TEENAGE STAR fREDDIE READY FOR BIG TIME
With Crawley Town has NICK LOUGH on how a loan spell boy into a man turned Freddie Woodman from a
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