Benjamin Woodburn (born 15 October 1999) is a professional footballer who plays as a forward for Premier League club Liverpool and for the Wales national team.
He became Liverpool’s third youngest player in history upon making his senior debut in November 2016. After his second appearance, he became the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer. He is also Wales’ second-youngest ever goalscorer, having netted on his senior debut at the age of 17 in September 2017.
Born in Chester, Woodburn was raised in Tattenhall, Cheshire and played both cricket and football from a young age. He joined Liverpool’s academy at under-7 level where he steadily progressed through the youth ranks, leading to former academy director Frank McParland identifying him as one of the brightest prospects at the club.] During his schooling, Liverpool agreed to a request from Woodburn’s parents that he should stay at home rather than in Rainhill, which was closer to the academy in Kirkby. In order to facilitate his development, the club arranged for a driver to transport him every day from training back to his home in Tattenhall. When he was 15 years old, Woodburn was fast-tracked from Liverpool’s under-16s to the under-18s and his rapid development saw him included in Liverpool’s “Futures Group”, a programme that affords the club’s most talented young players an opportunity to train with first-team coach Pep Lijnders once a week.
Having impressed first-team manager Jürgen Klopp during these training sessions, Woodburn was handed his non-competitive debut during the 2016–17 pre-season in a 1–0 win over Tranmere Rovers. He came off the bench in Liverpool’s next match to score one and assist another for Roberto Firmino in a 5–0 friendly win over Fleetwood Town. Woodburn then, along with Kevin Stewart and fellow academy graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold, signed his first professional contract with Liverpool on 8 November 2016.
He made his senior debut for Liverpool on 26 November, coming on as a 92nd-minute substitute for Georginio Wijnaldum in a 2–0 Premier League victory over Sunderland. Upon doing so, Woodburn became Liverpool’s third youngest debutant of all time at the age of 17 years and 42 days, and the club’s second youngest ever in the Premier League, behind Jack Robinson. Three days later, he became Liverpool’s youngest-ever goalscorer at the age of 17 years and 45 days when he came off the bench to score in an EFL Cup quarter-final win over Leeds United, bettering Michael Owen’s record by 98 days. Following his rapid development at Liverpool, both Sky Sports and The Guardian named Woodburn as one of the top young players to watch in 2017. He made his full debut for the club on 8 January 2017, starting in a 0–0 FA Cup draw with Plymouth Argyle. His first start in the league followed on 4 April in a 2–1 away triumph over Stoke City which saw him become the third-youngest player to start for Liverpool in the Premier League era behind Owen and Jordon Ibe. The following week he was nominated for the 2017 European Golden Boy award, but was beaten by French forward, Kylian Mbappé.
On 9 May, Woodburn won Liverpool’s Academy Player of the Season award following a campaign which saw him score eight goals in Premier League 2 and break into the first team. He was also later nominated for the Premier League 2 Player of the Season award alongside Alexander-Arnold, though the award was ultimately won by Swansea City’s Oliver McBurnie.
The following season, Liverpool’s academy coach Steven Gerrard named Woodburn as captain of the under-19 side for the club’s UEFA Youth League campaign, a competition which ran parallel to the season’s UEFA Champions League. He made just one senior appearance, as a substitute, during the first half of the season but signed a new long-term deal with Liverpool in October and was named BBC Wales Young Sportsman of the Year in December.