Birmingham City have been extremely impressive in the early stages of this season, with players of new and old receiving rave reviews from the fan base.
The Blues have conceded fewer goals than any other team in the league whilst also boasting the best clean-sheet record. For a position that has plagued them for the last decade, they have somehow managed to transform themselves into defensive juggernauts.
And whilst that solidity will see the defence and goalkeeper earning rave reviews - and rightly so, I’d argue that a man that sits directly in front of that back five/six is one of the biggest reasons for such an up-turn in fortunes.
Ryan Woods, who arrived on a free transfer from Stoke City in June, has played a pivotal role in Blues’ early successes and is already looking like one of the signings of the summer.
His mixture of calmness on the pitch along with his aggressiveness in the tackle is exactly what you want when drawing up your ideal defensive midfielder. It’s something that Birmingham City have been crying out for for a long time and because of that, he has already begun cementing himself as a firm fan favourite.
It’s almost baffling to think that the Potters kept shipping him out on loan and he wasn’t able to tie a regular spot down there because it’s not as though they’ve been overloaded with quality themselves over the last few years.
With that said, some players simply don’t work at some clubs but there was evident talent there, talent that luckily for Blues, manager Lee Bowyer picked up on.
In his pre-match press conference ahead of Fulham on Wednesday night, Bowyer alluded to this and was quick to echo how happy he is to have the 27-year-old at St Andrew’s.
“We knew his quality because that’s why we brought him in,” said the Blues gaffer.
“He’s very good on the ball but now his fitness and the way he’s pressing and winning the ball back as well - his sharpness is improving all the time.
“I’d like to think all the players are improving but Ryan is someone we brought in, we knew the quality but we just had to work. I knew I had to work on his fitness side of things.
“He’s another player that has bought into it and is working hard and is improving.
“He’s a very good player, he doesn’t give the ball away and wins you the ball back. That’s a good combination for a midfield player.”
Bowyer also highlighted Woods as one of the key reasons the team are doing so well defensively.
“When defenders have the ball, they’ve got to have someone to give it to and he’s a good person and a reliable person to do that.
“I think Ryan has fitted in really well.”