Chris Wood has credited the best season of his career to Garry Monk’s management and “players who believe in me” after surging clear at the top of the Championship’s goalscoring charts.
Wood said it was “hard to put my finger on the exact thing” that had transformed his finishing this season but admitted the unwavering faith of Monk had helped him to climb towards 30 goals.
The New Zealand forward scored his 26th and 27th of the term in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Brighton, signing off for the international break with another match-winning performance.
Wood has benefited from a largely injury-free year, missing only two games with minor hamstring and calf strains, and Monk’s willingness to persist with him in the early stages of the season allowed the 25-year-old to come through a slow start.
The forward, who joined Leeds from Leicester City in 2015, scored 13 times in his first season at Elland Road but the campaign was widely viewed as a difficult one for him, affected by repetitive hamstring problems and questions about his finishing.
Speaking ahead of New Zealand’s World Cup qualifiers against Fiji, Wood said: “A lot of people have asked me what’s changed this season and it’s hard to put my finger on the exact thing.
Having that faith from the manager is huge in football. That’s what you need, that’s what you strive for.Leeds United striker, Chris Wood
“The thing I believe I put it down to is having a manager and team - as in the players - who have believed in me. The manager’s backed me 100 per cent and the players have got round me and know what I can do. They’ve seen it in training and they knew I could do it on the Saturday. They’ve backed me completely.
“Having that faith from the manager is huge in football. That’s what you need, that’s what you strive for. If you’ve got the backing of your manager you go so much further.”
Wood has scored almost half of United’s Championship goals this term and his form negated the effect of Leeds’ failure to add another forward to their squad in either the summer or January transfer windows.
Marcus Antonsson, who joined from Swedish club Kalmar in June, has struck once in the league and last started a Championship fixture in September. Kemar Roofe has two to his name and Souleymane Doukara is Leeds’ second-highest scorer with five.
Monk has fielded Wood as a lone centre-forward for all but a handful of matches in the first month of the term and the forward said the intensity of a campaign in which Leeds will play more than 50 times had allowed him to establish a reliable rhythm.
“We play 46 league games and we’ve already had six cup matches this season,” Wood said. “We play over 50 games a year so it’s very tolling and taxing on the players but if you can get into a little roll and a little routine and it ticks over, it shows you can do really well.”
Wood was named as New Zealand captain for back-to-back clashes with Fiji and is expected to play in both matches on Saturday and Tuesday.
Monk admitted he would have preferred to have his international contingent at Thorp Arch this week but United’s head coach said: “You want international players. It means they’re doing well in their club football.”