Burnley striker Chris Wood on surviving the cut-throat football industry after emigrating as a youngster

Chris Wood feels his venturous start to life as a footballer has helped him become the player he is today.

By Dan Black
Friday, 30th April 2021, 10:30 pm

The Burnley striker - now the club's all-time record goalscorer in the Premier League - upped sticks and left his home in New Zealand to pursue a career in football as a teenager.

The Auckland-born forward travelled thousands and thousands of miles from his homeland to start a new life alongside his mum, Julie, in England.

The Kiwi had made a name for himself at ASB Premiership club Waikato FC, having also played for Onehunga Sports, Cambridge FC and Hamilton Wanderers, and was invited for a two-week trial with West Brom.

Chris Wood of Burnley celebrates after scoring their side's third goal and his hat trick during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at Molineux on April 25, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England.

"My coach back in New Zealand, Roger Wilkinson, had contacts over in England, at West Brom, so that's how they organised the trial," he said.

“I left at 15, 16 to move over to the UK with my mum to try and forge a career. At the time I didn’t think it was that big a deal, I was just going over to play football in a different country.

"It makes you grow up very quickly, it makes you ready for the real world. It's a cut-throat business so they will get rid of you if you're not ready for it.

"You see that year-on-year with the scholarship programme and in the under 23s. They just keep moving things along so it is a tough business to be in.

Chris Wood of Burnley scores their team's first goal past Rui Patricio of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at Molineux on April 25, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England.

"Luckily I came over, had a two-week trial and I was offered a scholarship at the end of it. From there it just started to take off, which was nice."

Wood's roll of the dice didn't land on a six immediately, but he started progressing up the ladder within his first 12 months with the Baggies.

The striker was prolific at youth level, which earned a promotion to the reserve setup, and then, just over 12 years ago, he was handed his senior debut by Tony Mowbray.

Wood replaced James Morrison with 15 minutes remaining in a 2-2 draw against Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

He said: “Looking back now, giving up a lifestyle, a family, is extremely difficult and I owe a lot to my parents.

"The living situation wasn't too bad because my Mum moved over with me. I still had all my home comforts so that was a big thing when you're moving across the world because it's something familiar.

"I had somebody there that I could talk to. It took me a good six months to even break into the youth team, but moving towards the 12-month mark was when I started to really put my stamp on football.

"I was scoring goals for the youth team and then I went into the reserves. Then I was lucky enough for Tony Mowbray to give me my debut."

Wood's father, Grant, was the man who inspired his pathway into the game, but it was elder sister Chelsey who would spark a harvest of love.

The pair enjoyed a very supportive relationship growing up. Chelsey started out watching from the sidelines before the siblings joined forces.

They played for the same side and would train together in the back garden of their family home. And, in the end, they were both fortunate enough to represent their country.

Wood said: "My Dad was the one who inspired me to play football. Then, once I'd started playing football, Chelsey joined in because she was always at my training sessions.

"She had been sitting on the sidelines watching but then she thought 'if you can't beat them, join them!' She played alongside me from when I was about five and we played in the same team until she was 13.

"We had a great time growing up together, playing together and we used to train in the back garden together. We had great fun.

"She is my biggest admirer on the football pitch, she's my closest friend and we're in contact daily. We love to catch up and see how each other's worlds are going. It's nice in that sense."