With Craw­ley Town has NICK LOUGH on how a loan spell boy into a man turned Fred­die Wood­man from a

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - ONE TO WATCH -

THEY say you have to be a lit­tle bit crazy to be a goal­keeper. The pres­sure of know­ing that you are the last line of de­fence and the fact that one tiny mis­take can re­sult in hefty crit­i­cism and con­dem­na­tion.

When 3pm on a Satur­day comes around, most 18-year-old keep­ers are ex­pected to be tak­ing to the field for their clubs’ youth teams, or, if they’re very lucky, warm­ing the bench for the se­nior side.

Yet New­cas­tle United shot-stop­per Fred­die Wood­man was play­ing week in, week out as the undis­puted num­ber one in the un­for­giv­ing di­vi­sion known as League Two with Sus­sex club Craw­ley Town.

Bor­rowed from the Premier League gi­ants, the Eng­land un­der-19 in­ter­na­tional swapped mas­sage pools and pri­vate planes for tiny shower blocks and cramped bus jour­neys back in July – but, to him, it was the big­gest step in his ca­reer to date.

“In the sum­mer I was speak­ing with the peo­ple around me and they were say­ing I needed to go out on loan and play in the Foot­ball League,” Wood­man told

“We rang around a few clubs and there was a bit of in­ter­est in League Two and Scot­land. Craw­ley man­ager Mark Yates had worked with Jack But­land be­fore and he’s a goal­keeper I base my­self on, along with the likes of Joe Hart.

“He gave But­land his de­but in the Foot­ball League and that was one of the rea­sons, as well as it was closer to home where my fam­ily was so that helped mas­sively, too.”

Wood­man linked up with the Red Devils for a pre-sea­son match against Nuneaton af­ter re­turn­ing to the UK hav­ing joined the New­cas­tle first-team on their tour of Amer­ica.

It was that day Wood­man re­alised there is no for­give­ness in lower league foot­ball af­ter tak­ing an early blow to the face when col­lid­ing with a brutish cen­tre-for­ward.

“It was a lot more de­mand­ing phys­i­cally com­ing up against big cen­tre-for­wards and tak­ing a few hits,” he said. “I cut my eye in my first game for the club against Nuneaton in pre-sea­son!

“The pace can be quick too; at times you’re con­cen­trat­ing so much as you have so much to do but I did find it hard when you were play­ing away and the crowd started to get on the other team’s back.”

Thrown straight into ac­tion on the league’s open­ing day with a test­ing trip to Ox­ford United, Wood­man im­pressed the trav­el­ling Craw­ley faith­ful with a num­ber of su­perb stops to keep the U’s at bay. “The main thing I took from my de­but is that ev­ery­thing felt real,” he said.

“I was play­ing at three o’clock on a Satur­day, first game of the sea­son, when ev­ery­one is play­ing and I was proud of my­self as I’d come a long way but I knew I had a long way to go. “I knew I had to go out there and give a per­for­mance. I had friends at New­cas­tle kick­ing off at the same time, my Dad (goal­keep­ing coach Andy) at Palace was play­ing too, my good friend Ryan Tay­lor play­ing at Hull at 3pm and now I was play­ing, too.

“I was a kid play­ing kid’s foot­ball, but then I made my de­but in the men’s game - and now I feel like I am a man. I was happy with my per­for­mance as I made some solid stops and it was good to get a point away at a strong Ox­ford team who will definitely do well this sea­son.”

Goal­keep­ing very much runs in the Wood­man fam­ily given his fathe made over 300 ca­reer ap­pear­ances in the Foot­ball League.

They were to­gether at New­cas­tle with Fred­die in the acad­emy and Andy as­sist­ing Alan Pardew with first-team af­fairs.

The dis­tance be­tween the pair re­mained small when they moved down south to Craw­ley and Crys­tal Palace re­spec­tively, with Wood­man Snr a reg­u­lar in the stands to keep tabs on his son’s progress.

“I speak to my Dad on a daily ba­sis about my game,” he said.

“He watches all my clips and he came to a lot of my games both home and away so he’s a trusted idol for me.

“I am where I am now be­cause what he has taught me. He told me to al­ways go out there and be­lieve in my­self, and if you can give off an aura and a con­fi­dence you can go out and play like you’re the best goal­keeper in the world.”

Just 12 games into his loan spell, the 18year-old got the call from Mag­pies boss Steve McClaren to fly back to the nest af­ter United num­ber one Tim Krul was struck down on in­ter­na­tional duty af­ter in­jur­ing his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment.

He said: “Firstly, Tim Krul is one of my best friends and one of my men­tors so I was dev­as­tated for him and I know it’s a se­ri­ous in­jury.

“I got a call from my agent straight­away and he said you’re go­ing to be called back now, but I was gut­ted to leave Craw­ley as I was meant to be there un­til Jan­uary.

“I would have liked to have played a few more games.

“Com­ing back, New­cas­tle is my club and if I get the chance here I’ll be happy but you just have to see what hap­pens really.”

Af­ter be­ing brought back to St James’ Park to act as back-up to ex-Charl­ton shot-stop­per

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