Andy Woodman is a class guy. We’re not best friends, we’re not in regular contact, but we do catch up every now and then on Facebook and Andy always makes time to ask how the family are doing when we do. I’ve been writing for the RMBs for a few months now, and when I saw the Chelsea/Newcastle fixture was coming up I knew I had to ask him for an interview. “Woody” embraced the request with open arms. Because you know, he’s that kind of chap.
I first met Andy in the East Stand Bar at Roots Hall, home of Southend United, about two hours before kickoff for the third division encounter against Scunthorpe in September of 2000. Andy had joined the Shrimpers on loan from Brentford and had been a regular starter, but had had a few bad games between the sticks, most notably in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Lincoln City at home and a 2-0 loss to Darlington away, despite keeping a clean sheet against Birmingham City in a league cup match at St. Andrews after they had thumped us 5-0 at home in the first leg. Things weren’t bad, but they weren’t great for Southend, either.
I was with my Grandad and we got our drinks, recognised Andy and asked how he was doing. Very promptly Andy asked us to join him and we had a chat for a fifteen minutes before he had to leave to pepare for the game. We welcomed him to the club and talked about his form, which Andy said wasn’t his best, but he’ll be striving to improve for us. Not for himself, but for us. From that moment on I was an Andy Woodman fan and I have followed his career from a goalkeeper playing for Colchester, Oxford and Stevenage until he started coaching in 2006, taking on the mantle as Rushden and Diamonds’ Assistant Manager.
He joined his former Crystal Palace team mate Alan Pardew (that should be a familiar name, especially as I nominated him to be Manager of the Year last season – AHEAD of Robby Di Matteo) at West Ham United, then moved with Alan to Chartlon Athletic, and then again with Pardew on to Newcastle at the end of 2010.
Now, Newcastle aren’t having the same kind of success this season as last year. Remember Cisse’s wonder goal at the Bridge? (We can give Andy credit for Tim Krul’s clean sheet, too.) Demba Ba has left the Magpies to join us at Stamford Bridge and Alan Pardew’s lads have been struggling a little of late, due in part to loss of their midfield core of Tiote and Cabaye to injury. Losing Demba Ba to us hasn’t helped them much either, but after a strong showing in the transfer window I am sure things will pick up for them.
That’s enough fluff, for now. On with the interview!
How different is coaching in the Premiership from coaching in the lower leagues?
The Prem is all about quality, so the coaching methods are based around the same principles except the speed is faster. Also, the attention to detail is massive.
Do you miss playing, and do you prefer coaching to playing?
I miss playing massively but this is the closest you get to all the emotion without the injuries.
Who is the goalkeeper you have most enjoyed working with and who is the best ‘keeper you have worked with?
I’ve worked with some fantastic keepers; Rob Green, Shaka Hislop, Roy Carroll, etc. But my current goalkeeper, Tim Krul, has been my most satisfying. We made a deal between us when he was the no. 3 gk at Newcastle that we will work together to make him Newcastle’s no. 1 and Holland’s no. 1 and back in September when he played against Turkey was a proud moment for me as a coach.
How did you react to being offered an eight year contract with Newcastle?
The contract was a real pat on the back from Mr. Ashley and recognition of the trust he has in me as a coach. Quite unusual in football to have the security but most important for me is that I do my job to the best of my ability making young GKs reach their potential.
What was your greatest achievement as a player?
Playing at Wembley and saving a penalty was a highlight.
What has been your greatest achievement so far as a coach?
Every player that gets offered a pro contract and goes on to have a career is always my greatest achievement.
What is the biggest challenge you face in preparing the squad for a match against the best teams in Britain and Europe?
The problems we have faced preparing teams this year have been injuries! The travelling has been fine but a depleted squad with injuries has been tough.
Questions from Chris Lujan:
How did you get into the role you have?
Playing over 500 1st team games and being a professional for 20 years gives you a good base but then doing your coaching badges puts you on the right path.
In your opinion who is the best goalie in the world?
Joe Hart is on route to being the best in my opinion.
Where do you see the EPL in 5 years and 10 years in comparison to other big leagues in Europe?
I think the EPL is already the biggest league and I just can see it getting bigger.
Questions from Mike LeClare:
Why does it seem America can produce top level keepers but not field players?
American goalies seem to be produced I believe because they play more ball sports with the hand. Basketball, American football and baseball help the eye/ball coordination.
As a coach, what is the trait, or traits, you look for in young keepers aspiring and achieving more in their professional development?
Traits I look for above all else: desire! As a goalkeeper you have to have a real desire to keep that ball out of the net. That along with hard work – anything is then achievable.
I’m not a Newcastle fan by any means, but as I said earlier I am a huge Andy Woodman fan. Because of that I hope that Tim Krul has a good game against us on the weekend… but I still want us to win with four stunning, world class goals that no one can complain about!
Thanks Andy, talk to you soon, mate.
Images courtesy: http://www.nufc.co.uk