Nobody will look back over Jonathan Woodgate’s time with Tottenham and claim he had a successful stay. But he had a good start: he arrived at the club in January 2008 and was a big part of the team that helped to guide Tottenham from the relegation zone right back up to 8th in the League as Harry Redknapp saved the club from near calamity. It was the years that were to follow that would be truly disastrous for Woodgate, however, as he managed to play just four times for the club over the next two years.
Woodgate has suffered over the last couple of seasons with a persistent groin injury which seems to have flummoxed doctors the world over. Despite undergoing at least two operations, the problem never really seems to have disappeared.
He made a brief-reappearance against AC Milan at the San Siro this year, but suffered an adductor muscle injury that saw him ruled out for the rest of the season. At the season’s close he was released by Spurs and spent a few weeks as a free agent until he was picked up by Stoke City on a one-year pay-as-you-play deal.
I’m struck by just how savvy this deal is. At the very worst, Woodgate won’t play any football for Stoke and won’t cost them a dime. At best he’ll recover his form and become a real asset for the club. Stoke either earn something from this deal, or lose nothing; not quite a win-win, but still a great position to be in.
In that respect, I’m not too sure why Harry Redknapp didn’t offer him a pay-as-you-play deal. The Tottenham manager even seems to have admitted that such a move would have been sensible, when he suggested that Woodgate “is worth a gamble on a pay-as-you-play deal because if you can get him fit you will have one of the best centre-halves anywhere”. He went on to say that “He could be a fantastic signing because he is training and feels fit for the first time in two years”.
If this was the case, why didn’t Tottenham keep him on under a pay-as-you-play type basis? Nobody knows Woodgate’s current fitness situation better than the Spur’s coaching staff and if he’s on his way to recovery, surely a player of his quality and stature would have been a real asset to Tottenham?
If he does recover his fitness and form, Tottenham may well look on at his performances with Stoke City with a tinge of regret. So was Harry right not to offer him a pay-as-you-play deal with Tottenham?
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