It may have been unplanned and unexpected, but Jonathan Woodgate’s introduction to the fray on Tuesday night was a welcome sight. Despite being on the sidelines for 15 months, the former Leeds United and Newcastle man put in an assured, confident performance and repelled everything that AC Milan threw at him.
But any thoughts that Spurs fans might have had about Woodgate having a run in the side have been dashed once more as a result of, you guessed it, another injury. A concise statement on the club’s official website confirmed that:
“Jonathan Woodgate has sustained a strain of the left Adductor muscle, a scan has confirmed this evening [Wednesday 16th].”
As I’m sure you’ll all know, Woodgate’s injury record is enough to make even the most experienced doctor wince, but only three years ago it seemed as if his ill-luck was a thing of the past. From the 2006 to 2009 Woodgate made 113 appearance for both Middlesbrough and Tottenham, but has only had four showings in the two seasons since. To put things into a rather depressing perspective, those three injury-free seasons account for almost half of the appearances that he has made in his 13 years in England.
It has been especially unfortunate that the injuries which have blighted Woodgate’s career at Tottenham have come during their most successful period of recent times. Things though threatened to be so different when, just a month after joining, Woodgate headed the winner in the 2008 League Cup Final in which he was also named ‘Man of the Match’.
Things have been so bad of late that in August, Harry Redknapp hinted that Woodgate was on the brink of retirement:
“They’re talking about having an operation for Jon now. That’s his last chance. Well, probably. His last resort, I think, will be an op.”
So with his latest return set to result in another stint on the side-lines, should retirement be in the mind of a player once considered as the finest defender of his generation?
You need to wonder how much more punishment, both physically and psychologically, the poor man can take. Only being able to play 12 times following a dream move to Spain would be enough to push most people over the edge so nobody can doubt his mental strength. But to return to square one once more has to be a crushing blow. Back in May, Woodgate spent time in Australia to help recover from an operation.
“He texts me all the time – he has been very low, obviously,” Harry Redknapp said.
“He is at a very low point in his life. He is stuck in a little flat somewhere and he goes to the gym all day doing his work trying to recover. Can you imagine what his life has been like? He has treatment all day and he is doing recovery work.”
Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy must be considering whether or not Woodgate will ever be completely clear of his groin injury. The 25-man squad rule put in place this season has perhaps made thoughts regarding retirement more immediate – it would be foolish to give a place in the squad to a player who is unlikely to feature enough to warrant being selected so Redknapp has a tough decision to make.
It is always sad when a player has to retire due to injury, especially when it is a player who had the potential play at very highest level for a long time. So for Tottenham to have both Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King the victims of seemingly incurable, long-term injuries must be a real headache. Few could argue against the possibility of a current England central defensive pairing of King and Woodgate if both had managed to stay fit throughout their careers.
I don’t think that there can be a football fan in England who wasn’t even a little pleased to hear about the return of Woodgate on Tuesday night. It has yet to be deduced just how long Woodgate’s latest set-back will keep him out for but fingers crossed it won’t be for long. Surely he’s due a little bit of luck because, as Harry Redknapp put it: “Woody has had a nightmare.”