Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Just Great to Be Back

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Just Great to Be Back

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

Between Middlesbrough's supporters and the defender's dog, it is hard to say who was the most pleased when Jonathan Woodgate decided to return to the North-East this summer.

Jazzy, the 26-year-old's canine companion, had discovered the Spanish climate to be too hot to enjoy a daily walk and has found the woodlands around Teesside far more pleasant since returning home in August.

Woodgate has cut a similarly contented figure since departing Estadio Bernabeu and, although the interest of Newcastle set him a difficult decision having resigned himself to leaving Real Madrid, the former St James's Park favourite has no qualms about the choice he made.

"I have no regrets whatsoever about joining Boro," said the native Teessider who, having signed for his hometown club on a season-long loan, will face his former employers in tomorrow's derby encounter at the Riverside Stadium.

"The first time Boro came in, I said I would come. I spoke to a few different clubs because I wanted to see what others do, and that was a good experience. I did speak to Newcastle but, when I met Gareth Southgate and Steve Gibson, I thought 'this is for me'.

"There's nothing better than being at home and I'm just generally happy," explained a player who has already fulfilled a boyhood ambition by captaining the club he grew up supporting from the Ayresome Park terraces.

"Whether it's being on the pitch at Boro or being able to take my dog for a walk in the woods every day, I just love the place. It's my home town, I shall always live here and it has always been an ambition to play for Middlesbrough.

"Not many people get a chance to fulfil their ambitions but I have done. There's no better feeling than to be back home with your parents and I'm happy again having spent two years not playing in Madrid. I had to start my career again and although Real is the biggest club in the world, I have not been this happy for a while."

Woodgate has not been so content since he was handed the chance to revive his career on Tyneside following his well-documented troubles at Leeds. The debt of gratitude he still feels he owes Sir Bobby Robson and Newcastle is obvious.

"I tried to ring Bobby after his operation (to remove a brain tumour) but I didn't manage to get hold of him," he said. "He is a great man-manager and I really enjoyed my time working with him. I had a really good time there and I played some good football ( that is what got me my move to Madrid.

"When Real came in for me, I jumped at the chance because they are the biggest club in the world and, if you want to fulfil every ambition you have as a kid, you want to play for clubs like that and you want to win things.

"Bobby was disappointed to see me go, but he didn't stand in my way. …

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