Why Reds should give young players like Woodburn a chance
ESPN's Steven Kelly insists Liverpool youngsters deserve future with the club, not on loan
"In news that never will have troubled the headline writers, Ben Woodburn has been sent on loan to Sheffield United, while Harry Wilson will also spend a year at Championship level with Derby County. It's been a while now since both youngsters were first touted as Liverpool's next big thing and almost two years since Woodburn scored his one and only first-team goal, becoming their youngest ever goalscorer. Loan deals smack of the shop window, not very auspicious when it comes to a player's long-term prospects at a club.
"It doesn't seem likely now that either player will become stars at Anfield. Was this down to them lacking talent or a paucity of opportunities? There's just something immensely satisfying about bucking football's trend of buying success, and necessary too. If it's a given the Manchester clubs can always outspend Liverpool, then having another viable way to compete is clearly vital. Ingenuity in transfers certainly helps, and Klopp has done well there so far. But something different is also needed to realistically stay on the heels of a rampant City, certainly if the Reds are to overtake them.
"The next test for Klopp will be with Rhian Brewster. Like Fowler and Owen, Brewster's been a big success on the England scene before even making his debut for the Reds. Fans are excited by the prospect of Brewster continuing that tradition but with Liverpool now in a challenging position, can Klopp afford to experiment even a little? The likes of Woodburn played in league cup games when Klopp dropped almost all of his first team. Wilson is a left-footed forward who plays on the right. Could he have been given games whenever Mohamed Salah was rested?
"He seemed a suitable back-up, yet the club went out to get Xherdan Shaqiri and slammed that particular door shut. With his experience and quality, the Switzerland international seemed, on the surface at least, an ideal and almost guaranteed solution to the challenges ahead. Supporters can adopt a sink-or-swim attitude to youngsters but does being selected for a makeshift XI of no-hopers really count as an opportunity? Sterling was given his debut in 2012, when Kenny Dalglish's team was floundering quite badly in the league.
"He kept getting games during the early days of Brendan Rodgers' reign and by the time things began to turn Rodgers' way, Sterling was a first-team regular. Like many before him, he'd got his chance with Liverpool largely as a result of players ahead of him being hugely disappointing. Therefore, Liverpool's recent good form does not bode well for the likes of Brewster or Dominic Solanke. Youth must however remain an intrinsic part of Klopp's plan."