It seemed as if Cauley Woodrow’s Premier League debut might have been a mere footnote in another demorilising defeat after Fulham folded in Wales last weekend. But the teenage striker and manager Felix Magath reckoned otherwise and Woodrow seized his opportunity with glee against Newcastle yesterday. It is a measure of how Woodrow’s stock has risen since being sent back from a loan spell at Southend United earlier in the season, that the England youth international was picked ahead of Kostas Mitroglou – Fulham’s record signing – and two established top-flight goalscorers in Darren Bent and Hugo Rodallega.
Deploying a nineteen year-old up his own up front with Fulham in the last chance saloon looked very much like a desperate roll of the dice from Magath. But Woodrow’s purposeful running, energy and intelligence made it more of a masterstroke. There was suddenly a mobility, vitality and zest to Fulham’s forward line that has been sorely missing for much of this forgettable season. Perhaps the best indication of Woodrow’s smartness came in the way he refused to charge headless-chicken like around the field – he pressed Newcastle’s centre backs for sure, but reserved his endeavour for when he was most useful: in holding up the ball and bringing his team-mates into play.
The nineteen year-old has clearly caught Magath’s eye – and the manager’s reasons for keeping faith with Woodrow were telling:
I thought in this situation the older players would be more confident but the young players like Woodrow are more exciting. They give us a good mood, good vibrations. They have nothing to lose.
Woodrow certainly worked an experienced pair of centre backs in Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini. Whilst he might consider himself unlucky not to have capped his home debut with a goal – the offside call as Woodrow reacted quickest to Johnny Heitinga’s rasping shot from distance was the definition of a close-rung thing – there was much more than mere goal threat about the former Luton Town striker’s performance. He might have had a penalty early on, having worried Williamson into pulling him by the shorts and then been caught by Tim Krul as the Newcastle goalkeeper stabbed at the loose ball.
His distribution and interplay were impressure, with one raking pass to Lewis Holtby early in the second period particularly eye-catching. It’s not difficult to see why Woodrow has been compared to Teddy Sheringham, with his vision and range of passing, even if Craven Cottage regulars of a certain vintage recalled Dean Coney instead. Woodrow’s done more than enough to keep his place – and might just enjoy the prospect of coming up against Martin Demichelis at Manchester City next weekend.