After a start to the season that was completely out of the ordinary, the character and determination of Ryan Woods to get back to playing football has been nothing short of exceptional.
BEES caught up with the 24-year-old earlier this month to discuss the challenges of the Championship, squad togetherness and the importance of football when times got tough.
Ryan. You had a very difficult start to the season personally, what role did football play in getting you through that tough time?
It was huge; without football it would’ve been a lot more difficult. To come here and be around the lads, and be in a different sort of environment, made it a lot easier. You can’t forget what happened because that just doesn’t happen, but it takes your mind elsewhere and makes you feel a little bit better.
The reception you got from the fans when you returned to action was phenomenal - how much did that mean to you?
It was absolutely brilliant. My partner was at Loftus Road that day and I actually welled up. It meant a lot to know how much the fans appreciate me – that reception meant an awful lot. It was a massive help for me and my family.
You scored against Leeds United on 4 November and seemed to release a lot of emotion as you ran towards the fans to celebrate. How did that feel?
It was amazing - everybody knows that I don’t score very often! It was an unbelievable release and refreshing to have a nice feeling for a change. I’ve had some tough times lately, but that was great. It got a lot off my chest.
That Leeds game came during a run of just two defeats in 14 games. On paper that looks fantastic, but what’s it like from a player’s perspective?
To be honest, we haven’t really thought about it. I know we have spoken about it a lot in interviews and things like that, but we never considered it ourselves. We kept on doing our jobs and we were doing what we were good at. We’re still doing that now. Although the result against Hull City wasn’t great, we still played well there in the first half. Teams are making it tough for us to break them down and it’s difficult. Once we start taking our chances, we will be absolutely fine.
The team has changed a lot during the last few years; what’s the mood in the dressing room?
It’s really good. This is my third year now but it’s probably one of the best changing rooms we’ve had. All the lads get on with each other. Sometimes you find that there are cliques of different players, but that doesn’t happen here. We are a group of good lads striving to be in the Premier League.
You arrived in West London in September 2015, what’s it been like stepping into Championship football?
I think it is very difficult. The tempo of the game, the quality of individuals and of the teams is a lot higher. I feel like I have more than adjusted to that now and I am really enjoying my football.
There have been injuries at both ends of the pitch but competition seems to be fierce in the middle with Josh McEachran, Romaine Sawyers, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Nico Yennaris and now Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge coming back into the fold. Are you enjoying that pressure?
I am, absolutely. It only makes us better. You have Emiliano (Marcondes) to add to that list come January as well. It’s only good for me, to have the calibre of those sort of players trying to get into the team. It’s only good; it makes you focus and work harder. It’s my job to make sure I keep that shirt every week.
Does it play to your strengths to have a Head Coach like Dean Smith, who encourages the ball to be moved around on the deck?
It makes a massive difference in the decision to join this Club. You’re not going to join a team that doesn’t suit your style of play because it’s just not going to work for you. It’s a massive help that the gaffer likes to play football the way I think the game should be played.
At 24, you find yourself in the middle of a matchday squad with the average age of 23 and a half. What’s it like to be part of such a young squad and what difference does that make in this league?
I think that last year we could use the excuse that we were quite young and inexperienced. Now, nearly everyone in that changing room has played over 50 Championship games so you can’t really say that there is a lack of experience in there anymore.
Sure, we haven’t played as many games as a lot of the other teams have collectively, but there’s still a lot of experience in there now. Obviously, we still learn off the older players, but I feel like an older player because of the amount of games that I have played. We’re always helping each other - it’s a good group of lads.
What do you think the team will be aiming for in the second half of the season?
I think the sky is the limit with this team. We’ve got an unbelievable amount of talent here, it’s just a case of getting it out there on a Saturday. I say it all the time; the performances you see us put in will sooner or later turn into a lot of goals and positive results. We all want to play in the Premier League so that’s got to be our main aim.
60 Seconds with Woodsy…
Last viewed on Netfilx?
If you could play any other sport professionally, which one would it be?
Dream midfield duo?
Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes
If you had a time machine, which era would you go?
If you could go anywhere on holiday right now, where would you go?
Best part about playing in midfield?
You get to do a bit of everything
What one thing do you spend most of your money on?
Rate your dancing out of ten?
Five. A very steady five.