Tottenham Hotspur released Jonathan Woodgate on June 16, 2011. His contract was due to expire on June 30. There were news reports of the club offering the injury-plagued player a pay-for-play contract. Most newspapers and sports news outlets were reporting the same story. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was not sure what do to with the footballer since Woodgate hadn’t played much since the end of 2009. But Woodgate is considered one of the best center halves in the Premier League, when fit. I was hopeful that a deal could be reached, for two reasons. First, I truly believe he is a fantastic player and second, being my favorite player at the club. Then it was announced the club had released him. According to the BBC the club offered Woodgate a pay-for-play contract but for whatever reason he refused the deal. I’ve spent all day speculating why he decided to walk but in the end it really doesn’t matter because he is gone.
I was delighted to hear about the transfer of Jonathan Woodgate to Spurs in January 2008. I had been of fan of him since his playing days at Leeds United. I remember watching him play back in 1998 when he first arrived at Leeds and I thought this guy was something special. I saw an aggressive and good old fashioned physical player who wasn’t afraid to play hard. However, his playing years would be plagued with injury problems. I am sure for any player it’s devastating to deal with since you want to be your best all the time. And as a fan, I just wanted to see him play.
In 2003 he left Leeds and headed to Newcastle United for a season to the shock and anger of Leeds United supporters. He did well at Newcastle but then again the ugly sign of injuries became a problem for him. But surprisingly he signed for Real Madrid for a transfer fee of £13.4 million. He didn’t get off to a good start at Madrid. In his first match, he scored an own goal and was sent off. But nevertheless Woodgate established himself as a regular first team player but then again injuries would develop. Woodgate found himself on loan and then a permanent position in his home town team of Middlesbrough from 2006-2008. But Woodgate lost his starting role to another player due to an injury problem. He rejected a deal to go back to Newcastle and decided on a £7 million move to Spurs on January 28, 2008 — a happy day for me.
Woodgate played his first match against Everton on January 30, 2008. But the moment that will live with me will be the Carling Cup Final against rival Chelsea on February 24, 2008. Both sides were tied 1-1 at the end of regular play and in the dying minutes of extra time, Jonathan Woodgate scored the winning goal, allowing Spurs to win the cup and their first piece of silverware since 1999. What an amazing moment and a wonderful goal, an exciting moment for any Spurs fan.
I thought with the likes of King and Dawson, Spurs would develop a strong and unstoppable defense. In many ways Woodgate reminded me of another favorite Spurs player, Steffen Freund. Freund was always a fan favorite and although a defensive midfielder he was another tough and aggressive football player. With Woodgate’s arrival I certainly welcomed that playing style. Of course Spurs had that awful start to the 2008-2009 season which saw the removal of Juanda Ramos as manager and the arrival of Harry Redknapp in the hopes of saving the club from relegation. Jonathan Woodgate played a key role in saving the club from relegation and Spurs finished 8th in that season. However, Tottenham’s climbed to recovery. They secured Champions League qualification in the 2009-2010 season but Woodgate would only play 3 matches due to injury problems.
At the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 he was facing a serious groin problem. He traveled all over the world to find treatments for his groin problem. Then in January, 2011 things seemed to be turning around. He was responding well to treatment and physical therapy and played a few reserve matches at the start of 2011. According to assistant first team coach Tim Sherwood, Woodgate was playing great. His moment came in their first leg match against AC Milan in the Champions League. Vedran Corluka took a bad hit and had to be removed from the game and Woodgate came as a substitute in the 59th minute and played the remaining match. In watching him play, it was like he had never been injured. I thought he played a marvelous game. However, things came to a halt with a new injury — a strain to his left adductor muscle and later a calf muscle pull as well.
To my disappointment he didn’t play any of the remaining games of the season. Defenders don’t always score the goals but I will remember that great goal in the League Cup Final in 2008, the goal in 4-4 against draw against Chelsea on March 19, 2008 and his last goal for the club against Hull City on February 23, 2009, in a 2-1 win.
I was hopeful that a deal could be reach since I knew his contract was up this year. All Tottenham would offer was a pay-for-play contract and, to be fair, I think that was the right choice on part of the club. While he was out and not playing he was still picking up his weekly pay and so, I thought the club was right in offering that type of deal to him. Even at 31 and a history of injury problems I thought he was worth keeping.
When fit he must be considered one of the best center halves in the England. If anything the past is a guide and his past has been marked with health problems but it is also a story of recovery and a fighting spirit and that is what I saw in him, a fighter. Woodgate’s ability nullify threats from strikers and clearing the back was a treat to watch and I sure he will continue in that form in the future. I maintain he still has a future but sadly not with Spurs. I have heard reports that Leeds may want to sign him along with Alan Smith and Lee Bowyer, which is rather ironic since all three played together at Leeds in the late 1990s. So, I wish him the best of luck and will continue to be a fan.
Who knows? Maybe one day he might return to finish his career at Spurs or take maybe a coaching position. Goodbye Jonathan and thank you for your time at Tottenham. You will be missed.