My experience with Chris Wood at Brighton

A few days ago I spoke to Newcastle Chronicle Live about Chris Wood, who recently made a £25 million move to the magpies from Burnley.

More than a decade ago, I had the pleasure of managing him at Brighton, where he arrived on loan from West Bromwich Albion in the 2010/11 season. He ended up scoring 8 goals in 29 matches for me, and we finished as champions of League One.

Going from the Premier League to League One

Not many youngsters who have already played in the Premier League are prepared to drop down to League One, but Wood was keen to prove himself at Brighton.

As I said to Chronicle Live, “I’m not going to tell you names, obviously, but I had experiences with two or three other players where because I couldn’t promise them they would play – I never do – they didn’t come”. I never promise anyone that they will play.

There are different characters in football and Woody said: “I think it’s good for me”. That showed that he wanted to prove himself and challenge himself professionally and personally.

How did that season go?

There was intense competition up front between Ashley Barnes, Glen Murray and Chris Wood that season. However, Wood ended up starting three-quarters of his games at Brighton and scored eight goals in the campaign in which we were champions and gained promotion to the Championship.

Chris was still very young, very modest and shy, but he fitted perfectly with the club’s culture and the group. His work ethic was the most important thing. He had to prove himself a bit at West Brom (his parent club) and the motivation was there for him. I think that he has been a true competitor every season he has played over the years, and this is so important.

I wanted to sign him two years later

In the 2012-13 season I wanted him to come back to Brighton. Back then, when he was just 21, I knew he would be a top player. When he was with us on loan, he was a baby, but as he gradually matured, he became more clinical and braver. 

Although we couldn’t bring him back in the end, time has shown that I was right in saying he would become a top-flight footballer. I wish him the best of luck on his new adventure.