Over two months after first leaving Liverpool on loan, Owen Beck finally made his first appearance of the season – but not for the club he joined back in July.
At first, moving to Famalicao seemed a bold move that would pay off for Beck, who had proved himself one of the most exciting young players at Anfield.
But after a standout season with the under-23s – and two appearances at first-team level – it did not translate to the role he would have hoped in Portugal.
He made the bench three times before being omitted for the fourth game of the Primeira Liga, and unused throughout he saw his deal cut short and another struck with Bolton in League One.
Joining close friend Conor Bradley at the University of Bolton Stadium, Beck has been required to work on his fitness before being given an opportunity by manager Ian Evatt, who admitted: “Physically, he wasn’t where we needed him to be.”
“Playing wing-back for me is probably the most difficult position, it is the most physically demanding and you have to be really, really fit,” Evatt told the Bolton News earlier this month.
“I think he was not at the required level but I think he’s getting there fast and I think the last couple of days training have done him the world of good.
“And I’m starting to see what he can really do now, which is really good.”
Beck is yet to make the matchday squad in League One, despite being available for the last three games, but started in the EFL Trophy clash with Tranmere on Tuesday night.
It was a tough debut for the 20-year-old Welshman, who lasted 63 minutes before being brought off in a 2-2 draw which led to Tranmere winning on penalties.
The Manchester Evening News awarded Beck a 6.5 rating, noting that he showed “flashes of what he can offer going forward,” while the Bolton News handed him a 6 as he “got into some good positions but made some poor choices once he got there.”
It would seem that the frustration built up in Beck from a difficult two months saw him too eager to impress, with one shot going out for a throw and his crosses not at their best.
However, the minutes he was afforded should be considered a positive as he moves closer to a place in Evatt’s side in League One.
There was intrigue as Declan John was moved from left wing-back to Bradley’s usual spot on the right – the Northern Irishman given the night off – while the manager has suggested Jack Iredale could shift to centre-back.
Whether Evatt is clearing space for Beck to take a first-choice role remains to be seen, but that is certainly what he and Liverpool will be hoping.