Promising Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn receives first Wales senior call-up

Promising Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn receives first Wales senior call-up

17-year-old Liverpool forward Ben Woodburn has been called up to Wales' senior squad for the first time ahead of their clash with the Republic of Ireland later this month.

Charlie Malam

Young Liverpool forward Ben Woodburn has been called up to Chris Coleman's Wales squad for the first time.

The 17-year-old is included in the senior squad that will face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin in a World Cup qualifier on Friday, March 24.

Woodburn has made seven appearances this season, having scored on his first-team debut to become Liverpool's youngest ever goalscorer - at 17 years and 45 days - in a 2-0 EFL Cup win against Leeds United.

The immensely-promising teenager has represented Wales at under-19 level, scoring twice in four games, as well as playing for his country for U17s, U16s and U15s and qualifies for Wales through his maternal grandmother.

Wales boss Coleman declared that Woodburn's first call-up is not simply an attempt to prevent the Chester-born attacker from choosing to represent England, stating that his first international cap - if he gets it - will be handed to him on merit.

Woodburn has earned call-up, insists Wales boss Coleman

Coleman, who took the Dragons to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 last summer, acknowledged that Wales could do "absolutely nothing" to stop Woodburn from playing for England because none of the players are "contracted" to their country.

The 46-year-old added: "But because he burst on the scene for Liverpool, he scored on his debut at Anfield, it makes me laugh. Don’t tell me about this kid, I’ve known about him for five years. He has been in our system since 13. While everyone was excited when he first burst on to the scene at Liverpool, people were saying ‘take a look at Ben Woodburn’, but we knew all about him."

"He has done well this season," Coleman added, insisting that Woodburn is "one of the boys knocking on the door" and that "those boys deserve a chance."

He continued: "He is there on merit. We are looking forward to having him on board with us. We see Ben as an international player for Wales. We have since he was a young boy and we expect him to be going forward. He has a good future with us. There will be no knee-jerk reaction to cap him."

Coleman also explained that Woodburn - who made a third Premier League appearance of the campaign last Sunday when he replaced Philippe Coutinho for the final half-an-hour of the win over Burnley - is mentally prepared for the step-up that comes in playing on the international stage.

He insisted that the Reds' No.58 has "done good things" at club level and that if he is playing or even being "on the periphery of the squad" it means "he is training every day with international players" at "one of the biggest clubs in football."

Coleman added: "He won’t be daunted by playing with international players. He does that every day. It won’t be a problem. He has done enough [to be called up]. It’s the natural progression, that’s how I see it. We weren’t getting excited about Ben, we already knew about him. It was other people."

Gomez, Alexander-Arnold and Brewster selected among England's age groups

Elsewhere, defender Joe Gomez has been named in the England U21s squad for the first time since October 2015, when he ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament after a bright start to his Anfield career.

The 19-year-old has made three appearances this season for Liverpool since returning from injury and is expected to be a key figure when England take part in the U21s European Championships in Poland in June.

Gomez's age group - led by Aidy Boothroyd - face Germany and Denmark within four days later this month, friendlies designed to help prepare them for this summer's tournament.

Trent Alexander-Arnold will also play for England this summer and is in the 24-man contingent for the U19s, who face Norway, Spain and Belarus in European U19 Championships elite round qualifiers this month.

Highly-rated young striker Rhian Brewster will also join up with England U17s to face Czech Republic, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in European U17 Championship qualifiers, all within just five days.