When Newcastle United were taken over by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund worth £320bn, few Magpies fans will have had New Zealand striker Chris Wood at the top of their January transfer wish list. Instead, the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland will have been the most wanted targets on Tyneside. Nevertheless, with the club still heavily embroiled in a relegation scrap, Wood’s £25m arrival from rivals Burnley could prove a masterstroke by boss Eddie Howe.
Reports had suggested that Burnley had no intention of selling their leading scorer to a relegation rival. However, Newcastle has a sufficient war chest that enabled them to meet Wood’s substantial £25m release clause. Wood joins on a two-and-a-half-year contract at St James’ Park and insisted he was “delighted” to be given the “chance to represent this club” and play in front of United’s “incredible supporters”.
Callum Wilson’s latest injury blow means Wood was a key signing
The final third is certainly one area of the pitch that the Magpies have targeted heavily during this month’s transfer window. Callum Wilson has an indifferent fitness record at best and his inability to play the entire season has cost Newcastle dear in the last 18 months. A fresh calf problem looks set to keep Wilson out for another six-to-eight weeks, which forced the club’s hierarchy to act. Boss, Howe clearly wants more physicality, but he stated that Wood was also a “character that [he] really liked”.
Character is certainly going to be a buzzword in and around St James’ Park between now and May. The Magpies will need it in abundance if they are to avoid the humiliation of relegation to the second tier despite an exciting takeover. Before the replacement of former boss Steve Bruce with new manager Howe, few serious punters that bet on football would have touched Newcastle with a bargepole in the match outcome markets. However, the talented coach has reignited the spark in the Magpies and despite winning just one game all season they still have a sniff of climbing out of that bottom three.
Wood scored 49 goals in 144 appearances for Burnley and was an integral part of Sean Dyche’s team and, more importantly, the way the team played. At 6ft 3”, Wood is a physical specimen and provides an aerial threat as well as being adept with the ball at his feet. Although Wood may lack the pace and acceleration of Callum Wilson, his presence at the fulcrum of the Newcastle attack may provide a better foil for the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser to playoff.
Howe himself said that he’s always been a fan of “tall physical strikers” because they “give [teams] a platform to play”. Howe also used some previous game statistics to prove his working behind Wood’s arrival. He stated that the team put in 30 crosses into the opposition penalty area in their last game. Howe insisted the team was “crying out for somebody with his strengths”.
Wood is now 30 years of age. He will be fully aware that this is likely to be his last big move in the top-flight. This means he will be hugely motivated to try and keep the Magpies in the Premier League this term. Wood also has experience of being in a team that’s so often played – and thrived – with its backs to the wall at Turf Moor. Howe believes that playing in the white-hot St James’ Park atmosphere will not “be new to him or faze him”.
Wood himself admitted that he never envisaged the £25m release clause at Burnley being bought out by Newcastle. The New Zealander said he “knew the clause was sitting there” but had no idea a club would be prepared to stump up the cash. Wood added that it could yet look “a great deal” if he can score the goals to fire Newcastle to a Premier League resurrection.