Chris wood

Chris Wood: The deadliest striker in all of England’s top divisions

If you followed the English game back in the late eighties up to the early nineties, then you should remember well-decorated goalkeeper, Chris Woods, who won over 12 titles at club level. He played 43 times for the Three Lions, making a staggering 603 appearances for eight clubs of which six were English. He was so good that he didn’t concede in 1196 consecutive minutes of competitive football – which at that time was a British record.

Now 57, Woods is gracefully passing on his vast knowledge to the younger generation in the capacity of goalkeeper coach. Presently at Premier League side, West Ham, he is unarguably one of the best in the business at the moment, having previously worked at Everton, USMNT and Manchester United.

Fast forward to over two decades after his remarkable heroics between the sticks, another Chris Wood (without the letter ‘s’) is achieving even bigger things in England. Not a Briton, not even a goalkeeper, with no affiliation whatsoever with the former, the new Wood who plays as a striker is grimly carving a niche for himself with Championship side Leeds United. We take a look at his incredible journey to the summit of English football.

Humble beginnings

Wood was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1991, at a time the older Chris was at the peak of his prowess having just returned to the English top flight after a six-year stint at Rangers. Wood started his footballing conquest aged 15, playing for local sides, Cambridge FC and Waikato FC. Due to his colossal body frame, he was deployed as a goalkeeper at youth level, which is one striking similarity he shares with the older Chris aside the name.

He told Dailymail in February: “Goalkeepers are weird. No one knows this but I was a keeper when I was 13. I got stuck there one game, kept a clean sheet and liked it. I was tall and knew where strikers would shoot. But I soon realised they are a strange bunch. It wasn’t for me.”

Move to England

As a shot-stopper, Wood displayed distinct shooting and goal scoring technique, forcing his coaches to redeploy him to attack. He thrived so well in his new role that it took scouts from England barely two years to start hunting after him. He would go on to join West Brom where he spontaneously showed his rich vein of goalscoring form for the youth team. His first professional goal was a stunning 25-metre strike against Doncaster Rovers in 2009.

Frustrating loan spells

Wood’s seeming inexperience meant he had to be farmed out on loan to six different teams. First, he spent two months at Barnsley before playing at Brighton & Hove Albion for another three months. He then played for two years at Birmingham City, Bristol City, Millwall and Leicester City.

Breakthrough at Leicester

After several torrid loan times, Wood finally got an opportunity to showcase his expertise at Leicester in 2013. He finished the season with 11 goals in 24 appearances as the Foxes narrowly missed out on promotion. The following campaign, the forward managed eight goals in all competitions to help the Foxes finally gain promotion to the Premier League.

Leeds United

Wood, however, found game time difficult to come by at the King Power, forcing him to jump back to the Championship to join Leeds United. His £2.3M move to Elland Road made him the club’s record signing. And the New Zealand international didn’t disappoint. He dazzled for the Peacocks, scoring 13 goals as they finished 13th on the log. But his remarkable goalscoring prowess has been more stunning this season. The powerful forward has notched an unprecedented 28 goals in all competitions thus far. What this means is that he has accounted for about 45% of the goals scored by his team who are chasing promotion to the top flight.

How he compares to England’s top strikers

With 28 goals in all competitions this season, the 25-year-old is currently the leading goalscorer in all of England’s top four divisions, ahead of the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane, and Dwight Gayle.

“Chris is up there with the very best strikers in the division,” teammate Kyle Bartley told the Daily Star. “The way he bullies centre-halves and is an absolute nightmare to play against, he takes the pressure off the defence and gives everyone a lift.”

Whether or not the Whites secure promotion to the Premier League, the club’s no 9 is almost certain to join his namesake in the top flight next season.

About the Author Toby Prince

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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