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Germany v England, Wednesday

Q&A with former England striker Tony Woodock

November 18, 2008
By John Brewin

Tony Woodcock spoke to Soccernet straight off a redeye flight to Berlin where he'll be hooking up with old pals from both sides of the rivalry that is Germany versus England when the two teams play at the Olympiastadion on Wednesday night.

Woodcock, who won the old Football League and European Cup with Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest and also played for Arsenal, spent seven years playing in German football with FC Cologne and Fortuna Cologne. He also coached in Germany and had a spell sporting director at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Many of his 42 England caps and 16 goals came while playing in his adopted country, where he continues to maintain close ties.

GettyImagesWoodcock played for FC Cologne for five years and stayed on in Germany for some years after.

The big story over in England is that most of Fabio Capello's first team won't be there. What's your view on that?

As a former player it's the greatest thing of all to play for your country. I also appreciate that the players are having a long hard season and are picking up knocks and clubs pay their wages and everything, but there's players being pulled out and then playing in the Premier League three or four days later. That can't be right.

How do you assess Capello's impact so far?

I think if you look back, the manager or 'trainer' as they call them in Europe would make sure there was no grey area. Things happened in black or white. It seems to me that in the last few years that's been waylaid and the discipline aspect of it all has gone out of the window. So when somebody like Capello comes along and seems to be using discipline - and what I'd call quite normal rules and regulations - if players are not fit then they don't play.

In this day and age it's quite refreshing to hear that the old values among the top managers are coming back. I'd put that down to good management.

I played under international class coaches like Brian Clough, Hennes Weisweiler and Rinus Michels and there were quite simple rules and regulations. They want you to play with discipline on and off the field and I'm pleased to see that all's coming back in and so-called 'player power' has gone out of the window. And that's how it should be.

From a German point of view, would you say their team have developed since Euro 2008? They got to the final but weren't good enough to win it.

In the last three or four years they were in a transition period and the success they had under Klinsmann at the World Cup really put life back into German football. Then they kept Jogi Loew on. You can draw comparisons with Steve (McClaren) and Sven Goran Eriksson. The transition they had was following through success and not following through failure. And we ended up having failure under Steve McClaren. I think they're still pushing on, bringing one or two younger players into the squad.

Loew has blooded a couple of youngsters and young German players are now realising that one or two good performances would see them get a call up.

You twice played for England against West Germany, as it was at the time, while you were playing in Germany at the time. How did that feel?

It was strange. At Wembley (in October 1982) there were six Cologne players in the squad and I'd just left there for Arsenal. The English lads were saying I was in the wrong dressing room. I came on late and Toni Schumacher stuck his gloves over my face when we had a corner. He said: "You've got no chance" and made a bet with me for a hundred quid. And from that corner I actually got a goal.

Some of them were my team-mates but you had to win if you were going back there. Germany played England at the last game at Wembley and beat them and I got lots of messages from my friends in football then England won 5-1 in Munich. I'll be seeing a lot of ex-players in Berlin and it will all start up again.

GettyImagesHarald 'Toni' Schumacher: Cologne club-mate was forced to pay out when West Germany travelled to Wembley in 1982.

Come on then, what's your prediction for the game in Berlin?

0-3, of course. I can't go for anything else...(warms to theme)... I was on a plane at 6.30 this morning from Stanstead because I couldn't get any other flight because there's something like 8,000 supporters travelling to this game. They're all reading the newspapers about players having a twinge or a knock and everyone saying it's only a friendly. I've been saying this for years: We should be taking this word 'friendly' out of the whole scenario.

You're not playing in a major tournament but you're playing for your country. If the Germans thrash England and there's no Gerrard or Lampard then they'd still be celebrating so let's take the word 'friendly' out of it. You're representing your country in an international game. Those 8,000 fans are paying good money, staying in a hotel, the planes are all full,

I do realise that there's two sides to it. The Premier League's the main thing; it's blasted out across the world but imagine a successful international team. It would lift the whole country like the Olympics did.

All this talk of "we don't need this"... I'm sorry to keep going on about this. The squads are getting bigger, so the players are playing less games. When Forest won the European Cup the second time, Garry Birtles played 70 games or something.

Players are now like pieces of merchandise, like if I lent you a brand new Aston Martin for a couple of weeks and you brought it back with a couple of scratches on it. But there needs to be some sitting down done to go forward because the country needs a successful England football team.

In your era you never considered games as friendlies?

No, not at all. You're representing your country and it's going to be shown to millions. The stadium's going to be full and those travelling England supporters will be there. Consider all the pounds and euros that cost and then you call it a friendly; you can't have it all ways. I would get the word 'friendly' out of it and just call it an 'international match'.

Tony Woodcock was speaking to Soccernet as part of ESPN Classic UK's England v Germany Week.

UK and Ireland viewers can tune in to channel 442 at 10pm all week to catch some classic games and documentaries from the archive.