Club | 30/12/2015

The story of Tony Woodcock

An Englishman in Cologne

He first lined up against FC, and then eventually for them. He came on a record transfer fee at the time and turned himself into a fan favorite. Now aged 60, Anthony “Tony” Woodcock will forever be remembered as one of the best Englishmen to play for 1. FC Köln.

The location of his final match speaks volumes, for it was not in his native country of England, but in Cologne, Germany. It became his second home, and on September 5th, 1990, numerous friends and relatives came to see his last match. Also taking part were legendary English players such as Gary Lineker, Peter Shilton, and Viv Anderson. The actual story begins in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, a small town near the Sherwood Forest, which was made famous by the tales of Robin Hood. Notable people to come out of this town included writer D.H. Lawrence and… Tony Woodcock. 

“I want him. No matter the cost.” – Hennes Weisweiler

It all began on Tony’s 12th birthday when his brother-in-law gifted him with a football. He knew from that moment on that all he ever wanted to become was a footballer. It did not take long for Nottingham Forest to notice the talent of Tony Woodcock and invite him as an apprentice. At the time it was quite common for footballers to learn a second skill, in order to prepare themselves in case they did not make it as professionals. This, however, was not the case for young Tony, who concentrated his full efforts on football. Looking back, he states: “In hindsight I wouldn’t recommend it. Many of my mates that did the same couldn't make the jump to the pros and ended up becoming unemployed.” This was a problem Tony did not have to deal with, as he was offered a professional contract in 1974. Not even a year later the team was taken over by Manager Brian Clough, who ended up leading Nottingham Forest into becoming one of the most successful sides in Europe. 


Woodcock in his early days as an 1. FC Köln player. 

Following Clough’s appointment, Woodcock was first sent on loan to Lincoln City and then Duncaster Rovers. Woodcock rejoined the team in 1976/77 as they finished third in the second division and secured promotion to the top flight. Nobody could have predicted the rise of Nottingham Forest from this point on. They went on to capture their first and only league title in the 1977/78 season. In that same year they also won the Football League Cup, a feat they went on to complete in the following season of 1978/79. As if that was not enough, Nottingham Forest went on to win back-to-back European Cups (The Champions league in today’s terms) in the 1978/79 season and 1979/80 season. It was in Woodcock’s last year with Nottingham Forest in the 1978/79 season that 1. FC Köln stumbled upon his talent. Nottingham Forest defeated FC with a aggregate score of 4:3 in the semi-finals that year, and it was at that point that FC Manager Hennes Weisweiler pointed out Woodcock and stated: “I want him. No matter the cost.”

“He plays more German than a German.” – Brian Clough 

FC General Manager Karl-Heinz Thielen did everything in his power to convince Brian Clough to sell his striker, although the English Manager was not easily moved. But on November 19th, 1979, the deal was finalized for a then-record 2,493,750 Deutsche Mark (About £600,000 at the time). After selling his coveted striker, Clough proclaimed: “Tony will fit in the Bundesliga. He plays more German than a German.” Woodcock was said to have had offers from all over Europe at the time, but it was his wife that convinced him of Cologne. She had fallen in love with the city upon her visit.


Sitting left to right: Hennes Weisweiler, Tony Woodcock, and Karl-Heinz Thielen.

Awaiting Woodcock at his first raining session at Geissbockheim were about 25 English journalists and 4,000 FC fans. For his Bundesliga debut match against VfL Bochum, which FC won 2-1, there were more than double the expected 15,000 fans in attendance. With his smarts and pleasant English nature, Woodcock quickly became a favorite of the FC faithful. Tony also developed a special relationship with Manager Hennes Weisweiler, whom he sat next to at all team dinners. On the playing field, Woodcock states he never had a better understanding with a striking partner than he did with Dieter Mueller. But in terms of success with FC it was always a case of just shy. Losing out in the final of the 1980 DFB Pokal was followed by defeat in the 1981 UEFA Cup semi-final and runner-up in the 1982 Bundesliga season. That summer of 1982, Woodcock transferred to Arsenal FC in London for a fee of 2.5 million Deutsche Mark.

“Welcome Back”

Following a four-year stint with Arsenal FC, Woodcock made his return to 1. FC Köln in 1986. The FC South Stand reacted accordingly by displaying a “Welcome back again, Tony” banner. He remained an 1. FC Köln player for two seasons but never reached the heights that he reached during his first stint. In 1988, he transferred to SC Fortuna Köln where he ended his career in 1990. Following his playing career Tony tried a variety of things such as coach and general manager, as well as a TV pundit. Asked what he is today, he replies: “kölschen Engländer” (the Colognian Englishman). 

Career

7/1974 – 1/1976 Nottingham Forest FC
2/1976 – 2/1976 Lincoln City FC (loan)
9/1976 – 9/1976 Doncaster Rover FC (loan)
10/1976 – 11/1979 Nottingham Forest FC
11/1979 – 6/1982 1. FC Köln
6/1986 – 6/1988 Arsenal FC
6/1986 – 6/1988 1. FC Köln
7/1988 – 6/1990 SC Fortuna Köln 

Honors

English Champion: 1978
English Cup Winner: 1978, 1979
FA Charity Shield Winner: 1978
European Cup: 1979
UEFA Super Cup: 1979
PFA Young Player of the Year: 1979
155 Competitive Appearances for 1. FC Köln (47 goals)
42 Competitive Appearances for England (16 goals)

The original version of this text (in German) can be found in Volume 8 of the 2015/16 GeißbockEcho.

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