Freddie Woodman's message to Newcastle United fans as he opens up on exit, Eddie Howe and Preston North End move
After almost a decade at Newcastle United, it was time, finally, for Freddie Woodman to move on.
Woodman yesterday joined Championship club Preston North End ahead of the new season.
The move came as the club closed in on a deal for Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope. The 30-year-old England international is due on Tyneside for a medical this week.
Woodman – who had joined Newcastle as a schoolboy after his father Andy was appointed as the club’s goalkeeping coach during Alan Pardew’s time as manager – has signed a three-year deal at Deepdale.
The 25-year-old left United having made nine first-team appearances, four of them coming in the top flight at the start of last season.
Woodman had hoped to play many, many more games for the club, but, realistically, it was the right time to move on in search of first-team football.
“Obviously, I’m really happy to be joining Preston – I think it’s a fantastic club, a club which has got a lot of history,” said the former England Under-21 international.
“But also it’s a sad day when a chapter ends in your career at a club where you went there as a boy, and leave a man. All my family fell in love with the North East, and now we’ve all left.”
Croydon-born Woodman, a boyhood Crystal Palace fan, quickly “got” Newcastle and the North East, though the move, initially, was a “shock to the system” for a 14-year-old.
“It was a shock to the system for a kid from South London to come up to Newcastle,” said Woodman. “It was a bit of a culture shock, but I grew quickly into the culture of the North East, and I knew very quickly what it would take for me to become a Newcastle player.
“I just got my head down, and cracked on. To be fair to the coaches at the academy at the time who I worked with, they were brilliant. They played a massive part in my journey.”
Woodman is “honoured” to have represented United for so many years – and grateful for the opportunity he was given on Tyneside.
“I came up here as a 14-year-old boy, and I’m 25 now,” he said. “It’s a long time to spend at one football club, and I can’t thank the club enough for giving me the opportunity to grow as a man firstly.
“In my early days they helped me massively with my education, they helped my family. I couldn’t thank them enough. Obviously, to represent a football club the size of Newcastle has always been an honour. It’s been a pleasure, really.”
On the backing he got from supporters, Woodman added: “The fans were also brilliant with me, and I’d like to thank them too.”
Woodman – whose dad is now manager of National League side Bromley – leaves a club which is finally moving forward after years of relegation battles following last year’s £305million takeover by a consortium led by Amanda Staveley.
The club, which was relegated twice during Mike Ashley’s 14 years as owner, has an ambitious new ownership group who want to see the team compete for trophies and European football.
Woodman, it’s clear, will follow the club closely in the coming seasons, having forged strong friendships during his time in the North East.
“The club now is going in such a positive direction, which has not always been the case,” said Woodman. “I’m so pleased for the fans and everyone connected with the club. I’m going to look forward to seeing the club’s success in the future, and I’ve almost become a fan!
“I’ve made so many friends there. The people behind the scenes. I could go on forever … Thommo (Ray Thompson) the kit man, Derek (Wright) the physio, Tony (Toward, team administrator), Glenn (Patterson, player liaison officer).
“The people that work there that are from the North East. You rely on these people every single day. Also the players, you know Dummy (Paul Dummett), Sean (Longstaff), I’ve got so many friends that are Geordies up there.
“It’s definitely going to be a result that I check first when I come in after games.”
Woodman – who made his debut aged 20 in 2018 in an FA Cup tie against Luton Town at St James's Park when Rafa Benitez was manager – had been set to join Bournemouth on a season-long loan last summer.
However, he was called back to Tyneside before he was able to sign for the Championship club with Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow recovering from injury and illness respectively.
Woodman – who also had loans at Swansea City, Aberdeen, Crawley Town and Hartlepool United – went on to start the season between the posts, playing the first five league and cup games.
The 2021/22 campaign had kicked off amid supporter discontent and protests against Ashley and head coach Steve Bruce, and the club didn’t win a game until December, by which time Howe was in charge.
Woodman, though, loved his first experience of Premier League football, having appreciated just how much it meant to play for the club.
“I think when you play for a football club that expects so much, it’s always going to be difficult,” said Woodman, who won the Championship’s Golden Glove award while at Swansea the season before last.
“I loved playing every minute, although, I know, results didn’t go the way we would have liked.
“I enjoyed every minute of playing, because I got to play for Newcastle United at St James’s Park. I quickly realised when I came up that that was every Geordie’s dream.
“It soon became my dream when I came up as a kid, and I managed to do that.”
Howe succeeded Bruce as head coach last November, and the club, which was 19th when he took over, didn’t look back.
Woodman was eventually loaned to Bournemouth in January after Dubravka won his place back in the team. And Howe, a “revelation” at Newcastle in Woodman’s view, kept in contact with him during his spell at the Vitality Stadium, where he was back up to Mark Travers.
“The manager’s been fantastic with me,” said Woodman. “Even when I went out on loan, he was still speaking to me and messaging me.
“Anyone can see he’s been an absolute revelation. Everyone can agree (the turnaround last season) has been down to the manager and the staff that he’s brought. He’s been brilliant for me.”
Woodman’s now looking forward to playing for Ryan Lowe at Deepdale. Woodman – who also worked with Preston first-team coach Mike Marsh during his two seasons at Swansea – had the option of joining a top-flight club as a back-up goalkeeper, but felt he needed to be playing week in, week out in order to progress his career.
“It’s a positive move for me,” said Woodman, who says he’s been described as the “youngest journeyman ever” due to the amount of loans he had.
“I’m joining a football club that’s heading in the right direction. I’m joining a management team and manager that believes in me. It’ll help my career, it’ll help me progress as football player.
"I’m really excited to commit for three years, and almost build another foundation at Preston – just like I did at Newcastle.”