FOR the first time since he was famously 12th man for Tottenham in 1955, ex-York City favourite Alan Woods will be cheering on the opposition at Bootham Crescent this afternoon.

Woods' grandson Michael will be in the Hartlepool side taking on the Minstermen today, having resurrected a career that has been ravaged by injury following the £5million move that saw him and then team-mate Tom Taiwo move from Leeds to Chelsea at the age of 16.

The former Dunnington juniors' midfielder also scored 15 goals in 27 caps for England from under-16 to U20 level and started all the Three Lions' matches at the 2007 FIFA U17 World Cup in South Korea, where he lined up against the likes of Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos and shared a dressing room with the likes of Danny Welbeck, Danny Rose and former Minsterman Ashley Chambers.

Cruciate knee ligament damage that kept him sidelined at Chelsea for 18 months and other problems, though, saw Woods' prospects nosedive and he was almost on the verge of retirement from the full-time game at the age of 24 when he was selling maggots at his father's York Tackle shop in Badger Hill while playing semi-professional football for Harrogate Town.

A trial with Hartlepool led to a route back into the Football League, however, last summer and he managed 27 appearances during a season that was curtailed in February when he suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle following a challenge by City defender Dave Winfield, who was on loan with Wimbledon at the time.

After a summer spent regaining full fitness, Woods has started in back-to-back victories for Hartlepool at the start of the new campaign and his proud grandad would like that winning run to continue as he watches the match alongside a fellow member of the Minstermen's 1964/65 promotion-winning squad Gerry Baker.

Woods was 17 and in the away dugout when he saw Tottenham humbled by City's legendary Happy Wanderers side on their way to the FA Cup semi-finals 60 years ago.

He later racked up 259 appearances with York, where he still lives, but family ties will prove stronger come 3pm at the stadium he called home for six seasons.

"It's probably the first time I'm going to Bootham Crescent wanting York to lose since that 1955 game," Woods, now 78, admitted. "Whilst occasions like this are a bit difficult, I'd love to see Michael get a hat-trick after all he's been through and it will certainly be a bit special seeing him play at Bootham Crescent before it gets knocked down, which will be a very sad day."

Like Michael, Alan had to overcome adversity before going on to have a good career in the game and he has been proud of his grandson's refusal to throw in the towel, saying: "He has felt really down once or twice and thought about jacking it in because, with long-term injuries, you start thinking how am I ever going to recover. But I told him not to because, the following week, you'll probably be feeling differently and, like I did, he loves playing.

"I'm sure he can go on and play as many professional games as I did. I hurt my back and was invalided out of the army during my national service.

"Tottenham then sent me to a specialist and, after just three or four minutes, he told me my back wouldn't stand up to professional football and the club released me. I promised myself I would play again even if it killed me.

"Ron Burgess, the former Tottenham captain, gave me a chance to prove my fitness at Swansea and my back was fine for the rest of my career."

Hartlepool were unhappy with Winfield's tackle last term but Woods is not one to hold a grudge with his granddad reasoning: "He didn't think it was a fair challenge to be honest but that's part of football.

"Those that can't play try to stop those who can. Jeff Stelling was celebrating a Hartlepool victory on Sky Sports and it was the last result to come in, but Matt Le Tissier then said the long delay might mean one of their players was injured.

"We just knew then, with his luck, it would be Mike and, sure enough, it was."

Michael, who went to school in Skelton and Pocklington, played for a Dunnington juniors teams that once went a while season unbeaten and, although his home-town club never made an approach, Leeds scouts did and he joined the Elland Road club as a schoolboy.

It was his grandfather, though, who first recognised his potential during a visit to a summer fayre at the age of five.

"There was one of those big boards with five holes in it to kick a ball through," the ex-City wing-half recalled. "I told him to pick a hole and he went for the one in the top right-hand corner and kicked it straight through without touching the sides to win himself a football and another free go.

"He then won another one for his cousin with his next kick and people were queuing up, saying: 'How do we follow that'?

"I had a few goes and couldn't do it, but it was easy for him."

Woods dismissed the seven-figure sum that Chelsea shelled out eight-and-a-half years ago for Michael and Taiwo, who is now plying his trade at Falkirk in the Scottish Championship, as "daft", but believes the education he received rubbing shoulders with some of the world's best players at Stamford Bridge was invaluable.

During his two FA Cup outings for the Blues, Michael played alongside the likes of Ashley Cole, Andrei Shevchenko, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba.

Alan, meanwhile, made just six appearances for Tottenham before eventually establishing himself with City following sporadic opportunities at Swansea.

But, on the importance of such groundings, the latter said: "You need natural ability to succeed in all sports but I think, with clubs like Tottenham and Chelsea, you learn what not to do as well. The best players are at the best clubs and generally do what's right."

With Alan's son and Michael's uncle Neil, who is now youth-team coach at Walsall, having ended his pro career with the Minstermen in 1999 following stints at the likes of Doncaster, Glasgow Rangers and Ipswich, the football world is now waiting for what a fourth generation of the Woods family might herald.

"We've not got one coming through yet, but who knows," the 1960s stalwart smiled.