How knock on Wood receded after Fulham goal Clash drawcard for fans
You might say it was a goal that changed Chris Wood’s life.
It certainly changed his outlook on football, and propelled him towards the most important season of his football career.
The 25-year-old has scored more than 100 senior goals in English football, as well as 24 for the All Whites, only behind Vaughan Coveny on the New Zealand all-time list.
Wood has been in England for almost a decade, and is a proven goal scorer across several clubs. But as a striker you are only as good as your last performance, as Wood found out at the beginning of last season.
He joined Leeds at the start of the 2015-2016 campaign, transferring from Leicester for £3 million ($5.68 million). That price tag created some pressure, and the New Zealander struggled to win over the fans, who, despite a creditable 13 goals in 36 games, focused on the chances he missed.
The next season started badly. Leeds lost 3-0 away to QPR, then endured a 2-1 defeat at home to Birmingham, with Wood substituted after the hour mark, to some noticeable booing from the Elland Road crowd.
The pressure increased exponentially as Leeds headed towards a third straight loss the following week, trailing Fulham late in a game at home.
Then Wood did something special, scoring with 94th minute an overhead kick to equalise. It jolted his — and Leeds’ season — into life.
“This was possibly the most important goal I ever scored for Leeds,” Wood told the Weekend Herald.
“It was when I was getting booed week, in week out. Even though I was top goal scorer the year before, scoring more that year then any other Leeds player did in the past three seasons. I know it wasn’t all the fans booing me but it was a good majority of them. I guess they just didn’t take a liking to how I played.”
Wood’s celebration that day was pointed, cupping his ear to the Leeds fans on the terrace, as an instant reaction to the flak he had been copping. But there was also a longer term effect, as he took stock of the way he had perceived success.
“People looked back and said it was the turning point in my Leeds career,” said Wood. “But for me it was the point I learnt that you need to stop caring about what other people think and just do it for you, your family, friends and teammates. They are the ones that support you no matter what, through highs and lows, they are always behind you.”
With a new focus, Wood had the season of his life, winning the Championship golden boot as he reached the magical 30 goal mark and subsequently secured a move to the English Premier League.
“It was a great lesson to learn and I’m happy I did,” said Wood. “Since that goal I just go out there and do my job, work hard for the team. That’s all that I can control. No point worrying about anything else because it’s all out of your control.”
All Whites’ teammate Rory Fallon has followed Wood’s career closely and recognised his difficulties. “If you are a top player you are going to get people coming at you from all angles, whether you are playing well or not. You are always in the spotlight but his spotlight is even bigger.”
That spotlight is at its most intense today, but Wood is up to the task. The All Whites are off to a winning start before they take to the Westpac Stadium for the first leg of their World Cup qualifier against Peru.
A poll on nzherald.co.nz found the majority of fans would tune into the clash in Wellington if they had to choose just one event to watch from this weekend’s bumper sporting schedule. The All Whites take on the South Americans at 4.15pm today, while the Kiwis and Tonga clash in Hamilton in a deciding Rugby League World Cup pool game from 5pm.
Tomorrow, France host the All Blacks in
Paris (8.45am NZT) with the Breakers (against the Wildcats in Perth) and Brendon Hartley (in the Brazilian Grand Prix) also in action. Just over 40 per cent of 2800 voters chose the All Whites — followed by the All Blacks (36 per cent), Kiwis (18 per cent), Hartley (5 per cent) and the Breakers (1 per cent).
TV aside, be sure to join Radio Sport for this big day. Martin Devlin will lead the build-up from 3pm, with commentary from Jason Pine, David Chote and Daniel McHardy.
Chris Wood’s 2016-17 season was spiralling into the doldrums during a game against Fulham until he scored a goal that transformed his approach.
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