Doncaster Rovers goalkeeper Gary Woods believes the painful lessons of last season’s relegation have helped realise his potential.
The 22-year-old was tipped for a bright future after being snapped up from Cambridge United by Manchester United in 2007 as a rookie teenager.
But like so many young players at Old Trafford, he never made the breakthrough to the first team and joined Doncaster in 2009 on a free transfer.
He had to bide his time behind No 1 Neil Sullivan, and then was forced to endure the agony of relegation from the Championship last term. It could have destroyed some young goalkeepers, but former England Under-18 stopper Woods has used the adversity and turmoil of last season to learn his lessons well.
He has become a vital cog of a Rovers team which sits top of League One, although he may be forced to sit out today’s trip to rivals Bournemouth with a thigh strain. Sullivan is on standby.
“From a personal point of view, I am happy with my performances this season,” said Woods. “Goalkeepers make mistakes all the time, it’s about limiting the number of them. When I first started out, it was hard, I was a young lad in a struggling team.
“As a young goalkeeper, to be busy every week is hard but you come through stronger. It’s not always an easy run as a goalkeeper, look at Joe Hart. He’s been getting criticism, yet for me he is the best goalkeeper in the world by far.
“Now, I don’t feel pressured and just take each game as it comes. I just want to play as high as I can. Personally, I think I have the ability and self-belief that I can play at the highest level. For now, I just want to get a promotion on my CV with Doncaster Rovers.”
Woods believes Rovers – who lost in midweek to MK Dons – now have a better team spirit than last season and have gone under the radar of many.
“First and foremost, we want to get promoted, then after that is to win the league,” he said. “Many fans wouldn’t have expected the season we have had so far, promotion is the main thing.
“It was tough last year, with what went on both on and off the field, but now we are just together. Everyone is willing to work for each other, where maybe last year that was lacking.”