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Manchester City youngster Phil Foden

I remember vividly the night Ben Woodburn became Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer. When the 17-year-old struck at the Kop End against Leeds United in November 2016, it felt as though we were staring into the future.

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Since that night at Anfield, Woodburn has scored just one club goal in almost three years. It came this season for Oxford United in League One, where he is on loan. Last season was spent at Sheffield United in the Championship but he hardly played.

He is due to turn 20 soon, but life has not been straightforward for Woodburn and it very rarely is for players who shine so early. 

Manchester City youngster Phil Foden's prospects under Pep Guardiola remain a live topic

Manchester City youngster Phil Foden’s prospects under Pep Guardiola remain a live topic

Another example is Oliver Burke, sold by Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig in Germany for £13million a couple of months before Woodburn scored his Liverpool goal.

Burke became the most expensive Scot of all time and was only 19. Now he is a West Brom player on loan at the small Spanish club Alaves, having failed to impress Neil Lennon at Celtic last season. Alaves are 17th in La Liga and Burke is not always in the team.

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I was thinking about this while watching Manchester City beat Everton on TV in a very good game on Saturday. When City manager Pep Guardiola made three late attacking substitutes, it was notice-able that Phil Foden was not one of them.

With only 10 minutes of league football to his name this season, Foden and his prospects remain a live topic but it strikes me that it is a conversation that too often takes place the wrong way round. 

We should be asking what the teenage talent Foden can do for his first-team manager

We should be asking what the teenage talent Foden can do for his first-team manager

We should be asking what the teenage talent Foden can do for his first-team manager

These are important years for Foden - who has played 10 minutes of league football this season

These are important years for Foden - who has played 10 minutes of league football this season

These are important years for Foden – who has played 10 minutes of league football this season

It is a debate usually framed in the context of when Guardiola is going to do the decent thing and put the young midfielder in his team.

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But instead of wondering what Guardiola can do for Foden, we should be asking what the player can do for his manager and, just as pertinently, when.

These are important years for Foden, just as they are for Woodburn and Burke. This is not so much because of what can go right at this stage but what can go wrong. 

Mentality is almost as important as ability during development and it was interesting that Guardiola said recently that Foden needs to shout louder — both literally and metaphorically — if he is to get in his team.

It is unlikely Foden will make such a fuss. It is not his way. I interviewed him earlier this year and was impressed by how very normal and boyish he was.

When I arrived early for our appointment, he was playing keep-ups with members of his management team. When our photographer asked him to jump in to a play-pit full of plastic footballs, he looked the happiest he had all afternoon.

Ben Woodburn has scored just once since becoming Liverpool's youngest goalscorer in 2016
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Ben Woodburn has scored just once since becoming Liverpool's youngest goalscorer in 2016

Ben Woodburn has scored just once since becoming Liverpool’s youngest goalscorer in 2016

So if Foden is keen to hang on to his youth and all the innocence that comes with it then who are we to try to disturb that?

Nevertheless, Guardiola’s view on the matter is clear. There will be no ‘ceremonial’ minutes for the 19-year-old, no short cameos at the end of games just so that he can say he is doing right by a player already identified as the future of the English game.

Guardiola does not owe Foden anything special just because the player is young and home grown.

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He owes him fair treatment and objective judgement and he will get that.

Just as it is for players like Ben Woodburn and Oliver Burke, the rest is up to Foden.

Sterling shows complexity of Silva race issue

Raheem Sterling spoke out on Bernardo Silva's tweet to Benjamin Mendy on Saturday

Raheem Sterling spoke out on Bernardo Silva's tweet to Benjamin Mendy on Saturday

Raheem Sterling spoke out on Bernardo Silva’s tweet to Benjamin Mendy on Saturday

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The fact that someone like Raheem Sterling can tie himself up in knots over the Bernardo Silva race issue shows just how complicated matters of discrimination can be.

So let’s stick to the simple bit. Silva thought his tweet likening Benjamin Mendy to a cartoon character with big lips was OK because his team-mate is a friend and would get the gag.

But this wasn’t a joke between friends. It was a tweet to thousands of followers that appeared at first sight to suggest all black people look the same.

Nobody thinks Silva is a racist but he did make a mistake and on reflection Sterling may come to realise that too.

Blades faithful quick to forgive Henderson 

It was a big weekend for goalkeepers in the Premier League and not always in a good way.

Hugo Lloris reminded us again that he would never make a central midfield player and Jordan Pickford of Everton and Ederson of Manchester City went a long way to deciding which of the teams came out on top at Goodison Park. In an England context, Pickford still worries me greatly.

Most notable, however, was the way Sheffield United supporters reacted to Dean Henderson’s catastrophic error in their defeat by Liverpool.

Manager Chris Wilder tells how — when he took the job in 2016 — the ‘fans hated the players and the players hated the fans’. 

Judging by the way Bramall Lane sang Henderson’s name to the end on Saturday, that is definitely no longer the case.

Dean Henderson looks back at the ball after his catastrophic error against Liverpool
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Dean Henderson looks back at the ball after his catastrophic error against Liverpool

Dean Henderson looks back at the ball after his catastrophic error against Liverpool

Good week 

Yeovil

The National League side managed to beat Bromley despite having all their ball boys sent off for time-wasting. I know I shouldn’t be a fan of such clear skulduggery but I just can’t help it.

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Bad week

Jonathan Woodgate

Middlesbrough’s home thrashing by Sheffield Wednesday means it’s just two league wins all season for the former England defender. Preston at home on Tuesday feels important.