Norwich City coach Wood backs Ruddy to be top of the tree
Norwich City's new goalkeeping coach believes John Ruddy has all the attributes to cut it at the highest level of the domestic game.
Jeff Wood has seen enough since coming to Carrow Road less than a month ago to convince him of the City number one's credentials.
'He is as good as anything I have ever worked with,' said Wood, who has taken over the coaching gloves from Laurence Batty.
'I've worked with national goalkeepers and John is as good as anything I have ever come across, and not just in his performance on the pitch – the ones I have seen have been outstanding – but his attitude to the game, his professionalism and his work ethic.
'It's unbelievable. You almost have to drag him off the training pitch in the morning because he just wants to keep doing more and more and more, and there comes a time when you get closer to the game on Saturday where you just have to say, 'hold on, John, we have a game on Saturday'.
'I think he has got all the components to go as far as he wants to go. You look at the size of him – he is so quick on his feet, his reflexes are absolutely magnificent, he is a confident lad, although sometimes he doesn't come across like that in the changing room, on the pitch he is a different character.'
Ruddy has overcome a nervous start to his City career to make the shirt indisputably his own, having spent five years being moved from one loan club to another – nine in total – until Paul Lambert ended the nomadic lifestyle by signing him from Everton last summer. Finally, says Wood, he has found a home.
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'I think he has needed to play first team football,' said the 57-year-old, whose own lifestyle hasn't exactly been a settled one since he joined the pro ranks.
'Just looking at what he has done and maybe the reason he never broke into the team at Everton is because they have had experienced goalkeepers, international class goalkeepers, and were maybe a bit reluctant to give a young promising goalkeeper an opportunity.
'Therefore he goes out on loan everywhere but never feels completely settled, or loved, if you like.
'I think this is probably the first club where he feels at home.
'This is his club, he is number one choice, everybody loves him here, everybody knows how hard he works and I think he has now got to use this as his stepping stone to go to the next level.'
Wood's own colourful playing career began as a youth at Colchester, but has taken him around the world – domestically he spent five years at Charlton, making 147 appearances, 121 of those consecutively and also played for Exeter and Colchester.
He has played in Denmark, Malta and Finland, and rubbed shoulders with legends like Bobby Moore and George Best in Hong Kong where he played for Happy Valley.
He has also coached in Gibraltar and America, and been part of management teams at Brighton – where he also had a short spell in charge.
Curiously he has played for two different foreign teams in the European Cup – in 1982-83 he was named man of the match over two legs playing for Helsinki JK against Bob Paisley's Liverpool, when the Finns won the first leg 1-0 but lost the second 5-0.
His most recent home has been in Spain, where he ran Charlton's European Soccer School, and then took it over himself when funding was discontinued.
It was to have been the end of the wanderlust, but when City assistant Ian Culverhouse called, he couldn't resist the lure.
'I've known Ian since he was young and I got a phone call about four weeks ago asking if I would be interested in coming to do this, so here I am,' he said.
'I've travelled quite a lot and been packing suitcases and we did say when I went to Spain I probably wouldn't do it again, but it was Ian, and the club – it's THE place to be isn't it?
'It's so professional here, I think it can only go in one direction.'
JEFF WOOD FACTS
• Started at Colchester United youth
• Made 147 appearances for Charlton – including 121 consecutively – between 1975 and 1981
• Played for Helsinki JK against Liverpool in the 1982-83 European Cup
• Played in European Cup for Maltese side Rabat Ajax against eventual winners Porto
• Playing career included a spell in Hong Kong playing for Happy Valley
• Coached at Colchester United as well as American junior side West Side in Minneapolis
• Was assistant manager to Steve Gritt at Brighton
• Managed non-league Chesham and St Albans
• Worked in south east Spain and commentated on Primera League matches