Big moves for Wood and Rood

There are no prizes for guessing which New Zealander claimed most of the spotlight on foreign shores over the past week – that could only be one man after All Whites striker Chris Wood ended months of speculation by securing a return to the English Premier League. But Katie Rood also had plenty to celebrate after signing her first professional contract with Italian giants Juventus.

Wood was hot property in the off season after finishing as the golden boot winner in the second-tier Championship but it was Burnley who won the race for his signature, reportedly forking out more than $26 million for his services. Burnley recently sold Andre Gray to Watford so Wood is likely to fight it out with fellow forward Sam Vokes for a starting spot and is relishing the prospect. “My ambition has been to play in the Premier League for years,” says the 25-year-old, who has already tasted top-flight life in earlier spells at West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City but is yet to start a Premier League game. “I’ve had tastes of being in there, but I’ve never had the chance to give it a proper bash. Coming here, I feel I’ve got a proper opportunity to do that.” His new manager is equally enthused to have him on board and believes the big Kiwi can kick on to become an even better player. “He’s at a very good age and I think there’s more to come,” says Burnley boss Sean Dyche. “The top level is difficult, we know that. But I think he can grow into a player who can achieve things at the top level.”

Burnley are Wood’s 10th club since leaving his native Hamilton in 2009 and starting his professional career at West Brom, for whom he made a couple of Premier League appearances off the bench. He will not be the first New Zealander to wear the claret and blue of Burnley as Cameron Howieson, who is now with Auckland City, did so in the Championship after coming through the club’s academy. Wood could make his debut overnight in the short trip to fierce local rivals Blackburn Rovers in the EFL Cup while next up in the Premier League this weekend are Tottenham Hotspur.

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Wood will then jet down under to join the All Whites for their crucial FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against the Solomon Islands and will wear the captain’s armband after skipper Winston Reid was ruled out of the squad due to injury. Reid, who recently signed a six-year contract extension with West Ham United, broke down in the warm-up before a Premier League clash against Southampton over the weekend with an ankle issue and had to be stretchered off. A replacement for Reid in Anthony Hudson’s squad will be announced later this week. The news was much better for All Whites team mate Monty Patterson, who achieved a major milestone this morning in making his debut for the Ipswich Town first team. Even more pleasingly, the youngster’s first appearance came against Premier League opposition as Ipswich visited Crystal Palace in the EFL Cup. Patterson came on for the final 10 minutes at Selhurst Park but finished on the losing side as the Eagles claimed a 2-1 win. Fellow Kiwi Tommy Smith was not involved for Ipswich as he is still recovering from the injury that ruled him out of the All Whites squad.

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Outside of the major leagues in England, Max Crocombe’s outstanding start to his time at Salford City has continued after recording his third clean sheet of the National League season in a 3-0 triumph over Kidderminster Harriers. Crocombe’s exploits earned him a place in the division’s team of the week and have helped Salford to fourth in the table as they look to continue their swift rise up through the non-league ranks. Things aren’t going quite as well for Torquay United and veteran striker Rory Fallon, who was an unused substitute in a 3-2 defeat to Guiseley.

In the women’s game, Olivia Chance is at the other end of her career and is now able to put full focus into it after turning professional with Everton. The Toffees earned promotion to the top flight of the FA Women’s Super League by claiming the Spring Series title and Chance made a significant contribution, scoring three goals after adapting quickly to her new surroundings. The 23-year-old is delighted to be returning to fulltime football after an earlier stint in Iceland and will now be looking to add to her four caps for the Football Ferns. “I’m really happy to go back to being a professional,” she says. “The Spring Series was nice to allow me to get used to England and the game here. Everyone always wants to play in the best leagues so being back in the top division is going to be a really good challenge.” Chance is set to become the second player starring at the highest level of the female English game with Football Ferns fullback Anna Green a key figure for Reading.

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Also looking to make the most of being in a professional environment is Rood, who is yet to appear for the Football Ferns but was part of the inaugural intake for the FFDP, an innovative player development programme implemented by New Zealand Football to realise the potential of the country’s brightest domestic-based female prospects. A key aim of the FFDP is to help its players pick up professional contracts overseas and, despite the programme only being established in March, it is already starting to bear fruit with Rood following in the footsteps of CJ Bott, who recently signed with German Frauen Bundesliga outfit USV Jena. The leading scorer in the history of the Women’s Knockout Cup, Glenfield Rovers star Rood travelled to Italy to pursue her dream and fulfilled it after impressing on trial for Juventus, regarded as one of the biggest clubs in the world due to the exploits of its men’s team. “People like to throw the word ‘sacrifice’ around at times like this,” she posted on social media. “I guess if you look at all the things I’ve missed out on over the years then sacrifice would be the right word. But with every sacrifice came an investment. An investment in the pursuit of the life that I hoped to one day lead. Today is the day I finally got a return on those investments.” While she is yet to appear for her country at the highest level, the 24-year-old did represent New Zealand at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2012 and will hope her move into the professional game puts her firmly on the radar of Football Ferns coach Tony Readings.

