For Chris Wood, the combination of a “massive opportunity at a massive club”, and a desire to test himself outside his comfort zone sealed his sensational switch to Newcastle United.
The deal was confirmed on Thursday morning (UK time), with Newcastle forking out an estimated £25 million ($50m) for the Burnley striker.
It’s a huge blow for the Clarets but Newcastle were prepared to meet the release clause in Wood’s contract, which left the final decision up to the player.
Speaking in front of a large English press pack, Wood admitted it had been a
“whirlwind” couple of days.
“It was a very quick turnaround,” said Wood. “On my way home from training on Tuesday I got a phone call and it all started.”
That wasn’t much time to process the opportunity and Wood admitted it wasn’t an easy decision.
He had found an ideal home at Burnley, after arriving from Leeds in September 2017 for £15m, with a tight-knit, stable squad and a gameplan built around his strengths.
Wood performed beyond all expectations, with a remarkable 49 goals in 144 Premier League games, but the Newcastle move appealed on several levels.
Wood is joining a significantly bigger club, in terms of fanbase and crowds. Newcastle’s average crowd is 50,000 this season, compared with 18,000 at Burnley, and the new Saudi-backed owners are expected to invest heavily in the coming years.
It’s also a fanatical footballing city, with a long tradition of iconic centre forwards.
Above all, Wood said gut instinct told him it was the right call, to fulfil his ultimate potential.
“I’ve been at Burnley for four-and-a-half years,” said Wood. “I was very comfortable, very happy and settled there. But when I look at myself, I think nothing great ever happens in your comfort zone. I’m a firm believer you have to get out of your comfort zone to achieve greatness.
“There’s no illusion that this is going to be a big challenge for me [but] it could potentially be great for me and great for the club. It’s a massive opportunity and a massive club and something that I couldn’t turn down.”
His move, probably against Burnley’s wishes, was possible due to the release clause inserted into his revised contract in 2019.
“I don’t think anybody thought that this would ever be triggered,” said Wood. “But that’s the way football can be at times.”
It’s a massive outlay, reportedly the largest fee paid for a striker aged 30 or over in Premier League history, and some prominent football commentators, including former England striker Gary Lineker, have questioned the price.
“If that’s what Newcastle feel I was worth at this point in time, that’s how it is,” argued Wood, who will also be on significantly enhanced financial terms.
“You never know, in six months’ time you could be looking back saying it’s a great deal. It doesn’t really bother me, the number. I’ve still got the same challenge and the same drive to work hard.”
Wood is ready to embrace the challenge and expectation of being Newcastle’s saviour, with main striker Callum Wilson sidelined for two months and few other options up front.
“There’s pressure no matter what,” said Wood. “No matter what team you’re involved in.”
He said there was “no bad blood” with Burnley, though conceded his departure to join a relegation rival wasn’t ideal timing.
“To be honest, I wish I left when Burnley are further up the league but that’s just how it is,” said Wood.
He also reaffirmed his commitment to the All Whites, despite the importance of the role he is walking into, and still intends to feature at March’s Oceania World Cup qualifying tournament in Qatar.
“[Newcastle] know how passionate I am about playing for my national team,” said Wood.
Wood has signed until the end of the 2023-24 campaign and confirmed he would honour his contract, even if Newcastle failed to avoid the drop this season.
He might get a chance to make an instant impact, as Newcastle (19th) host Watford (17th) this weekend (Sunday 4am NZT).
Norwich City (10 points) are bottom of the Premier League with Newcastle and Burnley (11 points) only separated by goal difference, though the Clarets have games in hand.
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