- by Joe Baker
Not many players are compared to Andrea Pirlo, but it seems that Ryan Woods has been stuck with the name "ginger Pirlo".
In respects, this might be seen a comical introduction to the Shrewsbury Town midfielder, but in reality, it is a sign of how highly he is rated by his team-mates, supporters and manager.
Micky Mellon, the Shrews manager, believes the 21 year-old is "top class" and insists "there aren't many as talented as him".
"When you talk about Ryan Woods, you are talking about a proper player. There aren't many as talented as him. He is top class, he keeps his standards very high and tomorrow is another challenge for him and one he will no doubt be looking forward to. But he is not the type of guy to get carried away. If he was we wouldn't have him at the football club."
This last sentence shows how much the former Fleetwood Town manager is aware that prospects like Wood can get lost in the crowd of media frenzy with headline after radio report after pundit commentary. He does not want Woods to be one of those whose egos become bigger than the club, and believes that despite his precocious talent, Ryan must not lose discipline and keep his feet on the ground.
This is ever true after the performance against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup earlier this season: running himself down to the ground, making tackles, restarting attacks and creating a handful of chances which their forward line failed to put away.
This was the first opportunity I was able to see Woods in action, and immediately singled him out as a player to watch. At the time I did not realize he was only 21, as his confidence and steadiness on the ball was that similar to his midfield partner Liam Lawrence, who is 11 years his senior.
In May 2014, Woods signed a new contract extension to keep him at the club for another year. That season he made 41 appearances for Town in what was a disappointing campaign as the Shrews were relegated from League 1.
However, Wood was determined to bounce straight back: "On a personal level, I had a very good season and I can always look back on how it went for me and be happy with it, but it was all about keeping Shrewsbury Town in League One and unfortunately we didn't manage to do that. We've just got to look to bounce back now next season."
Now in the spotlight, particularly after his Chelsea performance, it is without question that he deserves a call-up to the England u21 team where I am sure Gareth Southgate will be keeping a close eye.
He may yet turn into a future star if he can combine is running skills with his passing, something which Mellon has highlighted as an improvement he can make to his game: "We are concentrating on him playing more passes that we know he is capable off, passes which set up goals. He has added that to his game in recent weeks and he is now taking on more passes, more risky passes that he has got the ability to pull off. We want it so that when the front men make runs, Woods can find with the ball in dangerous areas. But we will develop him all the time."
Ryan Woods' future with England is bright, and when he does get called up, he is sure to grasp it with both hands.