How Chris Wood became a Kiwi trailblazer in the Premier League

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A nation dominated by rugby, New Zealand is hardly world-renowned for its love of football, despite a growing domestic league and a national team that reached its first World Cup in nearly 30 years in South Africa ten years ago.

But one hard-working striker is doing his bit to change all that and succeeding in putting our island nation on the soccer map. Now a veteran of more than 125 Premier League appearances, Chris Wood could be fairly recognised as the finest player ever produced by our nation.

But how did the Auckland native go from plying his trade in his home nation, to strutting his stuff thousands of miles away in the world’s best club competition? In this article, we will chart the rise to stardom of one of New Zealand’s latest and greatest sporting sons.

Early days

As is the case for many aspiring young Kiwi players, Wood’s career began in the domestic leagues. After first playing football as a schoolboy, he linked up with Onehunga Sports before making the switch to join Cambridge FC, with whom he made his senior debut, despite jibes from his mates.

Wood would move on to join Hamilton Wanderers, before a switch to Waikato. His stay in Hamilton wouldn’t be for long, however, as a dream move to join West Brom would quickly materialise, offering the maturing young striker the chance to test his abilities in England.

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Understandably, opportunities with the Baggies were more difficult to come by, though Wood did manage 21 appearances for the club over the course of a four-year stay, and around loan spells with Barnsley, Brighton, Birmingham, Bristol, Millwall and Leicester.

A golden opportunity

All of these loan spells away from West Brom offered opportunities for Wood to develop his game, but constant moves made it difficult for the marksman to build any momentum. However, Leicester would make the loan switch permanent, offering a golden opportunity.

It was with Leicester that Wood’s style would start to develop. He’d make 52 appearances for the Foxes and nurture the physical qualities in his game that saw him bag his fair share of goals, but also show himself to be an excellent target man.

In football, a target man is tasked with retaining possession and holding the ball, while his teammates find their attacking shape, and then releasing a strike partner or attacking player to advance the play or creating a shooting opportunity.

Making his mark

Wood’s development wasn’t going unnoticed and a move to Leeds United would follow. Former champions, and still recognised as one of the UK’s biggest clubs, the move to Elland Road offered the Kiwi goal-getter a chance to make a real name for himself.

By now, Wood was an established New Zealand international player, helping to lead the side to the World Cup in 2010, and he continued to show great form at club level, bagging 41 goals in 83 appearances as Leeds battled to earn promotion to the Premier League.

Wood wasn’t able to achieve promotion with the Whites, but he did enough to make the step up himself, earning a move to Burnley in 2017. The Clarets quite often find themselves among the favourites for relegation in football betting markets, but Wood’s goals during the last four years have been a real difference-maker.

 

Still only 29, Wood has plenty left in the tank and will likely continue to play a role at international level for his native New Zealand. And although he will likely never scale the heights of the world’s very best players, his is a career that has set new standards for his fellow countrymen.

 

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