CHRIS WOOD is not a man easily fazed. Which, considering he yesterday became Leeds United’s most expensive signing since Terry Venables lured Nick Barmby to West Yorkshire 13 long years ago, is perhaps just as well.
Ditto the 23-year-old striker opting to turn down advances from elsewhere in the Championship to join a club that has made far more negative headlines than positive ones over the past year or so.
“Of course, I had my thoughts about what happened last season and the way the club was run and things like that,” admitted Wood yesterday when speaking to The Yorkshire Post hours after putting pen to paper on a four-year contract. “But I did my homework and made sure I was at the right place for me. It was the biggest move of my career and I didn’t want to take things lightly.
“I spoke to the manager (Uwe Rosler) and Massimo (Cellino, owner). What they were saying blew me away. As soon as I got things into my head, I was on the phone to the manager that I wanted to be here and they struck the deal quickly.”
United’s successful pursuit of Wood happened so swiftly that it even took Rosler by surprise. “I didn’t realise it would be possible to make a transfer like Chris Wood,” said the German at Thorp Arch. “But with the help of Mr Cellino, it has happened.”
Wood, whose fee could rise as high as £3m from the initial outlay of a little under £2m, is an impressive signing.
A striker with a pedigree of scoring goals in the Championship, the Kiwi is at an age when his best years are firmly ahead of him. He also, as Rosler stressed yesterday, fits into the United head coach’s preferred formations.
“What makes it very interesting for us is Chris is already proven at this level,” said the German about a striker who, first, made his mark in the second tier with Millwall before moving to Leicester City in January, 2013, for £2m.
“To play up front in the Championship at such a young age was very impressive. Obviously, his goalscoring attributes speak for themselves.
“But I prefer 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 and I believe Chris can play both systems. He can play alone up front, too, with his physicality. He has that in abundance. We have to learn how to use that, he is big so we have to play big. Chris also has finishing skills and is a link player. We will be able to move the ball up, as he can hold the ball under pressure.”
Wood made 17 appearances last season, the last eight of which came while on loan at Ipswich Town. He had been recalled by Leicester before the Tractor Boys reached the play-off final but there was no doubting the impact the striker made at Portman Road.
It was enough to attract the attention of Wolverhampton Wanderers, another unnamed Championship club and Leeds this summer. And it was the Yorkshire club who won the race, in the process making Wood their biggest signing since Barmby arrived in August 2002 from Liverpool for £2.75m.
“Of course there is pressure, but it is a nice sort of pressure,” said the New Zealand international when asked about the fee.
“Leeds are backing me. But, of course, I feel like I back myself in the Championship. It might not happen overnight and I will have to gel with the team.
“But I want to be successful and the club to be successful. We are on the same page and I hope we get up there.”
Julian Darby has joined United’s backroom staff as first team coach and, along with Rosler and Rob Kelly, was putting the squad through their paces yesterday at Thorp Arch.