England make their 2022 World Cup bow today and boss Gareth Southgate has a link to Preston North End that may have gone under the radar.
All eyes are on Qatar right now and England will open their campaign against Iran at 1pm in Doha.
Gareth Southgate will be desperate to get off to a good start, especially after a disappointing UEFA Nations League campaign.
As you would imagine, there are no PNE players in the squad but one North End star does have a link to Southgate.
Goalkeeper Freddie Woodman is actually the godson of English boss Southgate.
That may sound bizarre and it’s something that maybe not everybody is aware of, but it’s absolutely true.
To explain this, we have to go back to Southgate’s playing days.
Southgate came up through the Crystal Palace youth ranks alongside Andy Woodman, who played as a goalkeeper.
The pair have been close friends ever since and even co-wrote a book called ‘Woody & Nord: A Football Friendship’ back in 2003, talking about their bond over the years.
Whilst the pair have gone on differing paths – Southgate was a Premier League regular as a player and now manages England whilst Woodman dropped into the Football League and manages Bromley – they have remained close friends.
Woodman decided to pick Southgate as Freddie’s godfather and the rest is history.
North End stopper Woodman has admitted that it’s ‘strictly professional’ with Southgate and there is no preferential treatment in the England setup.
Woodman was a regular for England at youth level but beating out the likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope and Jordan Pickford in the England squad will always be tough – even with Southgate calling the shots!
The Woodman family will have that extra bit of nervousness as Southgate leads England out today and many PNE fans will join them in cheering on the Three Lions.