Leeds United: Monk never understood criticism of Wood

Chris Wood.
Chris Wood.
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LEEDS United head coach Garry Monk has hailed six-up striker Chris Wood – insisting he will not judge the forward on goals alone and that former criticism of the Kiwi left him baffled.

Wood’s early-season displays were met with disapproval by large sections of the club’s fans who jeered the 24-year-old when he was substituted after 60 minutes of United’s 2-1 home defeat to Birmingham City in August.

Just three days later, Wood bagged a brilliant last-minute equaliser as an acrobatic overhead kick salvaged a 1-1 draw at home to Fulham, and the forward reacted by cupping his ear to the Kop.

Having also scored from the penalty spot in the previous mid-week’s first round EFL Cup clash at Fleetwood Town, subsequent strikes in the 2-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday plus goals in United’s last three matches has already taken Wood’s seasonal tally to six.

After being dropped to the substitutes’ bench after a disappointing 3-1 loss at Nottingham Forest, the New Zealand international came off the bench to bag the winning goal as Leeds saw off visiting Blackburn Rovers last mid-week to take United out of the Championship dropzone.

The six-foot-three forward then repeated the dose on Tuesday evening as another late strike sunk Rovers in the third round of the EFL Cup.

Wood was also on target in Saturday’s 2-0 Championship success at Cardiff City, which has Leeds eyeing the possibility of jumping into the division’s top half on Saturday should they beat Ipswich Town at Elland Road.

In-form Wood will now be one of the first names on the team-sheet, and Monk believes the early season stick Wood received was unjustified and that even allowing for his recent goal-scoring spree, there is plenty more to the targetman’s all round game.

“I am obviously pleased for him,” said Monk, reflecting on Wood’s three goals in three games and six goals in ten games this season so far.

“He came in for criticism earlier in the season which I don’t quite understand.

“His contribution in terms of goals has been very good.

“But I don’t judge him and I don’t judge the players on that, I judge on what they can contribute to the team and how they work for the team, their effort and commitment to what we do and it’s those things that I judge them on.

“Of course, with strikers, you want them to be scoring goals and you want them to be scoring goals for their confidence and they want to be scoring goals themselves.

“But I thought his all round performance in terms of his contribution to the team, along with Marcus and the other guys in the team, I thought it was a very high level. That’s really for me, as a manager, that’s what I look at and they are the reasons why we are contributing to a good turn of form at the moment.”

Wood’s early goal-scoring spree has caused Leeds-based bookmaking firm Sky Bet to slash their odds on the striker reaching 20 league goals or more during the Championship campaign.

Having been as big as 33-1 and 25-1 with the firm in the summer, Wood is now a 5-6 chance to get 20 Championship goals or more during 2016-17.

Speaking after Tuesday’s win against Blackburn, Wood was told that fans were now very hopeful of him bagging 20 goals this season, to which he smiled: “That’s not what they were saying at the start of the season. But it doesn’t matter. It’s one of those things. I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment.”

Four of Wood’s six goals so far this season have come in the league.