For the past few years I have been under the impression Celtic’s goalkeeping coach, Stevie Woods, could do us a turn in between the sticks should we ever need an emergency ‘keeper.
Watching him during his half time drills with Fraser Forster and now Craig Gordon has always made me think he would probably be a better option than Zaluska, at the very least.
Joining Celtic in 2009, he has coached Artur Boruc (for around 1 year), Fraser Forster and now Craig Gordon, the latter being a personal recommendation to the board as the potential first choice in goals. Since I have been watching Celtic, some 32 years, we have had a reputation of not having good goalkeepers. From Jonny Gould to Gordon Marshall and beyond (don’t mention Hedman or Kharine). But since 2005, when Boruc joined, we have been spoiled with excellent ‘keepers.
Fraser Forster, at the time, was a loanee from Newcastle with the option to buy. Forster and Woods worked closely together every day. He signed for Celtic after an extended loan and went on to be a magnificent player for Celtic. The man the Spanish press called ‘The Great Wall’, was sold to Southampton for 10 million pounds, a bargain considering his reputation, age and potential. Forster has since gone on to form part of a very entertaining Southampton team while being capped by England, even starting the game at Celtic Park against Scotland. His rise is largely down to Woods’ coaching and his eye to spot potential.
“The coaching staff have been brilliant since the first day I came in. Woodsy has been absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t really ask any more of him or the gaffer.’’ Forster
A glowing recommendation by England’s future number 1. But it doesn’t end there. Craig Gordon, the much forgotten but patently gifted goalkeeper, has now cemented his place as Celtic’s number 1 and has been drafted back into the Scotland set up. Again, Woods has been integral in getting Gordon into shape and in form for Celtic. Questions over Gordon’s fitness have been dispatched; he played 52 games for Celtic in his first season.
During Woods’ time with us, Celtic have went 13 games in a row (1,215 minutes) without conceding a goal; a league record. Celtic, in May 2012, finished the season as champions and with 25 clean sheets over the entire season, a club record. This season Celtic won the league having conceded only 17 goals, the lowest in the top flight since the old Rangers’ record in 1918-19.
Prior to Stevie’s arrival, Robert Douglas was the goalkeeper during the Martin O’Neill revolution. He oversaw Celtic charge towards the UEFA Cup Final, but the fans never really took to him the way they have taken to our last 3 keepers.
With Zaluska leaving the club this summer, it remains to be seen who will be Celtic’s reserve goalkeeper. There’s rumours of Cierzniak from Dundee United, who impressed against Celtic last season, coming on board but the Italian Leo Fasan is the one most fans would like to see replace Zaluska.
The number one for the development team, Fasan, has been at Celtic for 18 months now and has been on the periphery of the first team. He trained regularly with Forster and Woods and is now training along with Craig Gordon. This experience of training with ‘keepers of such quality can only benefit the tall Italian.
With Woods heading into his 7th year at Celtic, and having worked wonders with the players at his disposal, it’s a surprise there hasn’t been a conscious effort by teams in England to acquire his services. But Celtic’s continued progress, on and off the field, provides a fantastic foundation for everyone associated with the club. From the hungry, progressive coaching team to the plethora of sellable assets to the new safe standing area to be constructed, things are definitely on the up for Celtic. And it’s for these reasons I think Woods feels at home, and long may it continue.