This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict’ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Birmingham City have recently completed a deal to sign midfielder Ryan Woods on a three-year contract from Stoke City.
Woods found regular game time hard to come by with the Potters in recent seasons, and spent last year’s campaign on loan with Championship side Millwall.
It appears as though he caught the eye with some strong performances for the Lions, as they finished 11th in the Championship table under the management of Gary Rowett.
Birmingham finished 18th in the second tier standings last term, and will be hoping that Woods can hit the ground running, as they look to finish higher up the table under the watchful eye of Lee Bowyer.
We ask our Football League World writers whether they think Woods will be a regular starter in Lee Bowyer’s team heading into the new season or not.
Looking at the options available to Lee Bowyer, I would think Ryan Woods will be a mainstay in the side yes.
He was a consistent performer for Millwall last season and is a reliable influence in central midfield, which will certainly appeal to Bowyer.
With a host of their current options in that area departing, Woods is likely to become a key option and is the player that will look to keep the side ticking over from a holding role.
For me, he’s a better player than Adam Clayton or Gary Gardner, while playing him alongside the more tenacious Ivan Sunjic could work really well.
I’d be surprised if he doesn’t become a trusted player under Bowyer pretty quickly.
It’s going to be difficult for Woods to get past the likes of Ivan Sunjic and Gary Gardner in the pecking order – but Woods made 41 appearances for Millwall last season and wouldn’t have come to St Andrew’s to just sit on the bench like he did at the bet365 Stadium.
We could potentially see Sunjic and Woods start next season, with Gardner to come off the bench when needed.
For Lee Bowyer, this is a great amount of second-tier experience to have in the middle of the park and it could possibly see the West Midlands side lift themselves from lowly positions in recent years.
All three are relatively young too, meaning the trio still have a lot to give. This dampens Woods’ chances of being a guaranteed start though – he will have to continue impressing Bowyer because players like Gardner will be fighting tooth and nail to retain their spot.
What was the score when Birmingham City last played these teams?
I would fully expect Woods to swiftly establish himself as a crucial member of Lee Bowyer’s starting line-up at Birmingham. The midfielder has a lot of quality to offer and he would be able to enhance the starting midfield that the Blues were putting out on a regular basis last term.
Woods is a player that has the ability to retain possession well even under pressure and he can bring a calmness to a side that helps them gain control of games and also relieve pressure when required.
Bowyer is sure to also value his ability to provide solid protection in front of the defence and I would expect him to be one of their first names on the team sheet in the Championship.
We saw with Woods’ performances for Millwall last term that if handed the chance to start games regularly, the midfielder can get into the rhythm and show consistent form. That is what the Blues will need from him if they are to make progress next term.