Munich - Tony Woodcock is and remains one of the few Englishmen to have forged a successful career in the Bundesliga, netting 39 goals in 131 appearances over two spells with 1. FC Köln before concluding his career with Fortuna Köln, where he later took over as manager.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the former England international recounts his motivation for moving to Germany's top flight from reigning European Champions Nottingham Forest in 1979, the rise of German football to one of Europe's most popular leagues and his affection for his former club 1. FC Köln.
bundesliga.com: How do you think the Bundesliga title race will shape up this season?
Tony Woodcock: These are early days still. Borussia Dortmund look a really hungry group of players that wants to achieve things after winning it the last two seasons. And then there is Bayern Munich, who you can never write off, particularly after last season when they came so close to winning the Champions League. All top teams come back strongly, so I'd imagine they will be there or thereabouts as well.
bundesliga.com: You left England in 1979 to move to 1. FC Köln. What first attracted you to playing in the Bundesliga?
Tony Woodcock: It had always been at the back of my mind to play in a different country. One reason for that was that it wasn't done very often by Englishmen and, secondly, I wanted to see a new country and learn a new language. I was still playing with my hometown club so moving abroad was an opportunity to grasp with both hands. I chose Germany because it was the strongest league in Europe at the time and had some of the best players. The Bundesliga was the place to be.
bundesliga.com: What did you like about living in Germany?
Tony Woodcock: Players didn't tend to move abroad in those days, so it was a massive leap if you did. The game wasn't better or worse, it was just different. In England, I'd been playing two games a week virtually all season, whereas I was now playing once a week with a winter break, but training even harder. I stayed there for many years after I stopped playing and I still have friends there today, so it stands to reason that I obviously got on very well with the fans in Germany.
bundesliga.com: How far do you think the Bundesliga has come since your time playing there?
Tony Woodcock: Well 2006, when new stadiums were built for the FIFA World Cup, was a big turning point. If you have a really nice stadium with all sorts of facilities inside it, you make going to a Bundesliga game a real event. Since 2006 we've seen fantastic stadiums and even bigger crowds and Dortmund now have one of the highest average attendances in Europe. Things have come on leaps and bounds since then.
bundesliga.com: How has that helped the German national team in your opinion?
Tony Woodcock: Germany have always had great players in the past. I think in 2006, however, they didn't have as many big stars, so they drafted in a lot of younger players and changed the style slightly to a more pressing game and a strong work ethic - and it's worked for them. They now have a conveyor belt of bringing young players through and that's great for the Bundesliga too.
bundesliga.com: What do you think other leagues can learn from the Bundesliga?
Tony Woodcock: You have to look at the infrastructure and how clubs are run. With the license system in Germany, you may only spend a certain amount of money. As we know from England, rich owners come in and spend millions to buy success, which isn't the case in Germany. They're well-known for being organised and doing things properly. Europe has seen this and noticed that a successful Bundesliga has produced a successful German national team.
bundesliga.com: Finally, a quick word on 1. FC Köln, where you played for many years. Do they have what it takes to bounce straight back into the Bundesliga?
Tony Woodcock: It was disappointing that the board of creditors resigned last season. Cologne fans are positive and forward-thinking. The attitude that the club now has of blooding younger players to get them back into the Bundesliga is a good one. They now have Toni Schumacher there, who I've known for many years, so I'm hoping he can do a good job. I would love them to bounce straight back up but it's not going to be an easy season for them.
Interview by Bernie Reeves
Tony Woodcock and his German business partner Sven Ehricht give talks, lectures and seminars to managers and young entrepreneurs teaching Intercultural Management, Motivation, Leadership and Teamwork. Tony discusses the parallels and differences between "England & Germany in Football & Business" and reflects on the factors that turned his Nottingham Forest from underdogs to European champions. See the related links on the right of this page for more information.