Former England striker Tony Woodcock reveals...
When Owen Hargreaves takes to the field tonight, former England striker Tony Woodcock will no doubt feel a mixture of personal and patriotic pride.
It is the Nottingham Forest legend that we have to thank for making sure that the young man from Munich who was brought up in Canada is currently fufilling his international ambitions in the white shirt of England.
In an amongst a busy schedule which currently includes running a new worldwide sports entertainment business, playing football with Michael Schumacher and the odd round of golf with Boris Becker, Woodcock found time to pop into Soho Square and have a chat about the young midfield dynamo who he steered England's way some two and a half years ago.
"This young lad kept coming on as a substitute for Bayern Munich," recalls Woodcock, whose links at all levels in both German football and the domestic game make him one of the best-connected Englishmen in European football.
"You could see then - even in the fifteen to twenty minutes that we was on - that this boy could play. He was catching everybody's eye.
"If you're breaking into the Bayern Munich squad and making the first team at the age of 18/19, then it means quite a lot.
"He certainly made an impression on me - so much so that I called Howard Wilkinson at The FA and told him: 'There's this boy over here in Germany. He looks a player and there are one or two countries trying to snap him up.'
"I told Howard to get onto him pretty quickly because if he left it too long, he'd be gone. He was making his Under-21 debut a matter of weeks later."
Unlike, Steve McManaman, Gary Lineker and even Woodcock himself, who all established themselves in England before moving abroad, Hargreaves, for all his promise and his dynamic World Cup campaign last summer, still remains something of an unknown quantity to a fair proportion of football fans on these shores. So does Woodcock think that he could buck the trend and leave the continent to come back to England?
"There have a lot of rumours about him coming to England and quite a few managers over here have asked me about him," admits the former Director of Football at Eintracht Frankfurt.
"But I have always said the same thing to them: 'He's with one of the best clubs in Europe. Bayern Munich is a fantastically run organisation and, at the moment, I think it's a really good place for him to develop and to get better and stronger.
"At the same time, having said that, I can also imagine that, in a few years time, he'll be playing in the Premier League."
The message from Woodcock is simple - he's still young.
"Owen is still developing and learning," he says. "At Bayern they are asking him to play in a number of positions and during the second half of this season, he's been playing at right back. Some people might say that's not his best position but he's been doing well and recently scored his first Bundesliga goal.
"He's a fit lad too. Not only is naturally a very good athlete but he's also benefited from the professionalism of the German approach. He's got a bit of everything in his game. If you are trying to look to improve him, you might say he could work on his goals ratio but that will also depends on what position he's playing.
"He could play on the left hand side too - no problem. He's one of those players who just gets on with it, an absolute dream for every manager. Owen Hargreaves can play anywhere.
"I think, if you asked him, he'd consider his best position to be central midfield with a defensive responsibility. It's unusual to come across a player who is so good defensively sound but also good going forward.
"He's got it all going for him and is only going to get better and better. He's a good lad and a good player. England are lucky to have him."
Now we know who to thank.
Tony Woodcock was talking to Daniel Freedman
The Woodcock Files
Former striker Tony Woodcock, now 47, scored 16 goals in 42 matches for England under Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson.
He made his full debut against Northern Ireland as a 22-year-old in 1978 and starred in the European Championship Finals in Italy two years later. His scoring rate was outstanding for a player who only featured in 20 complete internationals.
He began as an apprentice with Nottingham Forest, signing as a professional in 1974. A year later Brian Clough arrived. Tony scored 36 goals in 125 League starts and had two short spells on loan to Lincoln City and Doncaster Rovers.
Then, after winning the European Cup with Forest in 1979, he 'did a Keegan' and went to play in West Germany, scoring 28 times in 81 matches for Cologne in the Bundesliga.
He was back in England by 1982, signing for Arsenal and scoring 56 goals in 129 League starts for the Gunners over a four-year period.
He later returned to West Germany as a General Manager.