UH-OH. TYPICAL Boro moment looming. Jonathan Woodgate is back in the England squad for a meaningless friendly. What’s the chances of him being crocked in one of these SAS style Steve McClaren training sessions that used to leave the Boro squad in traction? Or limping out with three minutes left of a pointless bore draw?
It’s not too late to save yourself Woody! Ring in with a bit of a calf tweak. Never has there been a more compelling case for a player to suffer one of those diplomatic injuries so often sustained by Manchester United or Chelsea players before friendlies. A little case of Giggs Knee.
Obviously it is a big thing for Woody to be back in the England fold and, so we are told, a real feather in the cap for the club but I’ll be honest here – I don’t give a toss about England. Or any other national team and unless we are trying to push their retail price up before a sale I’d really rather they didn’t pick Boro players. They always come back injured, their heads filled with magic from Big Club room-mates or demoralised after being savaged by the press.
On a personal level the selection is a watershed moment in Woodgate’s rehabilitation after his long dark years of frustrating injuries. It marks his long awaited return to the very top level that at times must have seemed unlikely so you can fully sympathise with his own desire to play.
But on a purely parochial level an England call-up is bad news for Boro. Woody has played a lot of football since Christmas and more than anyone he could do with the break. He should spend the week stretching, on the massage table and in the hydrotherapy pool at Springs rather than slotting in an unneccessary game when we should be concentrating on Chelsea.
There are other reasons why his presence in an England shirt is unwelcome too. If he plays – and he is virtually certain to get at least 45 minutes – anything like he has done this season then it will be blindingly obvious that he is better than Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Jamie Carragher, Ledley King, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.
At Boro, where the tabloid big guns rarely venture and where the weekly two minutes on Match of the Day obscure the reality we have been able to keep his form under wraps. If he shines for England the cat is out of the bag and the opinion former will swing into their agent mode and try to get him a move to a club more fitting to showcase his abilities.
That creates a danger that clubs who have been quietly watching Woodgate, and most the big boys will be or they are not doing their job properly, will be forced to act lest one of their rivals move first. And with Woodgate’s transfer status still very much up in the air – Boro have agreed a price with Madrid but not sealed the deal – the possibility is always there that other clubs will gazump Boro and steal him away.
So come on Woody, ring in sick. Let’s keep it our little secret until the deal is sealed.