From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.34 :: Aug. 25, 2011
Jonathan Woodgate was thrown a Barclays English Premier League lifeline by Stoke this summer and goes into the new season hoping to repay their faith.
The former England centre-half has been plagued by injuries but Potters boss Tony Pulis has given Woodgate, 31, an opportunity to resurrect his career following his release by Tottenham.
Woodgate has signed a pay-as-you-play deal with Stoke after a frustrating spell at White Hart Lane which saw him spend the majority of his time in the treatment room.
And it is so far so good after Woodgate made an impressive debut recently when he played the full 90 minutes as Stoke beat Hajduk Split 1-0 in Croatia to progress in the UEFA Europa League.
Key to the visitors' control over proceedings was the superb marshalling job done at the back by skipper Ryan Shawcross and Woodgate, who Pulis revealed he had decided would play in the game several days earlier due to his big-match pedigree.
“I thought he and Ryan, the two centre-halves, were absolutely fantastic,” the manager said afterwards. “I don't think they put a foot wrong. The game was picked (for Woodgate) because we knew we would need experience.”
And while many may question his fitness levels, nobody can doubt that Woodgate has the talent and the experience to be a useful addition to any side.
Unfortunately there have been too many lows and not enough highs during his career which promised much more.
Born in Middlesbrough, he began his professional career at Leeds and made his debut in October 2000, having been a member of the team that won the FA Youth Cup in 1997.
A fans' favourite at Elland Road, Woodgate impressed in his five years at the club and was given his first England cap by Kevin Keegan in 1999.
The following year, Woodgate and team-mate Lee Bowyer appeared at Hull Crown Court following an alleged attack on student Sarfraz Najeib outside nightclub Majestyk in Leeds.
Both players were permitted to continue playing first-team football and Woodgate escaped a jail sentence, but faced 100 hours community service after being convicted of affray.
In addition, the Football Association prevented him from being selected for the England squad for the 2002 World Cup.
Woodgate was sold by cash-strapped Leeds to Newcastle in January 2003 for GBP9 million, prompting then Leeds boss Terry Venables to resign, furious that chairman Peter Ridsdale had sold the defender.
Woodgate was outstanding during his time at St. James' Park but his first full season with the club was cut short when he sustained a serious injury.
Despite doubts about his fitness, the England defender signed for Spanish giants Real Madrid for GBP 13.4million in August 2004.
The big centre-half had to wait until September 2005 to make his debut and it was not the impact he was hoping for, as he scored an own goal and was then sent off.
Woodgate managed to redeem himself and produced some excellent performances for Real before joining his hometown club Middlesbrough on a year-long loan deal in August 2006.
After an impressive season, Boro paid GBP7 million to bring Woodgate back to his native North East on a four-year deal in the summer of 2007.
Injury returned to haunt Woodgate once again but he recovered and was on the move again in January 2008 when Tottenham paid GBP7 million to take him to White Hart Lane.
His Spurs debut came in the League Cup final and he duly scored the winning goal in extra-time to defeat Chelsea and give the club their first major trophy since 1999.
After turning down a pay-as-you-play contract at Spurs, the London club released Woodgate on a free transfer but he joined Stoke in a similar deal.
“I had a few options in the summer, but Tony Pulis was very keen to bring me here,” said Woodgate. “When someone is that keen and they really believe in you, then that's what you want, so I signed and I feel it's the right decision.”
Time will tell whether it was the right move for both parties.
Woodgate hit the headlines for the wrong reasons when he was convicted of affray in 2000. He is not married but has been dating Natalie Downing, the older sister of Liverpool and England winger Stewart Downing.
Name: Jonathan Woodgate
England caps: 8
England goals: 0
England debut: v Belgium, 1999
Moment to remember:
Scoring the winner for Tottenham in the Carling Cup final against Chelsea.
Moment to forget:
Scoring an own goal and being sent off for Real Madrid on his debut.
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