Meet the Championship’s most trusted goalkeeper – and the godson of Gareth Southgate


But the biggest obstacle for young goalkeepers seeking senior experience is that managers under pressure are sometimes reluctant to take a chance on untested shot-stoppers. However, according to Smith, Woodman’s reputation in England meant that there were always suitors.

And so Woodman worked his way through temporary stints in Crawley Town, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen, before really excelling in Swansea City.

In two seasons under Steve Cooper, he kept 32 clean sheets, but twice his side fell to Brentford in the playoffs. A hip injury forced Woodman out of the 2020 semi-finals before suffering at Wembley 12 months later – after claiming the Championship’s Golden Glove.

“It sounds a bit cliche, but Fred went from boy to man during those loans,” explains Smith. “Not only physically, but also footballing. He’s gone out and been in that world. His game understanding and management is great because he’s been doing it for so long.”

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But Woodman’s dreams of Premier League football were not crushed. After being denied the chance of another loan change in the summer of 2021 and Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow unavailable, Woodman started the first four league games of the season for Newcastle.

It was a test experience; this was pre-takeover and the club was in free fall. In total, Woodman scored 12 goals, with the team taking just one point.

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“Don’t get me wrong, he handled it well,” Smith told Telegraph Sport. “I would never worry about Fred handling a situation. He played in the reserves at the age of 14 and trained with the first team from the age of 16. As long as you can handle it – which he could – that helps development.

“But the actual events… well, you really go to another level. In an ideal world he would have had a few cup games to get used to Newcastle United, the standard, the crowd. But he was actually dropped into a team that was struggling.”

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Finally, in January 2022, Woodman got his loan but was unable to dislodge Mark Travers at Bournemouth. His only appearance came in an embarrassing FA Cup defeat to Boreham Wood.

Nick Pope’s arrival in Tyneside this summer led to a permanent departure to Deepdale. Smith believes Woodman has his best years ahead of him at 25: “Fred is physically more of a Hugo Lloris than an Allison. They tell you they stop growing at age 21 or 23; I’m not sure. So I think he will still get there physically. Once he does, link that to the experience he’s had, I think there’s more to come, I really do.”



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