Flying Kiwis - January 1

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Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

It’d be sweet if every Flying Kiwis began with that gif, right?

It hasn’t been a fun time for Burnley fans, nor for Chris Wood recently. The festive season didn’t have a lot of festivity unless you were the team playing against the Clarets. Having worked his way back into the starting XI with five straight starts, The Woodsman was left on the bench as Burnley sacrificed a striker to be more defensive against Spurs, which almost worked until Christian Eriksen scored right at the death for the 1-0 winner.

That was the last time we spoke, with Flying Kiwis taking a Christmas hiatus last week (you weren’t gonna read it on Xmas and I damn sure wasn’t gonna write it). Since then he was reinstated for a 3-1 defeat away to Arsenal in which he played 77 minutes and picked up a yellow card. The Gunners were pretty dominant and took the lead early through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and that bloked doubled it soon after the break.

A scrappy goal from Ashley Barnes made it 2-1 with a little over half an hour remaining, which was appropriate for a scrappy game in which tempers flared and there were numerous decisions to be made by the referee (Wood was one of five Burnley players booked). It had taken a brilliant challenge from Papastathopoulos to deny Chris Wood a crack just a little earlier but Alex Iwobi ended up having the final say in a 3-1 Arsenal win.

But Chris Wood was back on the bench for the next game on Boxing Day and the less said the better. Everton scored three times in the first quarter of the game – some shocking defending from a Burnley team who were so good at the back a year ago – and the only consolation is that Woody only had to play seventeen minutes of it and they were already 4-1 down when he entered the pitch. Really not going to dwell on that game, a result which made it nine defeats in their previous twelve for Burnley, sitting in the bottom three at Christmas.

Thankfully we don’t have to dwell on it because a few days later there was a home game against West Ham and you know how much Chris Wood loves playing against West Ham… he’d scored in each of his last four games against them despite coming off the bench in two of them and you can make that four now because in the fifteenth minute of this game Ashley Barnes chested down a long ball in the path of his kiwi mate and Woody was a little sloppy on the touch, having only scored once in the last three months, but then whacked it past Lukasz Fabianski on the volley for the lead. Sharp finish in the end, pure Woodsman.

That goal could even be a turning point in their season. West Ham had been playing very well but Burnley, with Tom Heaton making his first start in 15 months (always helps to have your club captain playing), had already begun the more threatening team as Ashley Barnes missed an early chance. But chances were flowing on this day and Chris Wood’s goal was added to twenty minutes after by teenaged winger Dwight McNeil. Wood had a great couple chances for a double in the second half but couldn’t get on the end of a ball from Barnes before missing the target after Ash Westwood had put him through… but Burnley hung tight at the back for a rare clean sheet this campaign and a valuable 2-0 win.

Burnley Express: “Burnley don't take the lead often but they have a proud return when they do. Their first came after quarter-of-an-hour as Chris Wood continued his fine goalscoring run against the Londoners. It's now five in four games against the Hammers for the New Zealand international, accounting for 38% of his Premier League tally. He was on the end of Ashley Barnes's header, after his strike partner had cushioned Westwood's cross in to his path, and then fired the ball past Fabianski at his near post.”

It doesn’t get them out of the relegation zone but it does mean they’re only there on goal difference behind Southampton on 15 points. And they have a winnable game midweek before the FA Cup game against Barnsley a few days later. This was Chris Wood’s first goal since the start of November and only his second in more than a thousand minutes in the Premier League this season. It’s not just him, the whole team has obviously been struggling, but hopefully they can build on this result now.

Up Next: Away to bottom-placed Huddersfield at 8.45am on Thursday (NZT)

Jeremy Brockie – Mamelodi Sundowns (South African Premier Soccer League)

This is that weird time of the year when most players aren’t playing and those that are are playing way too much. The Sundowns did at least get a week off for Christmas but first they had to get past their home leg Champions League first round tie with Al-Ahly, following a 0-0 draw in the first game.

Guess what? They did it easy. Gaston Sirino gave the Brazilians the lead in the 35th minute, having already dished a great chance to Brockie who wasn’t able to finish it hitting the post instead. But then Anthony Laffor set up Sirino and, yeah, 1-0. Brockie was a little sharper on the brink of HT when he made it 2-0 though. Dude always scores in continental games. After a whole year without a goal he’s scored four of them in seven games and three have come in the Champions League.

Jeremy Brockie: “At first I changed my game a little bit because I wanted to fit into the system but then I realised that Sundowns brought me here not to change myself but to be that striker who scored many goals. There have been ups and downs in 2018 for me. Of course, I moved to Sundowns and won the league but there was also the issue of the goal drought. Fortunately, I was able to end the drought and since then I have scored a few goals.”

