Flying Kiwis will keep you up to date on the endeavours of New Zealand sports folk overseas. Not the battlers, mind you, but the genuine overlooked and under-appreciated superstars that for some ridiculous reason don’t get a look in on local media.
Chris Wood – Leicester City (English Championship)
Woody was a great acquisition for Leicester last year, scoring 22 goals combined for the season (11 on loan for Milwall at the start of the year, and 11 at Leicester both on loan and after securing a permanent deal). He appears to be winning the battle for the second striker for the Foxes, with David Nugent, one game wonder for England, the clear go to man up front. Wood has split his time between coming off of the bench and running on in the starting line-up, but has been involved in all 5 games. He is yet to open his goal scoring account this year, but he came close in first half stoppage time this weekend, before being sacrificially subbed off in a tactical double change at half time by manager Nigel Pearson. The move worked, as Leicester City scored three late goals for a 3-2 win over Birmingham. The win extends their unbeaten start to the season – 3 wins and a draw see them sitting second on goal difference. Wood and the lads will be hoping they go a step further than last season, where they were bundled out in the playoffs for promotion.
Up Next: A second round League Cup tie Wednesday morning against Carlisle, before travelling to Charlton early on Sunday (All dates/times are NZT)
Tommy Smith - Ipswich Town (English Championship)
Smith has really flown under the radar. He’s spent the past couple of years in and out of the starting lineup, but appears to have found a place in new manager Mick McCarthy’s plans. They don’t seem to be great plans – the Tractor Boys have lost 3 of 4 in the league and were booted out of the league cup by Stevenage – but at least Smith is asserting himself well, playing every minute so far. He even scored a goal against Milwall in their sole win this season; a powerful header, which McCarthy was full of praise for. Most recently, Ipswich went down 2-1 at home to Leeds.
Up Next: Ipswich travel to Birmingham early Sunday morning (NZT)
Marco Rojas – VfB Stuttgart (Bundesliga)
Coming off of an enormous season for Melbourne Victory in the A-League, Rojas had a number of admirers. He signed with Stuttgart, a very solid Bundesliga side, generally an upper mid-table type, similar to Everton in the EPL. They won the Bundesliga in 2006-07, though had a disappointing twelfth place finish last season. Rojas should be a solid fit for the style of the German league, but he’ll need to earn his place first, and that won’t be easy with the huge step up in quality. In his first preseason game, Rojas found his way onto the score sheet, but also onto the physio’s table. A broken metatarsal (the same injury Wayne Rooney had before the 2008 world cup) has seen him side-lined ever since, and he’s had to watch helplessly as his teammates have struggled to start the year. 3 straight losses have them lying vulnerable in the relegation zone. Rojas may have a shot at a bench spot, but the 21 year old will be out at least another week or two. Hopefully we can pencil in a return after the international break in three weeks time.
Up Next: Europa League footy on Saturday (home vs HNK Rijeka of Croatia) then a winnable game playing host to Hoffenheim on Monday (NZT)
Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)
There’s not so much to say about Winston Reid. He’s a superstar, the captain of his country and a favourite of manager Fat Sam Allardyce. With West Ham’s miserly defence, he’s the first legitimate fantasy football prospect from NZ. So there’s that. He kept a clean sheet against Newcastle on the weekend in a goalless draw, playing 90 mins, just as he did in the 2-0 win over Cardiff in the opener. Expect more of the same from NZ football’s premier Flying Kiwi, especially with West Ham’s cruisey fixture list to start the season.
Up Next: League Cup vs Cheltenham Town Wed morn; home to Stoke City Sunday morn (NZT)