by Nick Lough
HE MAY have returned to Newcastle United, but rookie keeper Freddie Woodman will never forget his loan spell at Crawley Town – and would love to go back one day.
Just 12 games into his loan stint, the 18-year-old got the call from Magpies boss Steve McClaren to fly back to the nest after United number one Tim Krul injured his anterior cruciate ligament on international duty
The England U19 keeper told The FLP: “Tim is one of my best friends and mentors so I was devastated for him and I know it’s a serious injury.
“I got a call from my agent straightaway and he said ‘You’re going to be called back now’, but I was gutted to leave Crawley as I was meant to be there until January and would have liked to play a few more games.”
Woodman was breaching the gap between junior and senior football as he lined up against Oxford United on opening day.
“This division is a lot more serious,” he said. “As soon as I played the game at Oxford for my league debut I realised this is really where the money gets made.
“The fans wanted to win so badly and they demanded good performances from you. My whole life I have trained like the underdog, played as the number two, but when I get on the field I play like there’s nobody else but me.”
Becoming the youngest first-choice goalkeeper in League Two by some way gifted Woodman the chance to attain vital experience.
After being brought back to St James’ Park to act as back-up to ex-Charlton shot-stopper Rob Elliot, he feels his three months with the Red Devils has helped him more than any spell in the reserves could.
He said: “I definitely feel like more of a man now. More people take you seriously if you have games under your belt in the League; you can play as many U21 games as you want but they don’t really count. Players are scared to go out on loan because they are worried they are going to get found out. It’s that tough and that demanding it could break you.
“I have motivation anyway but while the facilities down there weren’t great and at Newcastle they are wonderful, it’s given me that drive to say I want to be playing most of my career in the Premier League.”
Goalkeeping runs in the Woodman family given his father Andy made over 300 career appearances in the Football League. They were together at Newcastle as Andy was the club’s goalkeeping coach before linking up with ex-Toon boss Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace.
“I speak to Dad on a daily basis about my game,” he said. “He watches all my clips and comes to a lot of my games. I am where I am now because of what he has taught me.
“He told me to always go out there and believe in myself, and if you can give off an aura and a confidence you can go out and play like you’re the best goalkeeper in the world.”
After being named on the bench for Newcastle’s 6-2 victory over Norwich last Sunday, it looks like Woodman will be acting as the Magpies’ number two for the time being. However, there is only one place the goalkeeper would like to be if the opportunity arises.
“I had goals and targets but being called back has tipped it all on its head, but I have to adapt and keep working hard on all the little things that are going to make me a better goalkeeper,” he said.
“If the chance comes and I make my debut for Newcastle or go back on loan then I’ll take either of them with both hands.
“I’d go back to Crawley in a heartbeat. I want to finish off what I started and if they’d take me back I would snap up the chance to return and play in the League again.”