Chris Wilder has revealed the reasoning behind Sheffield United’s decision to allow young loanee Ben Woodburn to play for Liverpool’s U23s at the weekend.
The Wales international played over an hour for his parent club’s youth side in their clash with Derby on Sunday, with Reds’ U23 coach Neil Critchley admitting he hopes Woodburn can now kick on at Bramall Lane.
The 19-year-old arrived in South Yorkshire to some fanfare this summer, as the youngest ever goalscorer in Liverpool’s illustrious history, but hasn’t featured for Wilder’s Blades since their draw with Birmingham City on September 19.
Wilder, who hopes to arrange a behind-closed-doors game next week for Woodburn and the other members of his squad who haven’t featured recently, insisted that the youngster is “not a special case” because he is a Liverpool player and, speaking ahead of his side’s clash with Stoke City tomorrow evening, said: “Ben’s been away with the national squad and didn’t get any minutes there, so we felt it was important that he keeps playing football.
“And there was an opportunity to get him some minutes. He can do all the running he likes up here in training, but there’s nothing like game action and there was an opportunity to get him 65 minutes or so.
“We were keen, Liverpool were keen and Ben was back with us today.
“It’s always an option for Ben to play for our U23s or their U23s, or in a bounce game – we try to arrange them where we can because players who aren’t playing, because the team is settled, still need match time and action.
“They’re sometimes difficult to arrange because of the fixture list, but we're working to get one for next week and we’re looking forward to getting some minutes in those boys.”
United will look to get back to winning ways against Gary Rowett's Stoke after a 2-1 defeat at Derby on Saturday ended their four-game run of victories, which has propelled them to joint top of the Championship.
“The team’s not doing too bad,” said Wilder, when asked about the reasons behind Woodburn’s absence.
“I think Mark Duffy, for one, would be disappointed if he’d played four or five games on the bounce and then got left out. Ben’s not a special case at all; we’ve got seven or eight players in the same boat, who can’t get in the team, and he’s no different because he’s come from Liverpool.
“He’s a talent, we understand he’s a good player, and he's not done anything wrong. Just as the boys who have been playing haven’t done anything wrong, either.”