Woodman: The best of rivals

Freddie Woodman believes his rivalry with Sam Howes for the England No1 jersey brings out the best in both goalkeepers.

The youngsters have been paired together again for the U18s’ double-header with Holland this week after being a part of the successful U17 squad that won the European Championship in Malta in May.

Howes got the nod from head coach Neil Dewsnip for the opening Dutch clash on Wednesday, and the West Ham goalkeeper produced a fabulous save to stop the visitors from going two goals ahead before the Young Lions rallied to win 4-1.

England v Netherlands

U18s International Match
7.30pm, Friday 5 September 2014
JD Stadium, Bury FC

Tickets available on the gate, priced £3 and £1

But Woodman is no stranger to magic moments between the sticks himself, and his heroics in goal during that penalty shoot-out victory over Holland in the Euro Final ensured the 17-year-old has a memory to last him a lifetime.

“It’s nice to see the lads after Malta,” Woodman told TheFA.com. “Coming off such a high, it’s been good to get back in the swing of things nice and early with a tough two games against Holland.

“Winning the Euros was massive for me and all the lads. We are all hungry and want to win things. I’ve had a good pre-season, I went away with the first team, I feel fit and I’m ready.”

He added: “The lads played well on Wednesday, and I was delighted to see my club-mate Arma [Adam Armstrong] get two. He scores all the time past me in training so I know how good his finishing is – but don’t tell him I said that!

“A 4-1 win against a very strong Holland side was a good way to kick off the season.

“It will be another hard game with Holland. I think both teams will have changed from the first match, and I’m sure it’ll bring back some good memories from the summer with it being under the floodlights.

“Those feelings from that night in Malta will never come back again, it was a surreal moment.”

Woodman and Howes with goalkeeping coach Kevin O

Woodman and Howes with goalkeeping coach Kevin O’Brien

And on Howes, Woodman believes the pair are good for each other.

“It’s a great rivalry that brings out the best in both of us. Sam is a great lad and a very good keeper. It’s a nice, competitive partnership that we have going on.

“I do things in training that he wants to get, and he does things that I want to do. We’ve developed a really good friendship and we both want to be No1 – but it’s not horrible, we really push each other and it’s a great way for us both to improve.”

But it’s not only the relationship between himself and Howes that is key to the squad’s success according to Woodman – it is the “unreal” team spirit and hunger to win that keeps him and his team-mates driving forward.

“It’s massive,” he said. “We get on really well and speak to each other when we are not together. It’s been one of the best squads I’ve been involved in and the team spirit is so together.

“This season we have to grow as a team again, and stay together. We want to win a lot of games this year and impress our new manager.

“And then next year when it gets to the U19s stage, we want that success again. We are looking at it as a two-year cycle again, like it was when we started at U16s level. There’s a lot of hard work still to come from us.”

Tickets are available for England v Holland on Friday at Bury FC on the gate. Prices are £3 adults and £1 concessions