As football fans we tend to heap praise or criticism on players and managers. Then, if things go pear shaped there is some focus on the board too. What is often overlooked is that there are some key people behind the scenes who play a massive role in the success of the club – one such person is Stevie Woods.
Stevie played for the likes of Hibernian, Clydebank, Preston North End, Motherwell and St Mirren. After retiring as a player in 2005, Woods was the goalkeeping coach for Livingston and Dunfermline Athletic. He was then appointed to a full-time coaching position with Celtic in 2007.
During his time at Celtic Park, Woods has worked with Artur Boruc, Fraser Forster and Craig Gordon among others. All three would be regarded as the best Celtic goalkeepers in recent history. He transformed Forster from Newcastle’s third or fourth choice stopper, to an England international who was sold for big money. Then, when Forster’s career was at a low ebb, he rejuvenated him and made him the most important player in Celtic’s historical quadruple treble clinching season.
Similarly, Woods was the brains behind signing Craig Gordon, a man whose career was in tatters. Gordon had earned a big money move to the Premiership in the past, but suffered an injury which kept him out of the game for some time. It was almost identical to Fraser Forster. Wood encouraged Celtic to take a gamble on him and managed to bring the best out of Gordon. He went on to have a good Celtic career, winning an Invincible treble and competing in the Champions League for us.
Yesterday, we saw the emergence of Conor Hazard from Bhoy to man. The young goalkeeper has been under Stevie Woods’ guidance for a few years, graduating from the academy and going on loan to Dundee. With the poor form of Bain and Barkas, Hazard was given the chance to start in the Scottish Cup Final, making just his third appearance. The fact that Neil Lennon had the confidence to pick Hazard for such a historical fixture is testament to the work Woods has done with him. Although, Conor didn’t have a great game overall yesterday, he did make two saves in the penalty shoot out, which is a return that any keeper would be pleased with. Once again, Stevie Woods had played a part in Celtic’s success.
Is there any coach in Scottish football who has a track record of success as good as Stevie? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is no.