“Why would I leave here when we could be in the Premier League come May?” Not the comments you would usually associate with a player at Leeds United given their recent history, yet the much travelled Chris Wood is enjoying life at Elland Road and has been a huge part of their revival as they aim to end their 13-year Premier League exile.
So good has been the form of Wood, the Yorkshire club could have earned five times the amount they paid for the international striker, as his form caught the eye of a host of clubs last month, including Sunderland and West Ham United.
The £3 million paid to Leicester City has been one of the best pieces of business controversial owner Massimo Cellino has done at Elland Road since his arrival in 2014.
The other big plus for Cellino as far as Leeds fans are concerned is his decision to bring in former Swansea City boss Garry Monk, who is the seventh manager at the helm under the irate Italian, and it looks as though the 60-year-old has finally got it right.
Leeds United currently sit fifth in the Championship table, seven points off automatic promotion. Despite last week’s disappointing defeat to rivals Huddersfield Town, optimism remains high as Monk’s men look to extend their lead over their playoff rivals when they host former manager Neil Warnock and his Cardiff City side this weekend.
The accolades have come early for Woods who picked up the Championship Player of the Month award for January having scored six goals in four Championship games last month, including the winner against Derby County and a brace in a 3-0 victory over Rotherham.
His award follows on from December’s winner, which also went to Leeds United with the outstanding Pontus Jansson collecting the prize.
The Championship’s best player right now is also top of Europe’s goalscoring charts this year. The former West Brom and Leicester City man has seven goals in 2017 – one more than Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, Juventus ace Gonzalo Higuain and two clear of Paris St Germain’s Edinson Cavani.
Wood is a regular fixture in English football having first arrived at the age of 16 on trial with West Brom before eventually making his debut at the age of 17.
Wood, however, failed to remain a permanent fixture at the Hawthorns and made no less that six loan moves including spells at Brighton, Birmingham and Millwall before eventually signing a permanent deal at Leicester City.
The 25-year-old was the striker catching the eye as Leicester fought for promotion to the top flight just as he is today with Leeds. His goals kept out a certain Jamie Vardy, who had to make do with a place on the bench, while another striker struggling to make the breakthrough, Tottenham’s Harry Kane on loan from Spurs, sat beside him.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Wood speaks fondly of his time at Leicester and how quickly things can change in the game.
“I was in the promotion side, playing and scoring goals,” said Wood.
“Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy were on the bench. They are now the best English strikers we’ve got, it just shows how quickly football can change.”
Wood eventually left Leicester, first on loan to Ipswich Town under Mick McCarthy and then permanently to current side Leeds United.
The New Zealand International missed out on the fairytale season at the King Power where Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions, but he has no regrets over what might have been.
“Honestly? I would have been in the stands the whole time. It would have been another wasted year for me, you can’t afford those.”
Wood has certainly not wasted this season as his 21 goals in all competitions have been a huge part of Leeds United’s exciting season that appears to show that the New Zealand international has finally found his permanent home in English football.
With Leicester’s fairytale well and truly over, and last season’s champions heading towards the relegation zone, Wood could possibly be swapping places with former teammate Jamie Vardy once again, and he will be hoping his chance in the Premier League has finally arrived.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena