England defender Jonathan Woodgate reveals how he loves to study a defender's role in the modern game.
Newcastle United and England's Jonathan Woodgate reveals how he loves to study a defender's role in the modern game.
Woodgate caught up with TheFA.com ahead of England's friendly with Ukraine at his home ground St. James' Park.
You missed out on Euro 2004. Where did you watch it?
I watched it at home with my dad, sister, mum and my dog. It was a really strange experience because I felt a bit like an injured player that wanted to be there and a bit like a fan that was just cheering the lads on.
Who was your England player of the tournament?
Sol Campbell. He was absolutely immense. I thought the game that he played against Portugal was one of the best performances I have ever seen from a central defender.
You seem to appreciate the art of defending.
I love everything about defending. I would much rather be a defender than a striker.
It’s a great feeling going out there knowing that you have your man to mark and it’s up to you to stop him; a case of ‘thou shalt not pass’.
Which area of your game are you looking to improve?
All of them. You can never stop learning but if I had to pick one particular area, it would be my pace. I am quick but as the strikers get quicker and quicker, I need to make sure that I keep up with them.
Pacy strikers are always the most difficult to play against, so it’s really important that I keep improving my speed. I’ll do it mainly by working with the fitness coach to strengthen the muscles in my legs.
Which defender did you admire when you were younger?
Gary Pallister was my hero. I used to go and watch him play all the time. Gary knows how much I loved watching him play.
Is there a striker that you’ve played against that you particularly admire?
If you are talking about the best, you’ve got to look at Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer. I’m lucky Alan’s now on my side. He is an example to every player.
What effect have the different managers had on your career?
George Graham was my first at Leeds and although I didn’t break into the team under him, the attention that he paid to organising his defence was a great education for me at that stage.
I used to study how his back-four at Arsenal worked together, so it was excellent to be coached by him.
Obviously I’ll always be grateful to David O’Leary for giving me my chance. And my current boss at Newcastle, Sir Bobby Robson, showed great faith in me by spending a lot of money to bring me here to St. James’. It’s up to me to repay him now.
Even though I spent the least time of all with Terry Venables, I thought he was a fantastic coach.
I still regularly think about some of the bits of advice that he used to give me. I hope to see him back in management again very soon.
What’s your aim for this season?
First it’s to get back playing how I was for Newcastle at the end of last season and then hopefully to start making an impression with England.
It was a really bad time for me to get injured last season, because I felt that I was playing some of the best football of my career.
I had been training really well and I just had that feeling that I was right on top of my game. There is nothing better than going out on the pitch knowing that you feel right.
You have that confidence that no-one is going to get past you.
At times, because of your composure on the ball and your speed off it, you look as though you have an extra gear to your game that you can use when you really need it.
Is that the case?
It changes. Yes, sometimes I do feel like I have that extra gear, while other times it may just look like it when, underneath, I really am being stretched to the limit!