However much of the finger pointing at Gary Waddock was justified before Wanderers’ former manager had his reign abruptly ended in September, amongst a batch of dubious summer signings, he unearthed a real gem in Sam Wood.
Of the July arrivals, Richard Logan must rank as one of the all-time Wycombe Wanderers transfer bloopers (only slightly negated by the fact he arrived on a free), Dennis Oli has looked quite simply dire, Lee Angol has barely featured, and Matt Spring has looked less the midfield dynamo as portrayed by fans of Leyton Orient, more a disinterested journeyman. Meanwhile club captain Gary Doherty is spending most of his time on the treatment table after injury. Doherty exempted, it doesn’t look pretty.
Yet beneath all the mediocrity and all the dross (and sadly, there was a sizeable amount under Waddock) has emerged a player who is rapidly becoming a fans’ favourite – a rare breed for chairboys and girls alike amidst an almost revolving door of often faceless players who’ve set foot on the hallowed Adams Park turf over the past few years.
Sam Wood is quite simply, Wycombe’s Mr Consistency and we are very lucky to have him. Signed under the noses of AFC Wimbledon Wood had already proved himself in the past, and at a higher level. in particular under Andy Scott and Brentford where he developed a glowing reputation as an extremely solid, versatile, and dependable player, equally at home at full back or in midfield, and with a sparkling left foot. Arguably the high point of his career thus far came in the 2008-2009 season where not only did he help Brentford to the League Two title (and who in High Wycombe could forget that season and in particular THAT 3-3 draw at Griffin Park?!) but also scooped several individual awards, top among them the Supporters’ Player of the Season Award. Scott’s eventual sacking by Brentford in February 2011 was unfortunate for Wood, who never quite regained his place in the side but still impressed during a loan spell at Scott’s new side, Rotherham.
Having been released by Brentford at the end of last season, picking up such a useful player (and for free) was a no brainer and a decision which could ironically prove to be one’s of Waddock’s cleverest, even if he won’t be around the reap the benefits. Such has been Wood’s impact – despite an injury spell – that the sight of him bombing up and down the left hand touchline, whether at left back on or the left wing is now almost ubiquitous. He’s technically very competent, with a good range of passing, and occasionally exquisite left foot capable of dangerous crossing or powerful shooting. He is equally useful defensively, with a strong tackle, nurtured positional sense, and always a tricky opponent for an opposition winger.
Goals have been in short supply for Wood thus far (though having played the majority of his matches at full back this is entirely understandable) with a glorious 35 yard volley away at York on the opening day of the season providing a goal of the season contender already. His aforementioned 10 week absence through injury coincided with a huge slump in blues’ form, and it’s also no shock that his return (along with other mitigating factors of course) has seen Wanderers rise up to 3rd in the Npower League Two form table. From a personal perspective perhaps most endearing about Wood, playing in a somewhat cobbled together side of youth and experience, is his affable nature and likeability.
Not only is he as good a left-sider as this club has seen for a while, but his committed, driven nature on the pitch only serves to make him a potential real fans’ favourite. And we haven’t had too many of those in recent years. One thing’s also certain with Sam Wood – when the amateur pundits take to the internet to deliver their post-mortems after a game, he’ll always have delivered a 7/8 out of 10 performance. I can guarantee that a Sam Wood ‘nightmare’ will be a very rare beast indeed. And that above all, in fairly turbulent, ever changing times as these are for the club, is invaluable.
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