Jonathan Woodgate came through the Middlesbrough youth system before moving to Leeds United and then making a big name for himself.
The defender was only 16 years of age when he joined Leeds United, so his development into a senior player has a lot to do with those who were at Elland Road. Breaking into the Leeds team early, Woodgate went on to be recognised as one of the best defenders in Europe.
Financial problems saw Leeds United cash in on the player, who sign for Newcastle United before his move to Real Madrid. Hit by injuries, Woodgate then went back to the club he’d left for Leeds, Middlesbrough, and his loan turned into a permanent deal.
Woodgate has a lot of love for Boro, and that shines through in an interview the 37 year old has given to Spanish newspaper AS. Wanting to speak to Woodgate about Gareth Bale’s injury struggles, AS ended up with a piece far more about the Englishman’s career… from flying a physio over from Leeds to signing for Middlesbrough too early.
Now back working as a coach at Middlesbrough, Woodgate spoke to AS at the Riverside, and they wanted to know what’s so special about the place: “A while ago it was remodelled, but they kept the old door, where we are now. I used to come to this stadium as a child to watch football with my father, my grandfather and my uncle.
“My father used to say that he was a good player. But it wasn’t like that (laughs). He said he was fast. He always encouraged me to go to matches, he used to encourage me to go and play with my friends on the street. He always pushed me towards the right path.”
Growing up as a Middlesbrough fan ahead of his Leeds move, Woodgate’s return seemed fitting, but he’s filled with regret over signing permanently, believing he gave up the Real Madrid dream too soon.
“Well, that summer I did the full preseason with Capello. It was difficult. Probably the hardest I’ve done. We went to Austria. The season started, I think we played against Valencia, and I was on the bench. And after that, Baldini came and said: ‘Do you want to go to Middlesbrough?’ I asked him if I wasn’t going to play at Madrid. And he said no. ‘Well, I need to play,’ I replied.
“At Middlesbrough I found myself well and I even went back to the national team. I played against Spain. But my big mistake was signing in February with them when I had two years left at Madrid. I should have come back and played with the best team in the world. I regret it.”