Sundowns went on to win 4-0, with Brockie subbed off mid-second half. Laffor and Ali Meza scored the other goals (Meza was the bloke who replaced Brockie). That win takes them through to the group stages and there’s belief now that they’re starting to find their way again and could compete for the African title again. Job done and Brox even had time to fly to Aussie and surprise his kids dressed as Santa Claus for Christmas.

Up Next: Sunday at 2.30am away to Kaizer Chiefs (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – Vitória de Guimarães (Portuguese Primeira Liga)

A pesky injury robbed Tyler Boyd of about six weeks of footy but he’s finally made his return, just in time to play the last quarter of an hour off the bench for VSC away to Boavista in the last sixteen of the Taça de Portugal. It was a feisty one with Mattheus getting a first half red card for Boyd’s lot but they held in there to win 1-0 thanks to Dodo’s goal a little after half-time.

Boyd then played no part in a 1-0 win over Sporting CP which put them into fifth place at Christmas, Boyd was an unused sub with the latter stages there all about holding on rather than chucking in more attacking options. Tozé scored the goal in the 26th minute.

Elsewhere Boyd had a chat with American Soccer Now and, uh, in it he kinda mentioned that he’s open to representing the United States in the future. Boyd has dual citizenship with a parent from each so it’s no scandal or anything. He spent most of his first ten years in the USA before moving back to the land of his birth and having only played for the All Whites in friendly games he’s still allowed to change allegiances – you have to have played in a senior FIFA tournament before you’re locked in, be it qualifiers or final stages.

Tyler Boyd: “It's tricky. It's kind of like choosing between your mother and your father, which is impossible” Boyd said with a chuckle. “I actually have spent 10 years in each country before moving to Portugal. Every offseason I go back to America for at least two weeks. I still have a lot of friends and family over there and I love it. I spend half my offseason in New Zealand and half in America. I have a parent from each country and I feel loyalty to each country. I'd be proud to represent either. At this stage I've only played non-competitive games for New Zealand. It's still a possibility for either nation. The U.S. team is looking to rebuild and qualify - that is an interesting process. The same goes to New Zealand.”

Given he’s been a bit of a holdout for the All Whites in recent times, it sounds like his eyes are still wandering. That doesn’t mean that America would actually come in and take him away but that door is still open at this stage. Right now the focus is one hundred percent on his club career though, a career which he hopes will take him to the Champions League someday.

Tyler Boyd: “I've been working my way up the ranks and I've been learning different styles from the various different coaches I've had here. Basically I chose Portugal because it is a very complete league in terms of it being technical. Tactically it's very strong as well - as well the intensity, the speed, and the flair of the game. I chose it because it was a big step up from the Australian league. My dream as a kid was to play in Europe and it was the next step. I've improved so much over the three years I've been here because my mindset has been all about constant improvement. Still to this day, I am improving. My goal is to play Champions League one day,” he added. “Still has that as an objective. I want to go to the highest leagues in the world. But Guimarães is a great club with some of the best supporters in Portugal. I am happy where I’m at.”

Up Next: Nacional vs VSC, 7am on Thursday (NZT)

Clayton Lewis – Scunthorpe United (English League One)

Patience has been the order of the last year for Clayton Lewis, as opportunities have been tough to come by at his first professional club. But just recently he’s starting to see a few rewards for that. The Iron ended a horrid run of six straight league one defeats (and five games without a goal) when they snuck a 1-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers that ensures they don’t end the year in bottom place.

Lewis played the last 18 minutes of that one off the bench and did alright as they whipped the ball around and tried to kill off the game for those crucial points. Kyle Wootton’s eighth minute goal was the only strike in the game. Wycombe responded immediately but Alex Samuel’s goal was ruled out Both sides had further chances with Wanderers chucking on cult hero Adebayo Akinfenwa with 25 mins left and he nodded one wide from a corner. Then substitute Andy Dales was injured and couldn’t continue, getting subbed on and off in the same half, and it was Clay’s time to almost shine…

Grimsby Live: “Dales who had earlier taken a knock had to go off and he was replaced by Clayton Lewis. The New Zealand international then had a free kick partially cleared and the ball to Thomas who put his volley over. Seven minutes of injury time followed with the Wycombe goalkeeper coming up for a corner but the Iron managed to hold out.”

Sweet as. This was Lewis’ second appearance in a week after being subbed on against Bradford in a 2-0 loss. He’d only played 16 league minutes all season before that and then got 29 minutes in seven days. He has also played a couple times in the EFL Trophy though Scunthorpe are out of all cup competitions now so it’s league footy or bust the rest of the way. Tell you what, if Clayton can score a few goals off the bench and keep his side up then he’ll win the fans over pretty quick. There’s a very large chance they bring in reinforcements this month though so it won’t be easy.

