Woolston: They didn't have to do it
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Paul Woolston champions the support of several of his erstwhile team-mates during the latest episode of the UTD Podcast.
A hip injury forced 23-year-old Woolston to announce his retirement from professional football in March.
Woolston joined United from Newcastle in 2018, and enjoyed loan spells at north-east clubs Darlington, Gateshead, South Shields, and Blyth Spartans.
The 23-year-old also played for England Under-17s and Under-18s during his career and made 13 appearances for United’s Under-23s in his time at the club.
As you will hear when you listen to Woolston’s episode of the UTD Podcast - available now in the United App – he reveals how his Manchester United team-mates helped him come to terms with early retirement.
“None of them have to do it [give me support]. Harry [Maguire] and Scott [McTominay] didn’t have to come and see me. The messages I got from them, they didn’t have to do it, they didn’t have to be seen to do it. It just shows the type of people they are.
“[Grant has] been brilliant. He’s helped me get through the whole acknowledgement process of what’s happening because we’ll just talk about everything. We’ll have coffee and just think about the future and try and take my mind off what’s happening.
“[He helps me] stay positive and I think that’s been brilliant. No matter what time of day it is, within reason - I’m not ringing him in the middle of the night - he’ll take time out of his day to talk for a couple of hours and just put my mind at rest and just talk about life.”
During his time at the club, Woolston established himself as a member of United’s goalkeepers' union, which he says is “tight-knit.”
However, the 23-year-old didn’t always play in this position and reveals how he ended up between the sticks
“I was in goal for the school at times. I played up age groups for the school [and those] are the ones where I’d be playing outfield, so I had a right mix. I went to Darlington as an outfielder at under-9s and then Dad pulled me out because he didn’t feel I was ready for it.
“[I spent] a few more years playing outfield for the boys club, and then went back to Darlington. I went there as a striker and played left-mid, centre-mid, left-back, centre-half. I played everywhere!
“[I played in goal at] under-11s. I still remember it now. It was Grimsby away, both the keepers got ill and the coach on the bus went ‘who wants to play in net?’ I went ‘well I’ve done it before, I kept a clean sheet’ and that was it. I thought: ‘I quite like this.’”
When Woolston quit the game in March, it came as a shock to many. But for him, the transition out of professional football had already begun, as he explains that United staff had already started reducing his training.
“The club knew it for what the process was, so they managed it quite well.
“But when I was playing, I would be getting in for half eight, quarter-to-nine every day. No week was the same. With the games that were coming up, you couldn’t plan ahead. Sometimes you’ll have a day off and the next thing you know you’re in. I’ve known that for eight, nine years. That’s football.
“With the injury, I was only in five days a week, so I could plan [and] start getting into a routine. Then after Christmas, I was only in three times a week, so it started the cycle of getting out of the routine. It [started] that process of getting used to not being out on the grass.”
Listen to the Paul Woolston podcast now in the United App.