NEWCASTLE United starlet Freddie Woodman insists becoming a European champion is just the start for him – and he wants to become England’s No1 goalkeeper.
Woodman was one of England’s heroes on Wednesday as they beat the Netherlands on penalties to win the UEFA European Under-17 Championship.
And he has already set his sights on emulating Jack Butland, who was in goal the last time the Three Lions won the tournament, in 2010.
Since then, Butland has gone on to play for England at senior level and in the Premier League for Stoke City, and Woodman – who received a message of congratulations from his fellow goalkeeper – wants to follow in his footsteps.
He said: “I got a nice Tweet after the final from Jack Butland, the Under-21 goalie.
“I look up to Jack Butland a lot and I want to follow his path to where he has got to. He is a top, top keeper.
“He won this tournament four years ago and he has gone on to do big things.
“He has played for the England first team and played in the Premier League, which is what I want to do. I want to take the Jack Butland path.”
Woodman saved the first Dutch spot-kick as the Young Lions went on to win 4-1 in the shootout.
That followed a 1-1 draw, while Woodman’s Newcastle team-mate Adam Armstrong watched from the bench after failing to fully recover from an ankle injury.
Woodman admits England’s victory has not yet sunk in, and has described winning the tournament in Malta as “amazing”.
The 17-year-old added: “It has been an amazing couple of weeks.
“I’m still getting over what we have achieved, and I don’t think it has all sunk in yet.
“The lads are just on such a high. I didn’t sleep on Wednesday night, and I don’t know if any of the other lads did. It is just such a buzz.
“To be champions of Europe is a dream come true really. I can’t believe what all the boys have achieved.”
England practised penalties throughout their time in Malta, and Woodman says he was always confident that work would bear fruit.
However, he feared the celebrations after Jonjoe Kenny’s trophy-clinching penalty were premature – as he thought England needed one more penalty to win.
Woodman added: “As the match went on and it looked like it would go into penalties, I felt confident.
“I knew I had a good record at penalties, and we practised all week.
“The lads had done their work, and it was a case of me putting in my shift as well.
“Saving the first one just took a bit of the edge off the shootout.
“I didn’t think we had won it after the last one, though, as I thought there was another penalty!
“I just stood still and Jonjoe was running at me. I was saying to him, ‘We’ve got one more penalty, mate!’
“He said, ‘No, Freddie, we’ve won it!’ So then I was like, ‘Oh, we’ve won it!’
“It was unbelievable. I just fell on the floor and couldn’t quite believe what had happened.”
The Under-17s received support from many high-profile figures during the tournament, and received their medals from UEFA president, and French legend, Michel Platini.
Woodman described that moment as “surreal”, and also talked about some of the messages of support he and John Peacock’s side received in Malta.
He said: “Walking up the steps and seeing Sir Trevor (Brooking) and (Michel) Platini, it was just a surreal moment. I couldn’t quite believe it, really.
“Tim Krul had also been sending me messages before the games, and he speaks to me quite a lot. He has been huge for me.
“Over the whole season, he has been a top class number one for me to look up to.
“We also got messages before the final from Roy Hodgson, Steven Gerrard and Gareth Southgate, which is nice, and we got a lot of Tweets after.”
- DANIEL PRINCE