The lesser-spotted Ben Woodburn was back in Liverpool red for Sunday’s mini-Merseyside derby win.
After spending last season on loan at Oxford United – living with former Reds midfielder Cameron Brannagan – Woodburn returned to his parent club earlier this year.
A foot injury sustained during his time at the Kassam and a subsequent re-occurrence of it during his Melwood rehabilitation put paid to his stay with Karl Robinson’s Us.
Now fit again, Woodburn is ready for his next chapter.
Given the captain’s armband for this 1-0 win against Everton, the Wales international looked sharp throughout before he inevitably tired in the second half.
It will be four years in since Woodburn burst on to the senior stage at Anfield with that goal against Leeds United in a League Cup tie.
That strike made him the youngest goalscorer in Liverpool history at the time, at the age of just 17 years and 45 days, but it did not immediately signal a one-way ticket to the top.
Woodburn was not the standout performer in this hard-earned win over David Unsworth’s Blues at Kirkby, but he showed enough to outline why there was once such a buzz about him.
A lovely ball out to the left flank for Jack Bearne with the outside of his foot was proof enough of that, but once more Woodburn’s short-term future lies away from Liverpool.
Sparta Rotterdam and Hull City are both in the hunt to take him away on loan, but it is understood it is the former who are winning that particular race at present.
Still just 20, Woodburn has ample time on his side as he aims to make the grade long-term, but his hopes of doing so won’t come to fruition this season.
What next for Kelleher?
Twelve months ago, Caoimhin Kelleher was making his senior Liverpool debut.
Starting in a 2-0 win in at MK Dons, the young Irishman turned in an assured performance alongside the likes of Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner.
He then played in the following rounds of the Reds’ weird and wonderful Carabao Cup campaign before the youngest Liverpool team ever was beaten 5-0 by Aston Villa in December.
A year on, the Ireland Under-21 international is back with the Under-23 ranks and awaiting his next big call.
With Loris Karius back at the club and Adrian challenging Alisson Becker as best he can for the No.1 shirt, the Irishman may be forgiven for wondering what his own fate is.
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Particularly at a time when his colleague Kamil Grabara remains on the books and the club are continuing to strengthen their youth ranks with the likes of Fabian Mrozek and Brazil U17 World Cup winner, Marcelo Pitaluga.
Preston North End were interested back in January and a loan move could still be on the cards for the Cork keeper.
But if Kelleher finds himself in a goalkeeping limbo at Anfield right now, he didn’t let it show here at the Academy.
A brilliant double save in the first half preserved Barry Lewtas’s side’s early lead after a smart stop with his feet had earlier denied the visiting Blues.
Another excellent save from Ellis Simms late in the second half went a long way to ensuring the Reds got the better of their rivals.
A new general emerges
If Woodburn and Kelleher are uncertain over what awaits their respective careers, right now, then Leighton Clarkson is someone whose season is more clearly mapped out.
The diminutive midfielder has made a big impression on his coaches and has previously been part of the senior action at Melwood under Jurgen Klopp.
A player who has been able to study the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fabinho up close, the Blackburn-born midfielder has been fortunate to pick up tricks of the trade from some of the best in the business in the fledgling days of his own career.
Clarkson, though, has a style entirely his own in the engine room.
Here, he was pulling the strings with the No.6 on his back, intelligently finding space in the hustle and bustle of this local skirmish and using his expansive passing range to all areas of the pitch.
One lovely wrapped pass into the impressive Liam Millar almost found the net had it not been for a decent save from Everton goalkeeper Harry Tyrer.
Lewtas has worked with Clarkson through the ranks since the 18-year-old was 11 and knows him perhaps more than any other coach.
“He just has to carry on listening, learning and taking on board all the advice,” Lewtas told the ECHO earlier this year. “I have been really pleased with how he has grown as a player and person.”
Now, as Lewtas begins the biggest role his own career as Under-23 boss, he has his midfield general to call on in the shape of Clarkson.
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