NEW LOAN STRIKER CAULEY WILL LEAVE TAYLOR AND DJURIC PLAYING CATCH-UP


CAULEY Woodrow has clearly not come to Ashton Gate to suffer splinters sitting on the substitutes’ bench.

The 22-year-old striker, signed on a season-long loan from Fulham, is already talking of following in the footsteps of England under-21 team-mate Tammy Abraham by playing and scoring regularly for Bristol City.

Prospect

That is exciting news for supporters. It also begs the question of just how big a blow the current injuries to Milan Djuric and Matt Taylor will prove to their hopes of making a real impact with the Robins.

At the end of last season there seemed a fair chance that Djuric and Taylor might form City’s strikeforce for the start of the 2017- 18 campaign, an interesting prospect for those of us who like a little and large combination up front.

But three months is a long time in football. Who would have predicted – apart from maybe Lee Johnson – that City would have smashed their transfer record in the summer to sign a new striker and then switch a midfielder to play alongside him with sensational effect?

Djuric and Taylor have already been forced into a frustrating watching brief while Famara Diedhiou and Bobby Reid earned rave reviews in the opening fixtures.

Now the big Bosnian international and former Bristol Rovers favourite, both of whom face a lengthy catching-up period even when re- covered from injury, having missed most or all of pre-season, find themselves further down the pecking order.

The signing of Woodrow followed news that Djuric had undergone groin surgery last Tuesday and will be out for at least two months. When I last spoke to Taylor at City’s Carabao Cup tie against Plymouth Argyle, he was unable to target a date for a return to action.

Matt could be forgiven for feeling particularly sorry for himself as his groin problem stemmed from conscientiously doing some training on his own ahead of reporting back from the summer break.

Both he and Djuric did well at times last season. But head coach Johnson needed to sign a new forward to ensure cover and competition for Diedhiou and Reid at the crucial launch period of the campaign.

The fact that the Fulham player has signed for the en- tire season makes you wonder how many opportunities Djuric and Taylor will get when fit again.

Sir Alex Ferguson, no less, was once quoted as saying you could not have too many strikers in a squad. But when five – if you include Reid who is surely up front to stay – are competing for two places it makes for interesting man-management.

That is for the future. While it concerns me that a club in the same division as City are prepared to loan them an England under-21 international, everything about Woodrow’s pedigree suggests he will add to the exciting squad being developed at Ashton Gate.

He made his Luton Town debut just 12 days after his 16th birthday, cost a six-figure fee, with a large sell-on clause, when joining Fulham in March 2011 and celebrated his 17th birthday by signing a two-and-a-half year professional contract.

Woodrow went on to captain Fulham’s under-18 team to a second successive Academy Premier League title in 2013 and made his Premier League debut in March 2014. He scored his first goal in the top flight against Crystal Palace at the end of that season.

Johnson explains Fulham’s decision to let him join City by saying that his latest acquisition has found it tough to play regular first-team football in a team operating with only one striker.

Stalled

A member of the England squad who reached the semi-finals of the European under-21 Championships in the summer, Woodrow, now 22, is no longer eligible to represent his country at youth level.

He admits that the last couple of years at Craven Cottage have stalled for him and talks of a burning enthusiasm to re-launch his promising career with City.

Burton Albion, who took him on loan last season, were keen to have him back, having seen him net five goals in ten starts, but John- son came up with a more attractive offer.

Asked to describe himself as a player, Woodrow said: ‘I like to get goals, be creative around the box, hold the ball up well and work hard for the team.’

Not a bad combination. Already it seems prospects for a successful campaign rest on how well City can defend behind their potent looking attack.

The matches at Birmingham and Brentford both saw them concede twice after taking early leads.

Typically in football, they lost at St Andrews where on the balance of play they should have won and drew at Griffin Park where the home side had the better of it.

The 98th-minute equaliser by Reid against Brentford might prove one of the most important goals of the campaign.

Following the thrilling start at home to Barnsley, successive Championship defeats on the road would have been hugely deflating.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.