It was with a sense of bewilderment that I watched Johnathan Woodgate score the winner in the Carling Cup on Sunday. For a start I've often said that he's the best defender I've seen in a black and white shirt. He would have been a player to build that so-called spine of a team around (good 'keeper, good centre half, good goalscorer) but for two things.
1. In two years with us he managed to play the grand total of 28 games - spending more time in the treatment room than many of the physios do.
2. Fat Freddie saw the pound notes when Real Madrid came calling and cashed in on a £4.4 million profit on the smoggy sick-note.
Of course, fast froward four years and Woodgate has to choose between returning to the Toon or a trip to the Smoke with Spurs. How glad he must be that he's made that decision. Tough call for poor old Woody, relegation scrap or winning something at Wembley. I bet Sunday has softened the blow of having to fork out for an expensive 'penthouse' in the capital.
Of course Woodgate isn't a stranger to the court room. He was the only player to be convicted after the Leeds players trial for the attack outside the Majestyk nightclub. He got community service after being found guilty of affray. So, Woodgatge's rehabilitation appears to be almost complete - scores the winner in a cup final (albeit I reckon the goal was as much a surprise to him as it was to the Chelsea defence, talk about being in the right place at the right time!)
If only the same could be said for the Scouse crim that is currently on our books... Somehow I can't see rehabilitation beckoning for Barton - still the good news has come today that he won't be able to play against Liverpool. The terms of his bail haven't been varied enough to allow him to set foot in Merseyside. Thank gawd for that! At least this way Keegan might start with Emre or even Geremi - who have the ability to pass to one of the other players in a black and white shirt - something that completely escapes Barton.