Interview: Former Sheffield Wednesday stopper Chris Woods on life as a goalkeeping coach

Chris Woods in action for Sheffield Wednesday
Chris Woods in action for Sheffield Wednesday
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Former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Woods saw it all as a player and now he is regarded one of the top goalkeeping coaches in the business.

Adam Pigott caught up with the ex-England number one for a Q&A and talked cups, coaching and Klinsmann.

AP: You’ve just returned from Los Angeles. How was that? What were you up to?

CW: The USA national team have a January camp, basically to get all the MLS-based players into training, prior to their pre-season. They have 2 and a half weeks training before they have a game. They went down to Chile recently and had a game which they unfortunately lost 3-2. They finish the camp with a game against Panama. After that everyone goes back to their clubs and carries on pre-season training, but this gives them a head start.

AP: Can you tell me a bit about how the World Cup was for you?

CW: This was the third one that I’ve been to. I went twice as a player. To go as a coach was an awful lot different, the work that you have to do in between the games is second-to-none really. You have to do all your scouting work, video work, and putting clips together, so it’s really non-stop work. When you’re a player, you train and you rest for the matches. So it’s a lot more intense for the coaching staff.

AP: Did you not get chance to sit back and take it in at all?

CW: I don’t know if people realise how much travel was involved. We travelled about 4 and half hours to one game, 3 hours to another couple of games, and 2 hours to the last game. That was all flying as well- it’s a massive area being covered. It’s another thing you have to overcome. We weren’t getting back into our main hotel at about 4 or 5 in the morning after games. You would sleep until lunchtime and then go out and do rehab and the ones who didn’t play would have a training session. It was really constant. There were times when we saw bits of the cities we were in. We still took it in. But I think over the years you come to realise that it’s a job and you just go and do it and not really think too much about sightseeing or anything.

AP: What is Jurgen Klinsmann like compared to other coaches and managers you’ve worked with?

CW: All the coaches and managers I’ve worked with have been really thorough. I believe most are, they’re always trying to find new ways to help the team win. Jurgen’s easy to talk to, and takes on board what you’re saying to him. He makes his own decisions though. He listens to you and if he thinks it’s something that should be put into practice he’ll do it. He prefers you to have an opinion.

AP: Has US football developed while you’ve been involved, and do you think it will ever be as popular as it is in the UK?

CW: I’ll start with the second question there. I think it’ll take an awful long time for it be as popular over there as it is here. I can’t ever see that actually happening.

AP: Why do think that is?

CW: Over here you get the travelling support which you don’t really get over there, so you’re never really going to get the rivalry that you get at a Merseyside or Manchester derby. So you miss that side of things. Also, there’s no relegation fears for anybody, which takes away some of it. I don’t know whether that would ever work, with the franchises- do people want to be putting money into clubs just to see them relegated to the NASL? Things like that keep it from being as intense as when you’re playing for a place in the Premier League, for instance. But it is growing all the time. I went over there in 1996 and all the teams were generally playing in the American Football stadiums. Since then, they’ve all moved on, they all have their own stadiums, and they’re really good stadiums as well. It’s definitely developed and there are more people that want to play the game, there are more teams coming into the league every year.

AP: Do you think it could rival any of the traditional American sports?

CW: Again, I think it’ll take a long time for it to get there. You’ve got your hardcore support that have taken to it and will always watch it, but I still think it’s going to be a long time before it rivals the Superbowl or the NBA Finals.

AP: What are the targets at the 2016 Copa America?

CW: The target will obviously be to try and win it! That’s the main aim. Jurgen Klinsmann is a very positive person, and he doesn’t go into anything without thinking we can win something.

AP: During the World Cup, did you take any personal pride from Tim Howard’s hero status?

CW: You always get a sense of pride when someone that you’re working with plays well. It wasn’t just the World Cup, I’ve worked with Tim for the past 8 years. We’ve built a really good working relationship up, a really good friendship as well. I know what he wants in training, he knows what he wants as well and how I work.

AP: I heard you recently did a coaching course in Scotland. Do you think it’s a good thing that coaches have to keep updating their qualifications?

CW: Yes I do. As a coach, and as a player, you never stop learning, you’re always trying to better yourself. There’s a new license that’s just come out, and it was by invitation only. It’s an ongoing thing. Things are always moving on, if you stop doing these things you stop learning, and you probably stand still yourself. If you want to better yourself this is really the sort of thing you need to continue to do.

AP: If the opportunity came up would you be interested in going back into club coaching and would you work with David Moyes again?

CW: I really enjoy club football. I’m enjoying what I’m doing at the moment, but at the same time I enjoy the day to day aspect of club football. If it ever came up it’s definitely something I would consider.

AP: Would you ever consider becoming head coach or manager?

CW: Now and again it’s crossed my mind. Yeah there is a possibility that one day I might like to go down that line, but when that time is I’m not 100% sure.

AP: What is your playing career highlight?

CW: Gosh. I’ve been lucky enough to play in quite a few cup finals and I’ve played for England. Turning out for my country is one of my main highlights- I’ve played against Brazil twice. I’ve played in FA Cup and League Cup finals, both in England and in Scotland. I’ve also got the British shut-out record for consecutive games. There are a few things that stick out for me.

AP: Finally, do you think your coaching career could ever match up to your playing career?

CW: Now that is very difficult to say. We spoke about Tim Howard and the way he played in the World Cup. From a coach’s point of view you think you’ve done a pretty good job, but you’re not the one that’s actually going out and crossing the line. You try to give everybody information and work with them on the training ground, but you can’t actually make the saves for them. When I first went into coaching it was like starting a new career. I’d like to think I’ve had a good coaching career so far and I just want to keep improving.