Wood’s a beast now – take a bow,Beatts!

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - Adam Virgo

BE­FORE this sea­son, watch­ing Chris Wood al­ways re­minded me of play­ing along­side Dele Ade­bola at Coven­try. Dele was the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. But some­times you just wanted to shove a rocket up his back­side and say ‘Come on, look at the size of you’. He was about 15 stone but never threw it around.

What made it so frus­trat­ing was that, on the rare oc­ca­sions he did get an­gry, he was an ab­so­lute an­i­mal. To­tally un­playable.

I bet Wood’s team­mates had sim­i­lar feel­ings at times. Phys­i­cally, the New Zealand in­ter­na­tional had ev­ery­thing, but it never seemed to trans­late into goals.

This sea­son, though, it all seems to have clicked for the 25year-old. Last week­end’s dou­ble in the 2-0 vic­tory over Brighton took Wood to 27 for the sea­son. He’s not just the high­est scorer in the Cham­pi­onship, he’s the high­est scorer in Eng­land.

And it’s that as­pect of his game – be­ing ag­gres­sive, be­ing phys­i­cal and us­ing his size – that seems to be the main dif­fer­ence.

He’s win­ning bat­tles with cen­tre-halves. When the cross comes into the box now, he’s tak­ing out the man to win the ball. De­fend­ers are look­ing at him and think­ing ‘I don’t fancy this’.

So what’s be­hind the change? For starters, Leeds man­ager Garry Monk and his first-team coach James Beat­tie de­serve a lot of credit.

The im­pact of Beatts, who scored 96 Premier League goals and won five Eng­land caps, is ob­vi­ous.

Like Chris, he wasn’t a fan­tas­tic tech­ni­cian but he had the power, strength and in­tel­li­gence to com­pen­sate. What he’s done is show Chris how to use those at­tributes.

I spoke to him at the Sut­ton game and, while he’s cagey in terms of what he says pub­licly, both he and Garry are de­lighted with Wood’s progress.

De­lighted

Just as im­por­tantly, Garry has built the side around his star striker. Wood may be scor­ing the goals but there’s an enor­mous amount of run­ning and work go­ing on to feed him.

There are no prima don­nas at El­land Road now, just young play­ers with a point to prove. Peo­ple like Liam Brid­cutt, who had a great sea­son at Brighton, then went to Sun­der­land and it didn’t work out. Pon­tus Janssen, who wasn’t wanted by Torino. Kyle Bart­ley, Pablo Her­nan­dez.

Chris Wood is a per­fect case in point. He’s had seven loan moves since join­ing West Brom in 2009. A big-money move to Le­ices­ter didn’t work out.

Ques­tions have al­ways been asked. Is he re­ally a 20-goal-asea­son striker? Why has he had so many moves? Is he over­hyped?

But the fact is, he’s never been in a side that played to his strengths. There’s never been a pe­riod of his ca­reer where he’s been the No.1 striker at a club.

He’s never had a man­ager who says ‘If you’re fit, you play’. It makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence, es­pe­cially as a striker. It’s a po­si­tion that is all about con­fi­dence. Garry, who is an ex­cel­lent man­man­ager, knew that if he made Wood his fo­cal point, goals would fol­low.

The flip side is that, if Leeds lose him, it’s a huge prob­lem. But you could say that about half the clubs in the coun­try. Dwight Gayle at New­cas­tle, Glenn Mur­ray at Brighton, for in­stance

And what’s wrong with re­ly­ing on a player? Ar­gentina won the World Cup in 1986 by build­ing the team around Maradona.

If you’ve got some­one who can hit the back of the net as reg­u­larly as Wood is, it’s a gam­ble worth tak­ing.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

WOOD YOU BE­LIEVE IT? Chris Wood has finally come good, thanks in part to James Beat­tie, Inset bot­tom left. Inset top left, Dele Ade­bola

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