Photo by Mark D Fuller
BRENTFORD’S new £1million man Ryan Woods has been dubbed “the Ginger Pirlo” – and he’d love to have a career half as good as the Italian legend.
Woods started his Football League career as a right-back but over the course of Mickey Mellon’s reign at Shrewsbury was nurtured into one of the brightest talents outside the top flight.
So much so, West Ham had two bids turned down for the highly-rated 21-year-old in January after Woods shone in a Capital One Cup clash against Chelsea.
At the time the Shrews were chasing a League Two promotion place and Mellon was reluctant to let his prize asset – who had already been compared to the majestic former Italy international Andrea Pirlo by doting fans – leave.
But after playing an instrumental role in Shrewsbury’s route back to League One, Woods moved one step closer to fulfilling his nickname with a big-money switch to the Bees on transfer deadline day, signing a three-year contract.
“I’ve watched Pirlo a lot more since the nickname came around,” said Woods, who made 51 appearances in all competitions last season. “He’s a great player, and he’s obviously an influence, but I’ve got more legs than him now! But seriously, if I can be half the player he is, I will have had a great career.”
But it wasn’t always clear that Woods would turn out to be a midfield maestro.
“Luckily I managed to get a chance in the Football League as a right-back and I managed to do well there,” he said. “I played a lot of games there in the 2013-14 season and, towards the end of it, when I had a little bit more experience, I played 12 to 13 games in midfield and I have never looked back.
“Micky Mellon put me in that position and I just hope that I can keep playing well at Brentford.
“I can definitely bring tempo into a game. I like to get the ball from anywhere, and look to bring other players into play and move it as quick as I possibly can. That is what I will bring to the club.”
Woods’ career started at local club Norton Cairns before he was scouted by Aston Villa and Birmingham City. However, the diminutive playmaker eventually ended up at boyhood club Walsall and he jumped at the chance to prove his worth at the Banks’s Stadium.
However, 5ft 8ins Woods was dropped at the age of 15 in an all-too-familiar English tale of being told he was too small.
“You only have to look at the best players in the world. Lionel Messi is shorter than I am, Andres Iniesta is not the biggest and neither is Xavi,” added Woods, who made his Brentford debut last week in their 1-1 draw at Leeds.
“They’re all great players and none of them are that much bigger than 5ft 9ins. You do not need to be tall to play football.
“Looking back, being released from Walsall was probably the best thing that happened to me because, since I joined Shrewsbury at 15, I like to think it has made me become the player I am today.”
by Shona Duthie