Fraser Forster was the star of the show as Celtic lifted the Betfred Cup on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Rangers at Hampden. Numerous great stops and a penalty save from Alfredo Morelos was enough to earn Forster the man of the match accolade for the big Englishman.
However, it is worth noting that Forster’s success is partially down to the coaches at Celtic, in particular Neil Lennon and Stevie Woods. It is well documented that Lennon was the manager to give Forster his break in football but it is the Celtic goalkeeping coach that helped turn ‘The Great Wall’ into the English Internationalist.
Stevie Woods is often an underrated cog in the Celtic machinery, he has been at Celtic since 2007 and in that time, has amassed an incredible 19 winners medals.
Celtic’s goalkeeper coach Stevie Woods now has 19 winners medals at the club. What a job he has done over the years 👏👏
— David Currie (@thedavidcurrie) December 8, 2019
Since becoming Celtic goalkeeping coach in 2009, there have been four regular number ones at the club: Artur Boruc, Fraser Forster, Craig Gordon and latterly Scott Bain before Forster reclaimed the gloves.
Artur Boruc was an impressive keeper when Woods joined but his lifestyle and personality meant that he was in need of being kept sharp and out of the spotlight. Within that period, Boruc excelled making some stunning stops that saw him nominated in 2008 for FIFAPro World XI. Boruc left Celtic after struggling for a couple of seasons but still with a reputation as a truly exceptional keeper.
The man that replaced Boruc was a youngster from Newcastle, who Woods was convinced didn’t have it in him to become a Celtic player – until he met Forster.
Through the tireless work of Woods and the Celtic coaching staff, Forster worked to become a £10m player, representing England and breaking records in Scotland between the sticks. Forster spent two seasons on loan at Celtic before a permanent switch to the Scottish Champions after Alan Pardew saw him as surplus to requirements. Forster’s progress from the lanky youngster who’s kicking was poor to a dominating, physical Internationalist that was one of the standout goalkeepers in English football for a couple of seasons.
Before Forster left for Southampton, Woods sought to rectify the career of multi-million goalkeeper, Craig Gordon. Gordon’s career looked over in 2014 after nearly two years out of the game due to injuries incurred at Sunderland; however, Woods spied on him while he regained fitness at Murray Park.
Gordon was invited to train in secret and Woods knew that he was good enough to sign for Celtic. Gordon went from the doorstep of retirement to becoming an Invincible, a Treble Treble winner and 50-cap internationalist. This was testament to the dedication of Woods and Gordon to restore the ex-Hearts keeper to his former glory. They did just that, Gordon has been mightly impressive in his time at Celtic, amassing 236 appearances.
Despite injuries giving Scott Bain a chance to break into the first team, Gordon has done little wrong in his time at Celtic – working to win his place back on a couple of occasions. Scott Bain was signed due to Gordon’s injury and was rewarded with a chance when the hapless Dorus De Vries was injured on the eve of a trip to Ibrox.
Woods was heavily involved in the pursuit of Bain, who had been isolated at Dundee following a fight with Neil McCann; however he was only signed as a backup. In nearly two years with Celtic, Bain turned into a Scotland Internationalist as well as number one for a spell, displacing Craig Gordon after the Winter Break last season.
Forster returned as Neil Lennon become the manager on a permanent basis, the goalkeeper had struggled in the last two years at Southampton with injuries and had become 3rd choice at the Saints.
Despite his lack of action, Woods and Forster’s incredible working relationship took off again, resulting in incredible performances namely versus Lazio and latterly Rangers.
The work of Woods is exemplary and he is a credit to the Celtic staff, so much so that he has managed to rectify the careers of a couple goalkeepers and launch those of others.
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