Birmingham City have offered Ryan Woods a fresh start and a route out of Stoke City.
Lee Bowyer is hoping to chip into the quality that Woods possesses, in a bid to get Birmingham’s midfield ticking and the club looking upwards in the Championship rather than over their shoulders.
Woods’ arrival at St Andrew’s sparked a lot of positivity amongst Blues supporters. He’s impressed in the Championship over the years and, as one fan described, he looks a ‘very good signing’.
The reaction over at Stoke was different, though, with fans seemingly glad to see the back of a midfielder they spent over £6m on. To those supporters, Woods flopped, was far too negative with his use of possession and will not be missed.
That’s quite a damning send off, but the truth is that Stoke hasn’t been an easy place to play your football since Woods arrived, initially on loan, in the summer of 2018.
Stoke were expected to rip the Championship to pieces under Gary Rowett, which they didn’t. That’s part of the frustration when it comes to Woods and his ex-Stoke teammates. Expectation was there, the application wasn’t. The Potters are a million miles off where they thought they’d be.
A fresh start is right for Woods and leads him to Birmingham.
𝗥𝘆𝗮𝗻 𝗪𝗼𝗼𝗱𝘀 𝗶𝘀 𝗮 𝗕𝗹𝘂𝗲! 🔵👊
— Birmingham City FC (@BCFC) June 23, 2021
Birmingham fans seem reasonably happy with Bowyer’s latest capture. One follower notes how Woods’ ability on the ball is exactly what Blues need in midfield ahead of the new season.
2020/21 saw Birmingham struggle in the Championship. They never got going in terms of results until Bowyer arrived, with their use of possession a real concern.
As per WhoScored.com, Birmingham ranked 19th for average possession (47.3%) and 20th for pass success (65.3%). Woods, who was shipped out on loan to Millwall, accrued a pass success of 83.3%, instantly telling you how he’s going to improve how Blues look after possession.
Those Stoke fans dishing out Woods’ send-off will tell you that number is so high because ‘he never passes forwards’. Perhaps, though, that’s exactly what Birmingham need. A player to move them around the pitch, keeping it simple, building towards the final third.
Woods was an expert at doing that during his time at Brentford. The level of consistency he showed at Griffin Park was what convinced Stoke to go big to get the midfielder on board. Yes, Brentford weren’t the successful Championship they have been in recent seasons, but one thing you can never deny the Bees is that they’ve been easy on the eye and make good use of possession.
At the point Woods made the switch from Brentford to Stoke, he was seen as sensible business at £6m. The story on the day of his move to Birmingham couldn’t have been different, with two sets of fans divided.
The 27-year-old will get a near instant chance to silence his Stoke doubters on the second weekend of the 2021/22 season. Stoke head to Birmingham for a reunion with their former midfielder, teeing Woods up with the perfect stage to prove a point.
A hefty price tag won’t weigh Woods down this time around. Instead, he’s got the motivation of silencing critics and establishing himself as one of the Championship’s best holding midfielders again.
Woods could, therefore, turn out to be an underrated coup for Birmingham and Bowyer.