with it came a place in the spotlight for the then 17-year-old.
In the years since he’s made 10 more appearances for Jurgen Klopp‘s side, the last of which came in 2017/18, earned 10 senior caps for Wales and been sent on three different loan spells.
There’s no doubting the talent, but injury and, this season, COVID-19 has thrown his young career for a loop and ultimately resulted in his loan spell with Blackpool not being extended.
The 21-year-old rejoined the under-23s in January and has since donned the captain’s armband, where time has also been spent training with the first team at Kirkby.
But despite struggling to get his senior career off the ground, former U23s boss Neil Critchley, whom Woodburn played 11 games for at Blackpool this season, is under no doubt that the youngster will “prove what a good player he is.”
“I felt for Ben because he came in at [Blackpool] a time when we were in our bad spell as a team,” Critchley told the Athletic.
“He did well in his first few games and then he got COVID-19 and missed 10 days. During that period we played four games and won the lot. After that, it was difficult for him to get back in.
“Around Christmas, he wasn’t getting the amount of football he would have liked and I couldn’t guarantee him that in the second half of the season. He’s a young player who wants to play.
“The last few seasons clearly haven’t gone the way Ben would have hoped but what really impressed me was that he’s really matured from the experiences he’s been through. That’s strengthened his resolve of ‘I’m a good player and I’m going to prove it’.
“I saw a hunger in him which was lovely to see,” he added. “Sometimes young players get too much too soon and lose that desire, but Ben still has a real appetite for the game.
“I’ve known him since he was seven or eight years of age. He’s still only 21. At some point with the ability he’s got, he’ll find a place that’s right for him and it will click for him and he’ll prove what a good player he is.”
With only one year left on his deal at the club, Woodburn’s career will reach a decisive point in the summer and if a permanent switch isn’t secured he will likely part ways in 2022.
At 21, however, there is still plenty of time and talent to find the “right” place to kickstart his career once more.