Up Next: Peterborough vs Scunthorpe, 4am on Weds (NZT)

Rebekah Stott – Melbourne City (Australian W-League)

It’s funny because Melbourne City had a bit of a drop while Stotty was away with the Football Ferns and now she’s back and they’re doing things like breezing past Canberra for a 3-0 win before Xmas. Rhali Dobson scored a double and Kyah Simon got the other goal, all in the first half. Stott played the full thing at centreback and the goals are well worth checking out, there were some stunners.

Stott has played four games this season and City have won three of them, including two in a row since she returned from the Nations Cup. Without her the club took just one point from three games including getting blown out 5-2 by Sam Kerr’s Perth Glory. But now they’re up to fifth on the ladder andthat’s with a game in hand against bottom team Western Sydney too – that game’s on tonight... by the way, what a bummer we’re not getting these games on telly. Only one kiwi in there but still. Might be more kiwis looking to get a run there if there was more exposure here, you know. In the meantime City will have to settle for English international Jodie Taylor as a guest player this month, oh well. “City had slumped to third bottom before this round, their results hamstrung by injuries and absences to key players. But with Steph Catley now back in harness, Rebekkah Stott now finished with international commitments for the rest of season and other players reaching fitness, City are in the mood to put together the sort of run that will make them dangerous wherever they finish.”

Up Next: 7.20pm this evening away to Western Sydney (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Three games to get through here, one of each. There was a 3-0 win over Cambridge, a 3-1 defeat at Tranmere Rovers and a 0-0 with Colchester. Steven Old didn’t miss a minute of any of them. Not actually sure what else to add other than going into the nitty gritty of a trio of League Two games which aren’t really very interesting. The important thing is that they won the Cambridge game because now they’re six points clear of the drop zone. So here are the highlights of that game…

Up Next: Home to Carlisle on Weds at 4am (NZT)

Marco Rojas – sc Heerenveen (Dutch Eredivisie)

There we go, another appearance for Marco Rojas. 45 minutes off the bench in a 3-1 KNVB Cup win away to Odin 59. Heerenveen fell behind 1-0 in the second minute but Michel Vlap quickly levelled and it was 1-1 when Rojas was introduced. Ten minutes later Sam Lammers had a goal and then Pelle van Amersfoort killed it off with five minutes remaining.

Obviously a game that Heerenveen was always expected to win against a lower league opposition but it’s nice to make sure of it. Even nicer when Rojas is involved. Didn’t appear to have anything to do with any of the goals but you can spot him a couple times in the video here. He was then back to being an unused sub when Heerenveen lost 4-2 to relegation zoned NAC Breda… although with two red cards in the midfield that game maybe he’ll have better luck next match when the league resumes after a three week break. Resumes, in SCH’s case, with a double header away to Ajax in the league and then the cup. Yikes.

Up Next: Ajax vs Heerenveen, Monday 21 Jan at 4.45am (NZT)

Phil van den Broek – Ytterhogdals (Swedish Division 2 Norra)

Here’s a name you don’t see often here. First Flying Kiwis transfer of the January window though, it’s goalkeeper Phil van den Broek making the switch from Tharros Calcio in Italy to Ytterhogdals in Sweden. Previously he’d bounced around a bunch of Dutch clubs which is about right for a bloke who was born and raised in the Netherlands but he does hold kiwi eligibility which is why he’s here. You might remember his older brother Benjamin who was one of Anthony Hudson’s international finds. Their kiwi mother meant BVDB could come off the bench for his one and only cap against South Korea in 2015.

Phil hasn’t played for New Zealand but he is keen to. At only 22 years old he’s already had a bit of a journeyman career bouncing around Dutch clubs and most recently playing for that amateur club in Italy but now he’s going pro again in the Swedish Division Two (one tier below Francis De Vries and Joel Stevens). This was his plan a couple months back in an interview with Klasse Keepers, which is well worth a read if you wanna find out some more about the lad and don’t mind the ol’ google translations…

PVDB: “I want to play football until the winter break and make an impression here in Oristano. Hoping to stand out at a Serie D club. A club in Thailand would also be great. There, all players are small so my limited length is no problem. That’s not the case in England, where Benjamin had a great time at Shrewsbury Town and Barrow AFC. If I look further into the future, I dream of the national team of New Zealand. They have been selected again in the country of my mother, who comes from Auckland. The goalkeeper coach of the All Whites, Paul Gothard, came to me when I played in Jong RKC. He knew RKC because of Tatami Williams in Waalwijk. Of course, I have to get the pros first and then gradually become a fixed value at that level. In any case, New Zealand is my ultimate goal for the future. Worth trying.”

Up Next: Wait ‘til the new season starts in Sweden in a couple months

Olivia Chance – Everton (English Super League)

Up Next: Depends how that rehab is going but Chancey should be close to a return in a month or so… just in time to get that match fitness up before the World Cup

Tommy Smith – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)

Up Next: Still offseason for a while yet

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