By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Freddie Woodman has spoken of his pride at representing England for the first time at last week's Nordic Tournament - and has vowed that it won't be the last time he wears the Three Lions badge.
The Newcastle Academy goalkeeper was chosen for Kenny Swain's under-17 squad for the Faroe Islands trip and, after keeping a clean sheet on his international debut, he recorded another shut-out in his second appearance to help England reach the final.
And although the rotation policy meant he was powerless to prevent a 2-0 defeat to Sweden, the 15-year-old son of United keeper coach Andy Woodman returned to Tyneside with his reputation enhanced and with memories which will last a lifetime.
"We first met up in England at a hotel in Birches Bridge, and I knew most of the lads from the trials before," Woodman told nufc.co.uk. "I wasn't nervous, I was like 'I can't wait to play, I can't wait to get my debut' and we went out there and started training.
"I trained really well and then on the night before (the first game, against the hosts) I was told I was in the starting line-up - number one. That's when the nerves start coming in.
"I spoke to my dad and he just said 'calm down, do what you normally do at Newcastle' and then the day came. I wasn't nervous at all, I just thought 'do things simple' - and then you walk out and start singing the national anthem and look at that badge!
"When I sang the national anthem, I thought about two things: my grandad and all the people who have fought for their country, and 'don't let this be the last time you sing it. I want to sing it again.'
"Then I started playing and it just happened from there and I played really well in that game.
"It was a weird game. I didn't touch the ball until the eighth minute - I was watching the game thinking 'am I ever going to touch the ball?'. I was getting more nervous because I hadn't touched the ball yet. But then I touched the ball and I just started settling into the game and kept a clean sheet.
"Any keeper's happy with a clean sheet, it's a bonus to get a clean sheet. But you play with England and you just trust every player. Every player's unbelievable, they've got so much ability, so you just trust every player. It's class."
England won 2-0 and then, with Woodman rested, beat Finland 4-2 the following day meaning that if they could avoid defeat against Norway, they would to their group.
And with the Newcastle netminder restored to the starting line-up, they earned a 0-0 draw to reach the final.
"I was more nervous about the Norway game because I was thinking 'can I keep this going?'. I spoke to my dad and he said 'no pressure, keep a clean sheet this time as well!'. But the game came and I made a good save in the first half, and that settled me in.
"I played well again and kept another clean sheet and I was over the moon with that."
Shrewsbury stopper Callum Burton came in for the final but Woodman was philosophical about missing out and now hopes to figure in this season's Victory Shield, having been a non-playing member of the side which won the trophy last term.
"I was disappointed, but you have to give other people a chance," he said.
"But hopefully in their eyes I've done really well, I've kept two clean sheets and I haven't done anything wrong so hopefully this year in the Victory Shield they can see that I've done nothing wrong and put me in again.
"I want to play Victory Shield this year so hopefully I can do that, but going away to the Victory Shield the year before gave me so much confidence.
"Even though I didn't play, it just showed me how things are done and it's so much different from club football. You don't realise it but going that year to the Victory Shield helped me so much."
Woodman - who made his Newcastle Reserve debut in a friendly at York while just 14 years old - does not turn 16 until March and was one of the babies of Swain's England squad.
"I was one of the youngest," he said. "There were three of us who were born in '97 so it's good that they've given us a chance. It's just an age, isn't it? Age is just a number so it's great when younger people are given chances.
"It really annoys me when people don't give you the chance because you're young."
And on that note, he now hopes to force his way into the team for United's opening game of the Premier Academy League season, which sees the under-18s host Tottenham on Saturday, with Jonathan Mitchell and Aidan Grant also vying for the number one jersey.
"Competition's always good and obviously I'm the youngest but my aim is to play under-18s," he insisted.
"I want to keep pushing myself up and up and up. If it doesn't happen, I'll just concentrate on playing under-16s and if I get my chance at under-18s, I've got to take it.
"Football's all about chances, really, so hopefully it comes on Saturday but if it doesn't then maybe another time."