25th December 2019

Environment Freddie Woodman: Gareth Southgate’s godson has England dream

Environment Freddie Woodman: Gareth Southgate’s godson has England dream


environment Freddie Woodman

Freddie Woodman has played in all 17 of Swansea City’s Championship games this season

There are various England shirts on Freddie Woodman’s wall courtesy of his godfather, Gareth Southgate.

Now Swansea City’s goalkeeper wants one of his own.

“That is the ultimate goal,” Woodman tells BBC Sport Wales.

He is not expecting any special treatment because the England boss happens to be his godparent, Woodman quickly adds.

“If you end up playing for England, it means you are a good player and you have done something well,” he continues. “Hopefully I can get there in the end.”

England selection may look a little way off given that Woodman is playing a first full season of second-tier football.

But he is excelling at Swansea after joining on a year-long loan from Newcastle United and has 66 youth caps to his name.

So it is not inconceivable Southgate will be monitoring Woodman’s progress – and not just because he is his godson.

Southgate came through the ranks at Crystal Palace alongside Woodman’s father – and fellow goalkeeper – Andy, with the duo so close they wrote a book about their “football friendship”.

“I think they said whoever has a kid first, the other would be godfather – and then I was born,” Woodman says.

“I have got a few England shirts he (Southgate) gave me for birthdays growing up – they are up in the house. But I haven’t had a present for a few years. As you get older you get a WhatsApp instead.”

There was another message from Southgate when Woodman signed for Swansea in August.

“He was delighted like everyone,” Woodman says.

“I don’t speak to him as much these days but I would see him when I was away with England Under-21s. It was strictly professional – he helped me with my game.

“I think you can see that with all the young players in the England team. They all speak very highly of him and you can see how much he wants to improve players.”

Woodman got a taste of life among the elite when he was asked to train with the senior squad during one of his stints with the under-21s.

“I was working with Joe Hart, Tom Heaton and Jack Butland,” he recalls. “It was a moment I will remember for a long time.”

Woodman was 15 when he first represented England, which was only a couple of years after he had been picked up by Crystal Palace.

Andy Woodman (L) and Gareth Southgate wrote a book about their experiences in football having grown up together at Crystal Palace

“I think me and my dad both thought I had missed the boat but my school teacher got me a trial,” he says. “I hadn’t really seen football as a path to go down, but we realised it was a fantastic opportunity.”

Woodman’s godfather may be the England player-turned-manager, but it is his father – currently head of goalkeeping at Arsenal’s academy – who has been his inspiration.

“I remember a few times going to watch England when he (Southgate) had got us tickets and I remember looking out for him,” Woodman says.

“But if I am being totally honest, my dad was my hero and I remember wanting to go and watch him play instead.

“From the moment I signed for Palace, he has been massive for me.

“To have your father who has played 500 games to bounce ideas off – that’s fantastic. I ring him every day after training and tell him what I have done and what I could do better.

“He rings me after every game – how did it go, what can we improve? That’s the relationship we have.”

Having learned his trade at Selhurst Park, Woodman senior played for the likes of Brentford, Colchester, Oxford and Northampton.

He was part of the Cobblers side who won promotion from Division Three in 1997 courtesy of a Wembley win over Swansea.

“All the Swansea fans remind me of it – telling me my dad ruined their summer,” Woodman says.

“Every time I mention it to him he is laughing. He keeps telling me about a save he made – he says that won the game.”

Woodman chuckles as he tells another tale about his father’s playing days.

“If dad was taking me to primary school, I knew I wasn’t going to school, I was going to training,” he explains.

“We’d drop my sister off and then go to training. I used to love it – the whole environment and the banter.

“My mum only recently found out. She could never understand why my attendance was so low, but that’s the relationship me and my dad have. He is like my best mate.”

Enjoyable it may have been, but skipping lessons had its drawbacks.

“I am into my reading now,” Woodman adds. “I always think I would have known more of these confusing words if I’d been learning at school.

“But it was meant to be. I got lucky with football.”

Freddie Woodman was part of the England side who won the 2017 Under-20 World Cup and landed the Golden Glove award at the tournament

Woodman is aware there is much work to do if he is achieve his ambitions, the first of which is to play in the Premier League.

With Palace facing financial troubles in 2013, Woodman joined Newcastle, where his father was then goalkeeping coach.

He has made four cup appearances for the Magpies and had spells on loan at Hartlepool, Crawley, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen before moving to Swansea.

Woodman was allowed to leave because there are three other keepers at St James’ Park – Martin Dubravka, Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot – but only after extending his contract until 2021.

“In order to get the loan move I signed an extension,” he says.

“I am happy with that. Newcastle are a massive club and they have looked after me.”

It remains to be seen whether Woodman’s future lies on Tyneside.

For the moment, he is thriving on and off the pitch in Wales.

“Swansea is a Premier League club. The set-up, the fan base – it needs to be back in the top league,” he says.

“And the surroundings are beautiful. I have a place on Gower and I am exploring Mumbles and all the beaches. After we lost to Brentford, I went to Rhossili just to clear my head. My mum is big on clearing your head.”

Freddie Woodman celebrates an FA Cup win at Blackburn in January 2019, one of three games he played in for Newcastle last season

Woodman, 22, has not had to do so often. Swansea, who go to Huddersfield on Tuesday night, have made an encouraging start to life under Steve Cooper, and Woodman has been a star performer.

Inexperience has not been an issue for a player who is building on significant success at youth level – he won the Under-17 European Championship and Under-20 World Cup – on the senior club stage.

“I had some really good experiences with England and played with players like Dele Alli, Ben Chilwell, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Tammy Abraham and Marcus Rashford,” Woodman says.

“I see those boys playing at the top level and feel proud to say I have played with them, but I want to play with them again.”

If Woodman’s immediate focus is on the Championship, his next step – whether at Newcastle or elsewhere – should be the Premier League.

And should he shine in the top flight as he has in the second tier, he may get a call from his godfather.


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