Chris Wood: Why Newcastle United’s first PIF departure is welcome with replacement on the cards

One year after arriving at Newcastle United, Chris Wood has left to join Nottingham Forest on loan.

Wood’s £25million move from Burnley last January certainly raised a few eyebrows in terms of the transfer fee, but it proved to be a smart piece of business on the whole with the striker leading the line as Newcastle survived comfortably in the Premier League at The Clarets’ expense.

After an underwhelming goalscoring return at United, Wood joins Forest on loan with an obligation to make the move permanent in the summer for £15million. Although on face value it looks like Newcastle are making a £10million loss, it’s a positive piece of business that highlights the club’s progress.

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Chris Wood of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Newcastle United at The King Power Stadium on December 26, 2022 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Wood’s contribution to Newcastle United shouldn’t be understated

Five goals in 39 matches for Newcastle leaves a lot to be desired for a £25million Premier League striker, but all five of Wood’s goals contributed to wins.

Those wins ultimately helped keep Newcastle in the Premier League last season before kicking-on in the current campaign. The New Zealand international played a key role in the side when no-one else could while Callum Wilson was out injured last season.

And he’s already done the same again this season when Wilson and Isak have been unavailable. The fact the striker missed just one game since signing for Newcastle last January is an understated quality.

His track record of staying fit and making himself available for selection consistently provided Eddie Howe with a certain level of reliability and foundation when managing his squad.

Playing matches and giving 100-per-cent is all the majority of fans ask for, and Wood embodied that well at Newcastle. Despite his frustrating record in front of goal, it’s no real surprise to see many fans give their best wishes to the play following his departure.

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“He came in to keep us up and we achieved exactly that,” one fan posted on Twitter. “Hard worker, often tracked back when someone was out of position, well-liked within the squad, constantly praised for his professionalism by Howe and helped bring others into play.

Another said: “If it wasn’t for Chris, we may not have beaten Southampton away and Wolves at home last season. Crucial results in a fight to avoid relegation. Best of luck Woodsy.”

And Newcastle head coach Howe couldn't fault Wood’s contribution during his 12 months on Tyneside.

"He’s been a huge player for us, outstanding in every way,” Howe said. “When we signed him, we were in a very difficult league position. He played a huge part on the pitch to help transform the team.

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“He’s been excellent, both on and off the pitch, in terms of his leadership and positivity even when he’s not played. You can’t underestimate the role he’s played. It was a difficult decision, because you have to take into account the player and his wishes. But also, I think it’s a very good deal financially for the football club.”

Chris Wood's parting message to Newcastle

Following his departure, Wood took to Instagram to post: “A short note to say thank you to everyone at this special club, especially my team-mates, coaches and all the support staff.

"And of course the supporters, what incredible atmosphere you guys give the team, it really does lift everyone. I’ll be cheering along.”

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A positive move for Newcastle United

Wood was an ideal signing for Newcastle 12 months ago when they were languishing in the relegation zone in the Premier League. They had no strikers available and needed a tried and tested player to lead the line, bringing Wood in just made sense.

But a year on and United’s progress has been more significant than anticipated as the club now finds itself competing for Champions League qualification and for that, a different pedigree of player is required.

Alexander Isak is such a player while Callum Wilson has proven capable of stepping up and progressing as a key member of the squad. Wood’s presence was more a reminder of the club’s difficult situation last winter rather than a symbol of a brighter future in the same way fellow January 2022 arrival Bruno Guimaraes is.

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Wood’s departure is a positive one as it signifies how the club has quickly outgrown its former status in the Premier League. But it’s crucial a replacement is found quickly.

There's only 11 days left in the transfer window and January can be a difficult month to get business done, particularly as far as strikers are concerned.

Newcastle must find Chris Wood’s replacement this month

Wood’s departure stresses Newcastle’s need to sign a striker this month. It’s likely they will veer from signing a like-for-like ‘experienced target-man’ replacement as Howe looks to bring the average age of his squad down.

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The Magpies have a choice whether to trust Wilson and Isak, two players who have missed large chunks of their time at the club due to injury, and bring in a young, raw striker as a back-up or sign a player who will directly compete with the £80million pair.

And Howe has confirmed Newcastle’s plan is to replace Wood quickly, but nothing has been formally lined-up at this stage. United have reportedly made a bid for 18-year-old Flamengo forward Matheus Franca while Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains on the club’s radar.

“Hopefully, we’re planning to replace him,” Howe said. "Certainly, from my side there was no thought of letting a player go and not replacing. I think that would leave us dangerously short of players. But there’s no guarantees. That’s the position we’re in.”

Howe added: “I think you’re never going to just buy players all the time. You need to trade. It’s part of a successful club.

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"Trying to get those decisions right, timing right, player right, so yeah, we will sell players throughout a period of time. We’re never just going to buy. It’s important we do, but we do it well, hopefully.”