Manchester United goalkeepers have rallied around Paul Woolston after the U23 shotstopper was forced into retirement at the age of only 23.
In a statement on the club’s official website, United confirmed Woolston’s decision to hang up his boots following a ‘significant determination to return to fitness, including two operations and a lengthy rehabilitation period.’
Woolston – who went under the knife twice in two months in March and April last year – made 19 Premier League 2 appearances for the reserves after joining the club on a free transfer in 2018, having left their Newcastle counterparts.
Man United’s Paul Woolston has been forced into early retirement at the age of only 23
Woolston made 19 Premier League 2 appearances for the reserves after joining in 2018
United did not specify what sort of injury had forced him into early retirement but transfermarkt claim Woolston has been suffering from a hip problem.
But the club’s first-team goalkeepers – including No 1 David de Gea and understudy Dean Henderson – have paid tribute to Woolston, with the Spaniard revealing he spoke to him about the bigger picture.
‘Well, it’s always bad when someone has to retire at a young age,’ De Gea said. ‘I’ve spoken with him, the other day, and said to him that the most important thing is life, more than football, in terms of a proper life.
‘It was sad. I have been training with him, when he was fit, and it’s very sad news. I wish him all the best. He’s a great lad, a great goalkeeper and we all feel really sorry for him.
The shot stopper went under the knife twice in two months in March and April last year
But the likes of David de Gea (centre) have rallied around him following his early retirement
‘I trained with him and he had a very good left foot, I remember, and it’s sad for him and for the club. But, as I said before, I was speaking with him and, first of all, it’s life and being in good conditions to have a good life.
‘Of course, in life, sometimes problems happen and things happen. You have to keep looking forward, keep fighting and that is what life means. Like I say, I wish him all the best.’
Meanwhile, United No 2 said the news was ‘devastating’ and praised his technical abilities, and believes he is in a good place to take a step in a different direction.
‘It’s devastating for himself and for all of us around him,’ Henderson said. ‘He was a great guy to work with throughout the age groups. When I was in the younger age groups, I even remember playing against him when he was at Newcastle.
‘But he’s a very clever guy and that will stand him in good stead. I wasn’t aware of the news until recently due to Covid bubbles and people not seeing each other and it’s something that has been kept under wraps.
Woolston (second from right) joined United on a free after leaving Newcastle’s U23 side
‘He’s a good lad who knows what he wants. He knew what he wanted when he was a player. He was such a technically gifted goalkeeper as well so it’s such a shame to lose him at such a young age. Going forward, I’m sure he’ll put his drive into something else and it will set him in good stead.’
Third and fourth-choice goalkeepers Tom Heaton and Lee Grant also spoke glowingly of Woolston to the club’s website.
Speaking after his retirement, Woolston said: ‘To have to retire at just 23 has been really tough to come to terms with but I feel a lot more positive now.]
‘I am really proud of everything that I have achieved, many people dream of playing football at this level. Of course, I would have loved to have gone on further but it has been an absolute honour to represent Manchester United during my time here.
He was the third-choice goalkeeper at Newcastle when they won the Championship in 2016-17
‘The support of my family, friends, team-mates, coaches, the medical staff and entire Manchester United academy has been phenomenal. Everyone has played a major part in my journey by keeping my spirits up, allowing me to reflect positively on my playing experiences and begin to look to the future.
‘Right now, I am fully focused on the next stage of my career. I am ready to use all of my learnings, resilience, drive and determination to make a real success of my life.’
Woolston’s career began when he joined Sunderland aged 10, before he made the move to rivals Newcastle in 2015, where he was third-choice keeper during their Championship-winning season in 2016-17.
The 23-year-old also represented England up until U18s level, travelling with his country to the U17s European Championship and U17s World Cup.
He also went on loan to various clubs in the north east of the country, namely Gateshead, Darlington, Blyth Spartans and South Shields.
Woolston’s career began when he joined Sunderland, before moving to the Magpies in 2015