In Profile: Nathan Wood

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Nathan Wood has been a player on Russell Martin’s radar for some time – even before the pair worked together at Swansea.

Martin’s pursuit of Wood began back in 2020. The 6ft 2in centre-back, who hails from Ingleby Barwick in Stockton-on-Tees, a few miles outside Middlesbrough, had already featured a handful of times for the Boro first team.

Indeed, Wood still holds the record for being Middlesbrough’s youngest ever player, aged 16 years and 72 days, when he appeared as a substitute in a Carabao Cup tie against Notts County in 2018.

A 16-year-old Nathan Wood in action for Middlesbrough at Preston

In 2020/21, still only 18, Wood began to play more regularly following the arrival of Neil Warnock as manager, making seven appearances that season before joining Crewe on loan in League One.

That allowed the defender to gain valuable experience, starting 11 of 12 games for the Railwaymen. His only other loan move was to Hibernian in Scotland the following campaign, which lasted only one appearance.

By the summer of 2022, 20-year-old Wood had played the last of his 14 games for Boro – not a huge sample size, but enough for Martin to identify his talent and bring him to Swansea, just as he had tried two years earlier as manager of MK Dons.

“He is very composed for such a young man and he possesses all the tools you need for a centre-half,” Martin was quoted at the time. “He brings physical presence, height and power, and the right mentality. He has an incredible pedigree.

“He has probably got a little bit lost, for want of a better word, over the last year or two, and had some difficult moments. But I think those experiences will be the making of him.”

Getting stuck in during last season's South Wales derby at Cardiff

The manager was proved right. Wood excelled in South Wales, maturing as a player and person, he believes, before Martin took the Saints job after one season together.

“Obviously I improved on the pitch massively in those 40 games, but it was more off the pitch where the big difference was,” Wood reflected.

“We had a great group of lads at Swansea, but I think that filtered down from the way the manager set standards, and the environment.”

Whilst Martin moved on, Wood remained a fixture at the heart of the Swansea backline, barring a three-month period through the autumn in which he was sidelined by an ankle injury.

Wood has impressed at Swansea with his calmness in possession

After 72 appearances for the Swans, including 43 under Martin, the pair are reunited once more – this time in the Premier League.

Player and manager believe Wood has the attributes to make the step up. An article last summer, from, describes him as “the epitome of the modern-day ball-carrying CB” and “even when pressed by the opposition, he calmly dribbles past them to give him time and space to pass”.

Swansea’s possession-based style, entrenched in the club’s DNA for the past 15 years, has helped Wood flourish. He has plentiful experience playing in four- and five-man defences, with Martin having utilised both setups in his first season with Saints.

A well-timed tackle for England Under-20s against Germany in 2022

Wood is also described as “physically dominant” and “his speed makes him ideal for a defence playing a high line”. It is this combination of athleticism and composure that Martin has long since admired.

A regular through the England age groups, his talent most recently caught the eye of Under-21 boss Lee Carsley, who has now selected Wood from the start on three occasions, winning the last of his caps in March in a European Championship qualifier against Azerbaijan. His centre-back partner that day? Taylor Harwood-Bellis.

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