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Young Newcastle star ‘My Grandad was the hero’

6 years ago

Good to see the young England players appreciating a turning point in history ahead of their game against France on Tuesday, the Under 19 squad visiting the Normandy beaches  and Newcastle United’s Freddie Woodman giving the term ‘Hero’ some real perspective.

Visiting the beach at Arromanches which was a scene of part of the D-Day landings during the Second World War, was particularly poignant for the young Newcastle keeper.

Woodman’s grandfather, Leslie Bates, was a 19 year old sailor on a minesweeper at the time of the 1944 D-Day landings.

Speaking to the official FA website, Freddie Woodman:

“When I found out where our matches were taking place I said to our team administrator that I had to go to Normandy.

“It is such a big thing for my family and I knew it would have meant a lot to me to go there, which it did.

“To stand on the beach where my grandad had fought during the war is something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. I sent him a photo of me on the beach and he sent me a message back saying he was proud of me. Just him saying that to me meant a lot.

“It’s really weird to think that I’m here playing football for my country and my grandad was here fighting for his country not so long ago.

“But there is no comparison – he is the hero of my family. A lot of my family have gone on to have good careers in different areas but he’s the person we all look up to.”

“I can’t even imagine what must have happened on those beaches”

Something to cherish:

“The stories he has told me about the war are something I’ll cherish forever. They are out of this world.

“When he went to war he was pretty much the same age as me now and I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. My whole family are really proud of him.

“I always commemorate Remembrance Day with him and I carry a photo of my nan and grandad with me wherever I go.

“Deep down, that’s what it’s all about. I play football for my family, to make them proud.”


“It was really emotional being there, trying to think about what must have happened here on 6 June [1944].

“All the lads found it really interesting. To have been to one of the most famous landmarks in history is something that we shouldn’t take lightly. And it’s amazing to think that it actually wasn’t that long ago.

“I can’t even imagine what must have happened on those beaches. We’ve seen photos and seen a few film clips but I can’t describe what it must have been like.

“A few of the lads were asking each other what they would have done if they were a soldier at the time, but we couldn’t really say. We can’t put ourselves in that situation. No one should ever have to go through that.

“All the lads were saying ‘how can anyone our age go to war?’ They couldn’t comprehend it.

“But we’re just footballers. People like my grandad are the real heroes.”


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