On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Not quite two turtle doves, but an equally lofty proposition in the form of 6ft 4in New Zealand stopper, Michael Woud.
After signing a three-year deal back in the summer of 2016, young Michael has predominantly been finding game time between the sticks for the U23s in recent weeks competing alongside James Talbot and the on-loan Max Stryjek for a starting place in the youngster’s side.
Woud has impressed this season with a sting of ipressive performances throughout Sunderland’s youth teams, and the future looks bright for the New Zealand goalkeeper who kept a clean sheet just this week in the U23s 3-0 win against Hull City’s youngsters in the Premier League Cup group stage.
Back in October Woud received his first call up to the senior New Zealand squad for a friendly game against Japan.
Speaking to the SAFC website, Woud noted just how thrilled he was with the opportunity to impress national selectors:
I am proud of it, I am still young and to get called up at my age is an honour. I feel extremely proud because it is your national team – I just can’t wait to get started now. Hopefully I can go there and show what I can do because I have been given an opportunity and it is up to me to make sure I stay in this squad.
Aside from earning a call-up to the New Zealand senior squad, Woud also had a successful stint with the New Zealand U20 side at the recent U20 World Cup, where he helped his side through to the knockout stages of the tournament before suffering a tough 6-0 defeat at the hands of the USA in the round of 16.
That being said, Woud was impressive throughout the tournament and the experience will have done wonders for the stopper who also had a brief spell at local Northern League side Sunderland RCA back in 2016.
Much like fellow academy product Jordan Pickford, Woud is a lefty, and his distribution skills look impressive. The Kiwi employs a sidewinder technique when kicking out of hand - similar to Pickford - and uses his left peg to great effect in cultivating attacking opportunities for his teammates.
With the goalkeeping situation still very much up in the air at the club, Woud will be keen to prove his worth in the coming months, but much like former star Jordan Pickford, he may yet need a loan move away from the club in order to help further develop his game.
Woud’s international experiences coupled with his undeniable talent stand him in a good position to impress should a loan offer come knocking. Despite only being 18, the giant stopper looks a calm customer, and certainly looks to have the potential required in order to develop into a decent keeper - watch this space!