Liverpool story maker set for new chapter as new midfielder general emerges


The lesser-spotted Ben Woodburn was back in Liverpool’s red for Sunday’s win in the mini-Merseyside derby. After spending last season on loan at Oxford United – living with former Reds midfielder Cameron Brannagan – Woodburn returned to his parent club earlier this year.

A foot injury suffered while at Kassam and a subsequent reappearance during his rehab at Melwood paid off his stay at Karl Robinson’s Us.

Now in good shape, Woodburn is ready for his next chapter.

Considering the captain’s armband for this 1-0 win over Everton, the Welsh international looked sharp throughout before inevitably tiring in the second half.

It will be four years since Woodburn burst onto the senior scene at Anfield with that goal against Leeds United in a League Cup draw.

The strike made him the youngest goalscorer in Liverpool history at the time, just 17 years and 45 days old, but it didn’t immediately signal a one-way ticket to the top.

Woodburn wasn’t the best performer of David Unsworth’s hard-won Blues win in Kirkby, but he showed enough of it to explain why there was once such a buzz about him.

A nice ball to the left flank for Jack Bearne with the outside of his foot was proof enough, but once again Woodburn’s near-term future lies far from Liverpool.

Both Sparta Rotterdam and Hull City are looking to take him on loan, but it is understood that they are the first to win this particular race.

Still just 20 years old, Woodburn has plenty of time on his side as he aims to reach the rank long-term, but his hopes of doing so will not materialize this season.

What’s next for Kelleher?

Caoimhin Kelleher of Liverpool

Twelve months ago Caoimhin Kelleher made his Liverpool debut.

Starting off with a 2-0 victory at MK Dons, the young Irishman put in a confident performance alongside Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner.

He went on to play in the following rounds of the Reds’ bizarre and wonderful Carabao Cup campaign before Liverpool’s youngest side were beaten 5-0 by Aston Villa in December.

A year later, the Ireland Under-21 international is back with the Under-23 and awaiting his next call.

With Loris Karius back at the club and Adrian challenging Alisson Becker as best he can for the No.1 shirt, the Irishman can be forgiven for wondering what his own fate is.

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Especially at a time when his colleague Kamil Grabara is still on the books and the club continue to strengthen their youth ranks with Fabian Mrozek and Brazil U17 World Cup winner Marcelo Pitaluga.

Preston North End was interested in January and a loan could still be considered for the Cork keeper.

But if Kelleher finds himself in goalkeeper’s limbo at Anfield right now, he hasn’t let it shine here at the Academy.

A brilliant double save in the first half preserved Barry Lewtas’ side’s early lead after a smart save with his feet previously turned the visiting Blues away.

Another excellent save by Ellis Simms at the end of the second half went a long way in securing the Reds the upper hand over their rivals.

A new general emerges

Jurgen Klopp with Leighton Clarkson during a training session in Melwood

If Woodburn and Kelleher are uncertain about what lies ahead for their respective careers, at the moment, then Leighton Clarkson is someone whose season is more clearly mapped out.

The small midfielder has made a big impression on his coaches and has been part of the senior action at Melwood before under Jurgen Klopp.

A player who was able to closely study Steven Gerrard and Fabinho, the Blackburn-born midfielder had the chance to acquire tricks of the trade from the best in the industry at the very start of his own career.

Clarkson, however, has a style all its own in the engine room.

Here he was pulling the strings with No.6 on his back, cleverly finding space in the hustle and bustle of this local skirmish and using his wide range of passes in all areas of the pitch.

A nice pass wrapped in the impressive Liam Millar almost found the net without a decent save from Everton goalkeeper Harry Tyrer.

Lewtas has worked with Clarkson through the ranks since the 18-year-old was 11 and may know him more than any other coach.

“He just needs to keep listening, learning and taking all the advice into account,” Lewtas told ECHO earlier this year. “I’m really happy with the way he’s grown as a player and as a person. ”

Now, as Lewtas begins the biggest role of his own career as an Under-23 boss, he has to call in his midfield general in the form of Clarkson.

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