Woodburn ‘ready’ despite Klopp concern

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Wales debutant Ben Woodburn celebrates in front of fans after scoring the winner against Austria

Wales manager Chris Coleman says forward Ben Woodburn was “ready” for his international chance, despite Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s concerns.

Woodburn, 17, scored the winner on his debut against Austria after coming on as a late substitute, then came off the bench again in Moldova to set up Hal Robson-Kanu’s 80th-minute opener.

The two wins have brought Wales back into World Cup qualifying contention.

“Jurgen felt it was a bit early for Ben,” said Coleman.

“But we’ve all got opinions, which is what is great about football.”

Ben Woodburn: Debut Wales winner ‘a dream come true’

Klopp expressed his misgivings when Woodburn was first called into the senior squad for a World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in March, saying he was “surprised”.

The German gave the teenager his club debut on 26 November 2016 and three days later he became the Reds’ youngest goalscorer, at 17 years and 45 days, when he netted against Leeds in the EFL Cup – beating Michael Owen’s previous record by 98 days.

Coleman said: “I felt that if he was in the first team for Liverpool – and he is, he scored that great debut goal at the Kop end – then he was ready.

“We weren’t going to start him in both games and play him for 90 minutes. We were going to be choosy with when we use him – but he’s a good young talent, that’s for sure.”

Woodburn made nine appearances in his breakthrough season at Anfield last season, but he is yet to be part of a Liverpool matchday squad this season.

Coleman said: “It will be up to Jurgen and Ben on how far or close he is to the first team. What we’ve seen is that he is a very bright player and he’s certainly shown enough with us again.

“Whatever comes in the next six or 12 months will be up to Jurgen and Ben himself.”

‘Two down, two to go’ for Wales

Coleman is keen to protect Woodburn and not rush him into the Wales starting line-up, although given the impact the teenager has had there will be pressure to start him in October’s last two qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland.

“These youngsters, even Ben, have it all to do because I know how tough it is to stay at the top level in this industry,” Coleman said.

“It gets harder, but he’s got a great attitude. We have to protect Ben and give him guidance – hence why he didn’t start against Moldova.

“He’s used to working with really good defenders every day at Liverpool. But there’s nothing that prepares you for a 90 minutes out there, it’s completely different.

“He’s very young and we have to take it slow unless we’re forced to – and then we’ll have to be careful.”

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