Chris Wood was “a young boy in a big man’s body” when he joined Albion on loan.
The big Kiwi was strong but he did not know how to get the best of that physical presence.
His tally of eight league goals plus an FA Cup cracker against Portsmouth would have been at least doubled had he been as good a finisher then as he is for Leeds now.
But then, had that been the case, maybe his parent club West Brom would not have sent the 19-year-old out on loan to the third tier in the first place.
Now the Championship’s top scorer aims to strike again against the club he helped to the League One title during that productive six-month loan period in 2010-11 as Leeds host Albion at Elland Road.
Wood has not just scored a lot of goals for Leeds this season. He has scored a lot of important goals (see panel below).
Six years ago, he was one of four strikers on Albion’s books as they held off bigger-spending Southampton and Huddersfield to win the division with four games to spare.
Chris Wood opens his Albion account with a penalty aganst Bristol Rovers
Ashley Barnes is now in the Premier League while Wood, Glenn Murray and Fran Sandaza, at Girona in Spain, are all scoring regularly for teams chasing promotion to the top flight.
Wood looks the same as he did back then – and the willingness to work at his game has paid off.
His former team mate Inigo Calderon, now living and playing in Cyprus, said: “He was a young boy inside a big man’s body.
“He was like he is now. He played simple, held the ball really well and got into the box to finish.
“That sounds simple but it’s difficult to do.
“I think the four strikers we had then have proved their quality.
“He was a humble boy. I liked that very much because he was a player with a bright future coming on loan from the Premiership but he had his feet on the floor.
“He was not the typical young player who thinks he is already a star.”
Glancing through reports of Wood’s matches for Albion, the recurring themes are of hard work, a nice touch, presence – but too many missed chances.
He was confident enough to take and convert a penalty on his debut at home to Bristol Rovers.
Having been denied from the spot by Kelvin Davis in the next match, a 0-0 draw at title rivals Southampton, he regained the responsibility late in the season to bury a couple of high pressure penalties.
“Improving with every game, notably with his work close to goal. Has a great knack of getting into goalscoring positions,” we reported after his double helped beat promotion rivals Peterborough 3-1 at Withdean.
“Still improving. Is forming a good duo with Murray,” we observed after a 2-0 win over Colchester.
“Surely he had to turn that cross in at 0-0,” we wrote of his performance in a 1-0 defeat at MK Dons, by which time he was struggling with bone bruising to an ankle.
“Busy enough but will rue a trio of chances to make the breakthrough,” was the assessment after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Notts County.
Chris Wood and Glenn Murray in celebratory mood
"I had Chris on loan for half a season and he scored ten goals,” Hughton recalled as he spoke about Wood and Murray.
“He’s a big lad but what he has really improved on since then is his mobility. He was always a very good striker of the ball, a powerful striker of the ball.
“Glenn is a very good all-round player who can score different types of goals.
“Not too many from outside the box, although I know he did against Villa. He also has a very good work ethic.
“They are two very good No.9s and two No.9s I think most teams in the Championship would like to have.”
If Hughton is able to compare the two strikers, then Wood was well placed to do likewise with Poyet and the current Albion boss.
“It was a great season at Brighton,” he told The Argus at the time.
“I learnt from the manager and the staff. I learnt from Glenn Murray and Ashley Barnes. I felt my all-round game came on and I matured being out on loan.
“Brighton play a very open game. They like to play the ball around a lot.
“At Blues we are more compact. We try and play the ball around too but we are not as open, not as spread out on the pitch.”
Wood will look to score against a compact Hughton set-up tomorrow.
He operates as the lone frontman but has runners off him while Liam Bridcutt and Eunan O’Kane anchor midfield in 4-2-3-1 set-up.
And the finishing, honed during stints at Bristol City, Millwall and Leicester, has come on a lot.
- All set up for Albion to win title at the Amex after Newcastle victory
- Knockaert has seen this script before, now he is ready to grab title
- Beating the Toon to the title would be a Premier League tonic for Albion
- Tough field for Konta at Eastbourne
- Albion striker has never been relegated and doesn't intend to start now
“He was raw when he came to us,” recalls ex-Albion midfielder Gary Dicker. “He came into a team that was doing well and I think that helped him mature.
“We had a bit of height and people forget that sometimes that season we would play all three of them at the same time – Glenn, Barnsey and Chris – so we could mix it up.
“He has still got that strength he had then but I think he knows how to use it now. He is more physical now than he was.
“He already had all the tools there. He can finish with both feet which is something he is probably not given enough credit for.”
Former Leicester pair Anthony Knockaert and Chris Wood do not just score goals for Albion and Leeds respectively. They score crucial goals.
Knockaert’s 13 in the league feature eight to put his team ahead (including two matchwinners), an equaliser in a come-from-behind win and a goal which proved to be the decider, when he put his side 2-0 up in the 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday. The other three have served to apply icing to big home wins against Norwich, QPR and Reading.
Wood’s 22 include 16 to put his team ahead (of which three proved to be winners) and a late equaliser at home to Fulham.