Sheffield United: ‘I want to be Blades manager one day,’ says Curtis Woodhouse as he returns to Bramall Lane

Curtis Woodhouse in his Blades playing days
Curtis Woodhouse in his Blades playing days

Curtis Woodhouse is doing his best to persuade me that he isn’t the story.

But even the former Sheffield United midfielder admits his return to Bramall Lane, with Bridlington Town on Wednesday evening, is simply too good a line to ignore.

Curtis Woodhouse the manager

Curtis Woodhouse the manager

“It’s about the team,” he insists, ahead of their NCEL League Cup Final against Penistone Church. “Not the fact that I’m going to be there. But, yes, it’s going to be brilliant to be back. Everyone knows what that club means to me so, to lead the lads out there, it’s going to be a proud, proud moment.”

Woodhouse is best known for his footballing exploits, which included 121 appearances for United, and success in the boxing ring. But the 37-year-old, who was crowned British light-welterweight champion in 2014, is now busy writing another chapter in his remarkable life story.

Woodhouse took charge at Queensgate in September following spells with Sheffield FC and Goole. Languishing 16th in the table when he was appointed, Town went on to finish third before lifting the East Riding Senior Cup five days ago. Although beating Hull City was “brilliant”, this week’s game promises to be an even bigger deal.

“The only thing I’m annoyed about is the fact they’ve given us the away dressing room,” Woodhouse grins. “Then again, one of my jobs as an apprentice at United was cleaning that out so I suppose you could say I’ve come full circle.

An East Riding Senior Cup winner with assistant Ian Ashbee

An East Riding Senior Cup winner with assistant Ian Ashbee

“We’ve got a game to try and win and we’ll be giving everything to try and do that. Just like we did against Hull. But afterwards, hopefully I’ll be able to bump into some old friends and faces. It will be great to catch up.”

One of those, schedule permitting, could be Chris Wilder who led United to the League One title this term.

“I’m not surprised to see Tufty (Wilder) doing so well,” Woodhouse says. “United have needed a manager like him for a long, long time. He understands what winning is about. He knows it’s not about putting on fancy coaching sessions or drawing the most complicated diagram on a chalkboard.

“It’s about winning battles, working hard and leaving everything out there on the pitch. If you can get talented players to do that, well, it stands to reason you are going to be okay.

A pro boxing career followed his time as a football player

A pro boxing career followed his time as a football player

“Our lads have got a similar work ethic,” Woodhouse, who is assisted by City legend Ian Ashbee, continues. “They work hard, they’re fit and the team spirit is something else. All of them have really bought in to what we are trying to do.

“Take the game against Hull for example. They’re a full-time academy team but we just jumped all over them and ran them into the ground. I don’t care what level you are at, the same goes for Real Madrid or Barcelona, if you don’t work hard and put the effort in, then you won’t get anything out.”

Woodhouse progressed through the ranks at United before making his debut, against Crewe Alexandra, aged just 17. Two years later, he became their youngest ever captain before winning the first of four England under-21 caps and completing a £1 million transfer to Birmingham.

Although a series of personal issues, chronicled in his autobiography, ‘Box to Box’, ensured that potential remained unfulfilled, Woodhouse found salvation inside the squared circle before falling back in love with football.

Now, after stepping into management, Wilder’s own unconventional career path, has become a source of inspiration.

“Tufty started at the bottom and worked his way up from non-league,” Woodhouse says. “So, in a sense, I’m trying to follow him. It’s something more ex-pros who are looking to become managers should do but, to be honest, I reckon their egos stop them from doing it.

“They think :‘What if I make a mess of things here? I’ll never get a top job.’ But how about this? Take the job, don’t be afraid to make a mistake and back yourself. Believe in what you do.

“Listen, the only job you ever start at the top is digging a hole. And we all know where that leads. Here, I’m getting the best education possible. We’ve got hardly any resources. I’m the manager, the fitness guy and also the chief scout. All the bibs and cones for training are sat in the back of my car right now. But I love it, and I’m learning so much. I bet, if you ask him, Tufty will tell you exactly the same thing.”

Woodhouse, who has asked United legend Brian Deane to deliver a motivational speech in the dressing room before kick-off, wants to emulate Wilder in another way too.

“One day, it’s my dream to be Sheffield United manager,” he says.

“I’m a long way, way off that yet and I’m fully focused on Bridlington. But, one day, I want to come back and be in the home dug-out. That’s the ultimate goal for me.”

Penistone Church v Bridlington Town, NCEL League Cup Final, Wednesday, Bramall Lane, kick-off 7.30pm.

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