from www.theeastterrace.com 02/9/05
In a surprise move, Sir Clive Woodward unveiled Neil Back, Richard Hill, Ben Kay and Will Greenwood as his first official signings for the Southampton Academy football team. At yesterday’s spontaneous press conference, Woodward said he was disappointed by the lukewarm reaction to his first meaningful act in football. In particular, he said he was astonished by the criticism that his new players were too old for the game at academy level.
‘That’s such a conventional way of thinking,’ Woodward admonished reporters. ‘At my first training session I immediately identified the major weakness in age-group soccer. Basically, the players are too young. It’s like boys against boys out there, and the likes of Backy and Kayey can bring valuable experience to our opening fixture against Portsmouth Under-18’s.’
Woodward added that this is exactly the kind of innovative thinking the Saints can expect from him as a World-Cup winning coach. Nevertheless, his unique vision of the academy first team has Greenwood and co not only playing out of position, but in an unfamiliar sport. Woodward’s enthusiasm remains undimmed.
‘They all had at least one kick-about during their school days, and anyway, positions are just a number on the back. And soccer is just letters in the alphabet. When all’s said and done, both games are played with a ball.’
Woodward’s shock move means no place in the Saints academy line-up for local prodigy Eric ‘Ginger’ Purves, scorer of 103 goals in last year’s Hampshire Schools league, and already linked with Manchester United.
‘Don’t get me wrong, Ginger’s a great player,’ Woodward admitted, ‘and the life and soul of the squad. But he’s only sixteen. If we’re going to win the Bacardi-Breezer-With-A-Straw-Please Junior Challenge Cup we need experience. That’s why I’ve brought in the Hills and Backs of this world. These guys have won World Cups. We know they can handle the pressure.’
Woodward asked to be judged not on short-term results, but instead on the final of the coxless fours at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.