Sheffield United: Why Ben Woodburn's struggles at Bramall Lane could make him a better player

Mark Duffy, left: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Mark Duffy, left: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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Mark Duffy, the Sheffield United forward, believes Liverpool youngster Ben Woodburn will emerge a better player from his early-season struggles at Bramall Lane.

The Wales international has struggled to establish himself in Chris Wilder's squad after a high-profile loan move from the Premier League giants, with United beating a host of rival clubs to the signature of the teenager.

Woodburn, however, was left out of the matchday squad which faced Brentford on Tuesday evening and an early termination of his loan deal in South Yorkshire in January remains a distinct possibility.

But, wherever Woodburn plays his football in the new year, Duffy - himself a former Liverpool youngster, and the main reason Woodburn can't get in the Blades side - is confident he will be a better player for the experience.

“Ben's a really good player," Duffy said before travelling to Griffin Park, “and has obviously come from Liverpool but found it tough.

“The Championship is an intense league, playing Saturday to Tuesday, and to go from U23s football to that straightaway is tough, when everyone's expecting you to take to it like a duck to water.

“He's been doing well in training and getting minutes with Wales, but international football is a slower pace. He’s only a young lad and he’ll be better for this experience. Even thoigh he's not getting minutes, he’ll still be learning.”

The irony for Woodburn is that Duffy, a former Red himself, is blocking the path to the first team, even if the 33-year-old has taken an altogether more different route to Bramall Lane.

After being released by his boyhood club, Duffy almost gave up on football completely before working his way back up the latter via spells at Prescot Cables and Vauxhall Motors.

“That's definitely toughened me up and makes me appreciate what I've got now," Duffy said.

“And I don’t want to give it away to anyone. I get on well with Ben but at the end of the day, we’re competing for the same spot in the team.

“I’ll give it my all to play in the team and don’t want to give my spot away to anyone. Ben’s come from Liverpool’s academy and done amazingly well, playing for the first team and scoring goals.

“Everyone's path is different and we all have different experiences. They’ll make him a better player, as they have me.”

Duffy was left on the bench on Tuesday as United beat Brentford 3-2, but is expected to return this weekend against Leeds.