Eng­land's youth to get a chance

Af­ter sav­ing the cru­cial spot-kick in the fi­nal of the U20 World Cup, Fred­die Wood­man is look­ing to es­tab­lish him­self un­der Rafa Ben­itez

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“I never feel like I have made it – I could win the real World Cup and there’d still be some­thing else to achieve,” Fred­die Wood­man says, as he pon­ders the un­usual sit­u­a­tion he has found him­self in ahead of the 2017-18 cam­paign.

Nor­mally, it’s es­tab­lish your­self at club level first, then tar­get World Cup glory later, but Wood­man has done it the other way around – sav­ing a cru­cial penalty in the fi­nal as Eng­land beat Venezuela to se­cure June’s Un­der-20 World Cup.

“I just thought back to the notes I’d writ­ten the night be­fore: I tried to stay up as late as pos­si­ble, stuck my left arm out and the ball hit my arm,” the 20-year-old re­calls with a smile. “It was such a great mo­ment. I won the Euro­pean Un­der-17 Cham­pi­onship and I didn’t think I’d win a big­ger tour­na­ment than that – to win the World Cup with the same lads was amaz­ing.”

Of the mil­lions of as­pir­ing foot­ballers that Eng­land has pro­duced since July 1966, only Wood­man and the other 20 mem­bers of Paul Simp­son’s squad have gone on to win a World Cup, in any age group. “It’s crazy when you think of it like that,” the New­cas­tle goal­keeper says, paus­ing for a mo­ment to con­sider that fact for the first time.

Wood­man joins Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Xavi and Paul Pogba among those who’ve won the un­der-20 tour­na­ment. “It’s great to be on the same list as them – be­fore the fi­nal we watched a video of all of the play­ers who have lifted the tro­phy over the years,” Wood­man re­veals. “My for­mer New­cas­tle team-mate Fabri­cio Coloc­cini was on there and I was think­ing, ‘If he did it, surely I can do it?’ When we got back to Eng­land, the sup­port was amaz­ing. I got loads of mes­sages – in­clud­ing from Joe Hart, Tom Heaton and Jack But­land. There were a lot from New­cas­tle, too – I got a mes­sage from the gaffer say­ing ‘well done’.” Maybe that mes­sage from Rafa Ben­itez was the big­gest achieve­ment of all – Steven Gerrard once joked it was his aim in life to get as much as a ‘well done’ from the for­mer Liver­pool man­ager.

Now, like Do­minic Calvert-lewin, new Liver­pool sign­ing Do­minic Solanke and the rest of that Eng­land squad, Wood­man wants to use the World Cup win as a launch­pad for his club ca­reer. Af­ter pre­vi­ous loans at Crawley and Kil­marnock, he’s de­ter­mined to prove that he’s ca­pa­ble of play­ing for New­cas­tle. His aim this sea­son is sim­ple: to get more se­nior games un­der his belt.

“I’m at an age where I’ve got to play matches – I am the grump­i­est per­son ever when I am not play­ing,” he says. “Def­i­nitely my dream is to play in the Premier League – I want to be No.1 at New­cas­tle at some point.”

The son of for­mer goal­keeper Andy Wood­man, he’s also the god­son of one of his dad’s ex-crys­tal Palace col­leagues – a cer­tain Gareth South­gate. “A lot of peo­ple are talk­ing about that now,” he laughs war­ily, keen to avoid per­cep­tions that his ca­reer has been given a leg-up by the Eng­land boss. Af­ter win­ning the Golden Glove at the U20 World Cup, he needn’t worry about that.

So is he am­bi­tious to reach the se­nior Eng­land squad one day? “One hun­dred per cent,” he says. “If I did not be­lieve I could do that, I shouldn’t be play­ing foot­ball. But it is back to re­al­ity now – I’ve won the World Cup but noth­ing changes. I’ve got to do what I’ve been do­ing be­fore. My feet stay grounded.”

Fred­die Wood­man wears the PUMA ONE, the boot for ev­ery ONE and ev­ery player


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