Rood isn’t the only Kiwi to have signed a contract in Europe in recent days, Dylan Burns also achieved that feat in putting pen to paper with Swedish side Hudiksvalls. Burns, 20, is no stranger to life overseas after being on the books of famous English club Nottingham Forest as a teenager but returned to New Zealand last year to play for Tasman United in their inaugural season in the ISPS Handa Premiership. He scored two goals in 15 appearances in the blue-and-white hoops – including a screamer from outside the box against Canterbury United – and will clearly be missed by Tasman, who tweeted ‘Good luck to our boy Dylan Burns, he’s a great player and will do will for you’ to his new employees.

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In the Netherlands, Marco Rojas and Michael Den Heijer are settling into their work after recently joining SC Heerenveen and NEC Nijmegen respectively. Rojas is being eased into first-team duties in the Eredivisie and has so far been restricted to two appearances off the bench. He has been influential when entering the fray on both occasions though, most recently helping Heerenveen to a 1-1 draw after coming on in the 60th minute with his side a goal down. He created a half chance to score after beating his marker on the edge of the box but blazed his effort well over the bar. One division down, Den Heijer was an unused substitute as NEC started their season with a 3-1 win over Almere City. Staying in the Dutch game, Ryan Thomas played the full match as part of a midfield three as PEC Zwolle drew 1-1 with Sparta Rotterdam to make it four points from their opening pair of Eredivisie matches.

New Zealand’s female players have also had a busy time in Europe. Football Ferns captain Ali Riley took part in all 90 minutes of FC Rosengard’s 1-0 win over Eskilstuna United while Hannah Wilkinson played 78 minutes of Vittsjo GIK’s 3-1 success against Kvarsveden as the Swedish Damallsvenskan returned. Elsewhere in Scandinavia, midfield duo Kirsty Yallop and Betsy Hassett likewise got full matches under their belts for their respective clubs. Hassett’s day ended in disappointment as KR Reykjavik were soundly beaten 3-0 by Thor/KA in the Icelandic top flight while Yallop’s Klepp battled to a scoreless stalemate against Sandviken in Norway. In France, goalkeeper Erin Nayler kept a clean sheet as Bordeaux swept aside Toulouse 2-0 in a pre-season friendly.

Across the Atlantic in the United States, the Football Ferns contingent in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) have likewise been in the thick of the action, particularly midfielder Katie Bowen. The 23-year-old struck her second goal of the season to help FC Kansas City to a 3-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars, charging forward to support Shea Groom as she broke into the box and seeing that effort rewarded by receiving a cutback, which she coolly rolled home. The only other Kiwi to collect three points was former Ferns captain Abby Erceg, who skippered North Carolina Courage to a 2-0 win over Washington Spirit. The victory extends North Carolina’s lead at the top of the standings to eight points and Erceg will be satisfied with her side’s defensive record as 10 shut outs have now been recorded.

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Rosie White and Rebekah Stott both took full part in their team’s matches but were left empty handed as White’s Boston Breakers were beaten 2-1 by Orlando Pride and Stott’s Seattle Reign fell 5-4 to Sky Blue FC in a high-scoring thriller. To rub salt into the wounds, both defeats came in front of their home fans. In the college system, fellow Ferns Martine Puketapu and Daisy Cleverley were both in action, the former playing up front and firing off two shots as her University of Colorado side defeated Colorado College 1-0 after extra time. Cleverley also enjoyed that winning feeling for the University of California, playing in an advanced midfield role in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Santa Clara Broncos. The Bears have now started the season in perfect fashion after posting two wins from as many matches.

In the men’s game, much of the New Zealand focus continues to fall on the Vancouver Whitecaps due to their strong Kiwi presence. Having recently made his Major League Soccer (MLS) debut, All Whites goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic had to make do with a place on the bench as the Whitecaps claimed a 2-1 win over Houston Dynamo while Myer Bevan was not able to take the field for the club’s second string after being controversially sent off in the previous round. That left just Deklan Wynne and Francis de Vries to fly the Kiwi flag for that side as they eked out a 1-1 draw against Rio Grande Valley in the United Soccer League (USL). Both made notable contributions with Wynne slotting home his second goal of the season with a well-placed low finish and de Vries – who could be in contention to replace Reid in the All Whites mix – again captaining the side.

Wynne wasn’t the only All White to get on the scoresheet in the USL as Bill Tuiloma sought to catch the eye of the first-team coaching staff by scoring spectacularly for Portland Timbers 2. The holding midfielder showed outstanding athleticism to jump high and meet a corner, which he expertly headed in off the far post. The other Kiwi on Portland’s roster could not take up his usual position between the sticks in the MLS as Jake Gleeson is still recovering from the injury that forced him from the field early in last week’s match. It wasn’t a great weekend all round for New Zealand players in the MLS with James Musa dropping to the bench as Sporting Kansas City defeated FC Dallas 2-0 but the one recent constant has been Michael Boxall, who has played every minute of the four games he’s been available for Minnesota United. Unfortunately, three of those games have been defeats though, the latest a 2-1 heart-breaker against the Seattle Sounders, for whom former English Premier League star Clint Dempsey slotted a late penalty to win the match.

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