Woodgate relishing chance to retain trophy

LONDON - Tottenham Hotspur's patched-up defender Jonathan Woodgate is hoping their resilience against the 'big teams' this season means the holders can triumph over Manchester United in Sunday's League Cup final.

"We play well against the big teams, we've proved that this year. Maybe we are the underdogs but we don't mind that," said Woodgate whose extra-time headed goal clinched a 2-1 victory over strong favourites Chelsea in last year's final.

"Getting the winner was a great feeling. It was a great moment in my career," Woodgate told reporters at the club's training ground ahead of the match. "You want to win as many competitions as you can and I haven't done that.

"There is a lot more pressure on us this year to do it and a lot of players thrive under pressure," added the 29-year-old who lifted the first major trophy of his career last year when Spurs picked up their first silverware since a 1999 League Cup win.

Woodgate, who has had a chequered career plagued by injury and a much publicised conviction for affray, was playing only his fifth game for Spurs after moving from Middlesbrough but has since become the rock in their sometimes porous defence.

Sporting six large stitches across his forehead after a nasty collision with team mate Vedran Corluka in Monday's vital Premier League win at Hull City, he was looking forward to another Wembley final this time against the league champions.


Spurs are 13 places below Premier League leaders United, who are still on track to win five trophies this season.

But while United manager Alex Ferguson said he would start with youngsters such as Darron Gibson and Danny Welbeck, his Spurs counterpart Harry Redknapp, who has several players injured or cup-tied, will put out the best side he can muster.

Woodgate said United would be tough whoever they select for the first major final featuring the two famous teams.

"They're an exceptional bunch of players, every single one, even the young players who come in they're brilliant and they've got the (winning) mentality running all the way through the club," he said.

"I think Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs have been exceptional for them and they must be learning off them and there couldn't be anyone better to learn off than those three. They will probably win the European Cup this year as well."

Woodgate, who has also played for Leeds United, Newcastle United, Real Madrid and England, said his move to London from Middlesbrough a year ago had not yet felt like a step up.

"I think when you look at it on paper it has been a step up but if you look at the way we've played it hasn't really been much of a step up if I'm going to be honest," he said.

But he still harbours high hopes that Tottenham can be successful in the future starting at Wembley on Sunday.

"The club is trying to move in the right direction. The potential is there to do it and we've got the right manager in charge."