Thursday, 28 July 2011

Splintered Woodgate’s Final Chance

The Football Front's Christian Brown assess Jonathan Woodgate's move to Stoke.

“Madrid’s true leader.” “One of the best centre backs to play for Newcastle.” “Leeds United’s ‘jewel in the crown.’” Jonathan Woodgate has been showered with compliments over his 13 year long professional career. An 8 time England international, the clichéd ‘rock at the back’ has commanded £36.4 million pounds worth of transfer fees, spreading from Yorkshire to Madrid. However, he now finds himself at Stoke City, having failing to agree a new contract with Tottenham Hotspur. No disrespect to Stoke, but they’re a bit of a comedown seeing he once played for Real Madrid.

So where did it all go wrong?

The answer is very simple. Injuries. The term ‘injury prone’ fits to Woodgate like a tailor made suit. Notable injuries to his groin and back have meant that Woodgate has never really had a full season playing week in, week out. It’s a great shame, because had injuries not struck him, he could have been spoken about as one of the great English defenders of his generation, rather than a player who has ‘shot it’ and ‘should have retired ages ago.’

The fact Real Madrid, the biggest club in world football, forked out £13.4 million it emphasises the appreciation of his quality. Yes, his debut was a horror show to say the least (scoring an own goal before being sent off for a second yellow.) But the fact he recovered from that strongly enough to be recognised as a bit of a cult hero due to his performances after, it gives you an insight of his character. His time at Madrid nearly led him back into the England fold, but again, injury put a stop to that.

A move to Tottenham followed soon after. Woodgate will go down in Tottenham’s history books for his efforts there. It was his goal that clinched them a Carling Cup victory over their hated rivals Chelsea. He also gained the Man Of The Match award in the process. Woodgate was Tottenham’s captain for a short while, and was instrumental in their recovery to 8th position in 2009

However the injuries creped back in 2009. This resulted in Woodgate being out for 14 months with a groin injury this time. He came back to play once in Spurs’ victory against AC Milan in the Champions League as a substitute.

As he could not agree a new deal with Tottenham, he signed a pay-as-you-play contract with Stoke, making his debut in a friendly against Aldershot. Credit to him, he lasted just over an hour before being substituted, and this switch had nothing to do with an injury either.

Throughout his career, Woodgate has proved he is world class. When at Newcastle, he had a certain dangerman who goes by the name of Didier Drogba in his back pocket when they played Marseille in the UEFA Cup semi finals. Surprise, surprise though, Woodgate was injured for the second leg and guess who scored twice to send Newcastle out of Europe?

With Stoke though, he has the possibility of playing in this competition again – if he can remain fit. Pulis would have brought him in to add depth to his squad as they could embark on a long season; much like Fulham did in 2009. Indeed, budging Stoke’s first choice centre backs Shawcross and Huth won’t be easy. But if Woodgate can recapture his form and keep fit, there’s no reason why he can’t. Who knows, this time next year he may have signed an extension with Stoke, and Spurs may be kicking themselves as to why they released him. Alternatively, he could find himself at the bottom of the footballing scrapheap, begging ex clubs Leeds and Middlesbrough for a final shot at the beautiful game.

Football has been ever so cruel to Jonathan Woodgate.

But only time will tell if his move to Stoke reignites or further declines his career.

This piece was written by Christian Brown, you can follow him on his Twitter - @Chris78901, Chris also writes for The Sports Pallet too. All of Chris' work is on his blog, 1-chris78901.

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