For many young prospects amongst the Premier League’s elite academies, they know too few will make the transition into a regular first-team star at their chosen club but all they can do is work hard, impress and pounce on any opportunity given to them. That’s the case for some of Liverpool’s starlets this summer as Jurgen Klopp’s squad began pre-season at the weekend, mainly with non-Internationals and youth players making up the numbers. Though, winger Harry Wilson leaves The Reds’ boss with a dilemma before a ball has even been kicked.
Wilson has done everything asked of him in recent seasons by producing successful spells on loan at both Hull City and Derby County in the Championship. The loan market is there for one’s development in most circumstances, but at what point should they be given that chance at their parent club? There’s not much more Wilson can do as the next step from his achievements so far would be playing in the Premier League. For Hull, the 22-year-old scored seven and assisted four in just 14 matches whilst for Derby last season, he played one game shy of half a century, netting 18 times and assisting six goals. His record at youth level must be up there with the best having played 67 matches, scoring 33 goals and assisting 18 – all in all, that’s the sort of returns you’d love to see from your winger. Productive.
It leaves Klopp with plenty to think about. The Liverpool side currently lacks any major depth in most areas – for a fan that’s the anxious feeling when a player goes down and you’re looking over at the bench to see who could be an adequate replacement. In recent seasons, Klopp has wielded the financial power at the hands of the Anfield hierarchy – £75m for Virgil van Dijk; £67m for Alisson. Brewing beneath the first team is a superb academy which is far too often neglected – there have been cases of exactly why in the past – Jay Spearing, Dani Pacheco, David Amoo and Tom Ince are just a few casualties. Klopp’s introduction at Liverpool has certainly changed the way they view youth to some extent, the recent signing of £1.3m-rated 17-year-old Sepp van den Berg shows that.
The emergence and rapid breakthrough of Trent Alexander-Arnold is probably the greatest recent success of that academy so there’s hope for the likes of Rhian Brewster, Ben Woodburn and Wilson – but we’re back at square one should they not be given the chance. Again, Wilson has gone out on loan and proved he’s up to the standard. He’s a Wales international now, he should be competing directly with Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri for whatever spot is on offer. His clever decision-making, bold risk-taking and calm composure must surely give him a good shot at achieving that. It’s time to give him the call or sell him for the good of his career.