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The Resurrection of Jonathan Woodgate

Jonathan Woodgate was released from Tottenham Hotspur in June 2011 and found himself looking at an end to his athletic career. Upon his departure from White Hart Lane he had only played in four games in about two years. His downfall was an injury he sustained in Tottenham’s thrashing of Wigan 9-1 on November 22, 2009. With no contract in hand from Tottenham, Jonathan Woodgate needed to look elsewhere for a new club to call home. Stoke City boss Tony Pulis was willing to roll the dice and take a gamble with the injury plagued center back. Since then Jonathan Woodgate has made a surprising and brilliant return to English football and is a celebration to those who face adversity in their lives.

Woodgate arrived at Stoke in early July and begin training with the team immediately. Pulis admitted he would enter Woodgate into the team slowly to avoid any possible injury scares. In reality Spurs let go one of the best defenders in the league. I know the arguments people will make in releasing him from the club.  The obvious are the injury problems and his age. However, individuals can and do make recoveries. I give credit to Stoke for taking a risk and so far it’s been an excellent beginning for him at Stoke City. Stoke did exercise caution with a one year contract based on a pay-as-you play deal with a possible review of the contract if he stays fit.

Woodgate started off the pre-season playing sixty two minutes against Aldershot Town. He later went on to play a full length match against Hajduk Split in the early stages of Europa League qualifying round and what I witnessed of the match he provided a solid performance. On the opening day of the new season Woodgate played his first full league match against Chelsea, the first one since November 22, 2009. The Stoke defense provided a stellar performance and held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw. Woodgate did a marvelous job in containing and shutting down the Chelsea offense and denying any scoring opportunity for Fernando Torres and others. In the match against Norwich I thought his game was bit off with Norwich players being able to push past him in a few instances. Considering his absence from playing regularly, I would still commend him on his performance nevertheless. I did see improvement in the game against West Brom, which marked his 300th league appearance. To date Woodgate has participated in five matches total since leaving Tottenham in June. In my view this demonstrates a positive and uplifting start for the center back and hopefully more good things to come in the season.

I find it exciting to see any athlete be able to make a complete turnaround and go back to do what they love doing. He could have easily called it a day and walked away. I am glad he decided not to give up. For anyone who knows me, Jonathan Woodgate has always been one of my favorite English football players and I enjoy watching him play the game. I admire his commitment to ignore individuals calling him deadwood or over-the-hill. He has maintained his ability to stay focused and continue with the training. Being a professional athlete isn’t easy. You find yourself under the microscope all the time; Every action or mistake is analyzed by pundits to couch potatoes. Yes they are paid a lot of money, and certainly fans should expect a strong commitment from the players. But professional athletes aren’t machines and they can’t win or perform at their best all the time. Players will have bad days and will get injured, that is life. But you still have pundits, fans, and armchair quarterbacks offering their two cents on how things should be done or if the person is washed-up or not. If a quick turnaround is provided, all is forgiven. Sadly this has become a hallmark of our instant success or instant gratification society.

Woodgate’s return to top flight football is an amazing saga for a man who decided not give up and who overcame obstacles placed in his path. His accomplishment should be celebrated because this can be such an unforgiving business. Stoke are well known for playing tough aggressive football. I have even heard some individuals suggest they play rugby and not football. However, I believe Woodgate will bring class to Stoke City and an experienced style of play that will fit very nicely with them. Tony Pulis and Ryan Shotton both believe Woodgate could make a return to the England national team. Two years ago, who would have even thought to consider such a comment let alone make a public statement about such an idea.

According to Kevin Affleck of The National newspaper, Harry Redknapp was reported to have stated that not offering Woodgate a new contract during the summer was the hardest decision of his career. I am not sure if that was his hardest decision of his managing career but I think it was a poor decision. I think Levy had more to do with it than Harry but that is just my opinion based on Levy’s business practices. I am not sure what the risk would have been to give him what Stoke offered; if he didn’t play there would be no pay. Considering Tottenham’s central defense is in need of strengthening, this error may come back to haunt Tottenham very soon when the club faces Stoke in a few weeks and other clubs as well.


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  1. Kyle

    September 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    He has resurrected himself too many times since coming back to the EPL. I’m afraid Stoke are going to be just as disappointed as Spurs were in him as he is too injury-prone. He’ll be used sparingly by Pulis but he won’t be a regular starter.

  2. Frank

    September 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Woodgate’s best days are behind him. Ever since hew returned from Real Madrid he has had too many injuries to be a reliable defender. Spurs could ill-afford to keep both Woodgate and King and they kept King who was able to play more than Woodgate. King is also the better defender.

    Stoke will use him sparingly and could help them given the busy schedule they’ll have because of the Europa League.

  3. Padders

    September 3, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Yes, Levy is proving very odd at the moment. Harry said on Transfer Deadline day that Levy couldn’t work out a deal for Gary Cahill. Now, I appreciate that Cahill has only 12months left on his contract, however we (Stoke) were giving Tottenham nearly £20million for Crouch and Palacois. Surely that money would have brought Cahill. Cahill is looking a better player every time I see him.

    Back to Woody, he was a world class centre back. If we can keep him fit for the majority of the season, then we have dropped on to real bargin. Possibly buy of the season? And to think we have Matthew Upson sat on the bench, who not so long ago was an England centre back.

    • Matthew

      September 3, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      I was very disappointed in not getting Cahill. I really didn’t see the big deal in paying the 15million. Levy can’t expect great deals all the time. Sometimes you must splash out the cash for good players. I agree, I think Woodgate could be the buy of the season.

  4. Stokefan

    September 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Good article. Just to fill you in on a few details Woody’s “small stipend” as you put it is approximately £20,000 per week – Not bad really :-). It rises to about £45,000 when he is available for selection. Also regarding the gamble, The league now operates on a 25 man squad basis so the main gamble is that Woody occupies one of those slots in the squad. This was a major factor in Spurs letting him go as they thought it would be too much of a risk to include both Woody and Ledley King (also somewhat injury prone!) in their squad. Woody also apparently played a large part in attracting Peter Crouch to the club on Tuesday which we are extremely grateful to him for 🙂

    • Matthew

      September 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks for the stipend information. Your right that isn’t bad at all. I know a lot of Spurs were glad to see Crouch go but I liked him and would have liked him to stay. But from what I heard Levy wanted to freeze him out of the squad. I really wonder about that man at times. I understand the issue with the injury problems plus with King too. In my view Woodgate would have been a better risk than King. I wouldn’t be surprised if King isn’t offered a new contract either at the end of the season. I still think we let a great one go. It gives me another team to watch. I will admit I bought the third Stoke shirt with Woodgate’s name on it. That was very rare for to buy another club’s shirt. It’s going to be tough watching Stoke and Spurs play. Good luck with the season.

  5. Matthew

    September 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I should have explained a bit further on the gamble part. Even though he is on a pay as you play deal and I heard he receives a very small stipend when not playing, he does have access to all facilities of the club, trainers. That is a cost to the club in investing in the player, granted not in pay. Thanks for the comments.

  6. SoccerLimey

    September 3, 2011 at 7:41 am

    I too like Woodgate although I could never quite understand Real madrid’s valuation of him as “the best defender In Europe”. For me, he has never realized his potential, admittedly because of his injury issues.

    I’m not sure Stoke took any type of gamble as a “pay as you play” contract involves no exposure for the club unless a terminal injury ensues. I sincerely hope he does well at Stoke but the proof will be in his ability to last a full season.

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