Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Woodman's Return Is about to Make the Battle to Wear United's No1 Shirt Very Interesting; Newcastle Youngster Won't Be Coming Back Just to Sit on the Bench after Krul Is Ruled out for Season

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Woodman's Return Is about to Make the Battle to Wear United's No1 Shirt Very Interesting; Newcastle Youngster Won't Be Coming Back Just to Sit on the Bench after Krul Is Ruled out for Season

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee Ryder Chief Sports Writer lee.ryder@ncjmedia.co.uk

FRED Woodman may look like a freshfaced kid who has just emerged from the youth team at Newcastle United - but appearances can be deceiving.

This week Woodman will return to the club's North Tyneside HQ after spending three months on loan at Crawley Town in League Two.

There's been frantic and jittery talk of whether Newcastle can bring in an emergency keeper on loan or look for a free transfer. Yet that sort of conversation should only inspire the goalkeeping brigade at Newcastle.

To those who don't know Woodman, the expectancy in the next few weeks is that the 18-year-old will simply be content to take a place on the bench in the Premier League.

However, after Tim Krul's seasonending injury, sustained playing for Holland in the international break, the battle for the No 1 spot at Newcastle is about to get interesting.

Rob Elliot, at 29, is very much the senior man in the goalkeeping union at United, and with Karl Darlow still recovering from an ankle injury he is likely to start the game against Norwich City. Elliot knows that he can't take anything for granted going forward and the battle for the No 1 spot at Newcastle is going to be a close-run thing.

Darlow started the season as understudy to Krul and played in a host of pre-season games, performing quite well as he settled in at his new club.

Woodman also got a taste of life in the first team on the club's tour of the United States. He pulled off a string of saves in the 1-0 win over Sacramento Republic and in the 4-3 loss to Portland Timbers on a night when he shared keeper duties with Darlow.

But Woodman is ambitious and he will feel that even at the tender age of 18, if Steve McClaren tapped him on the shoulder and said he was going to select him in the Premier League he is ready for action.

Only last season Peter Beardsley delivered a cautious verdict, claiming that Woodman would have to wait five years for his chance at Newcastle. Yet Woodman has already proved a quick learner and he has not looked out of place when training with the first team at Newcastle. Crawley, where he has made just 11 appearances, were delighted with him. Their manager Mark Yates said: "The kid's a great keeper and has got a tremendous future."

Anybody who made the assumption that he was simply on board at Newcastle because of the presence of his dad Andy - who is now with Crystal Palace - should watch him play.

He was man of the match when Newcastle went out of the FA Youth Cup earlier this year, for example. That night he kept a strong Chelsea side at bay for 90 minutes before the young Magpies lost 3-0 after extra time.

OK, you might think the FA Youth Cup bears no comparison to the Premier League but perhaps you had to be there to see some of the saves he was plucking out of the top corners from well-paid Chelsea youngsters. …

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