Rocks star Wood: How I ended up at Bognor via Crystal Palace, Millwall and Dartford

Jimmy Langton has been catching up with a number of past and present Rocks stars in recent weeks. Here he talks to one of the current squad's key men, defender Keaton Wood.

Keaton Wood, right of the group, and team-mates celebrate a goal at Folkestone last October / Picture: Tommy McMillan
Keaton Wood, right of the group, and team-mates celebrate a goal at Folkestone last October / Picture: Tommy McMillan

JL: Which clubs have you felt at home with?

KW: I would have to say both Bognor and Dartford. I have really enjoyed my time out of professional football, made better by the friends I have gotten to know and the coaches that have challenged me to develop and enjoy my football.

JL: Who’s the best manager you have played for and why?

KW: Tough one! Not sure I have a ‘best’ manager but certainly ones that have helped me throughout my career so far, Jack Pearce for his interpersonal skills and his friendship, Tony Burman at Darford for teaching me men’s football.

JL: Are there any role models you look up to and why?

KW: In my life I would have to say my dad. He has devoted so much time to making sure my mum and both my sister and I have had a good life. In football terms, it was always David Beckham. The way he played, I admired it, and when I got older I was able to understand and appreciate how he handled so much and still continued to be great!

JL: What was the reason for joining Bognor?

KW: I work at Southampton FC in their academy coaching and couldn’t keep committing to travelling to Dartford; it was really tough driving 150 miles three times a week. Tony Burman was kind enough to put me in contact with Jack and that was that really.

JL: Did you have any trials at any higher league clubs?

KW: Yes, I was a part of Crystal Palace’s Academy but I didn’t gain a scholarship so I moved over to Millwall where I played that scholarship before gaining two professional contracts. I then moved to Dartford FC after getting my coaching job at Southampton.

JL: What’s your favourite football club? (Apart from Bognor, obviously!)

KW: Where I grew up in Ashford, Kent, my closest team was Gillingham but they were still 30 miles away so I didn’t grow up supporting my local side. I followed Arsenal because of my late uncle although now I support England, of course, and follow Saints.

JL: Which coach do you feel you have benefited from most in your career?

KW: I have benefited from all of my coaches, I think, some more than others. I remember a coach from my younger years at Gillingham, he made me appreciate the time you had to put into your practice. At Millwall, David Livermore is the coach I admired the most, his detail and care for the individual, and how you’d fit into the team was great. He knew how to challenge each person to their respective level and always took time to plan methodically. I base a lot of my coaching on him to this day. Tony Burman taught me how I could enjoy non-league football and the competitive edge of that game. Jack and Robbie have shown me how to play entertaining football and how to win (only lately though, haha!).

JL: What’s your favourite colour?

KW: Blue.

JL:Who’s your best player you have played against?

KW: Wilfried Zaha was pretty good. I played against Palace for Millwall when they had Marouane Chamakh, Brede Hangeland, Zaha, Darren Ambrose and Julián Speroni playing.

JL: Do you intend to go full-time into coaching when you have retired from playing?

KW: Always. Ever since I was little I was helping others to learn to play; up the park. I didn’t think I would start that side of my career whilst still playing. I thought I would have had a longer, more successful professional career and coached alongside that, although I would say that I love what I do now and wouldn’t change it for anything.

JL: Why did you choose football?

KW: I don’t think any player can answer that. All I can remember is playing with my dad when I was very small and just loving it. Always in football kits, always playing, smashing windows and annoying the neighbours. I find it amazing how something so simple on paper, kicking a ball into two uprights and a horizontal bar whilst keeping it out of your own, can bring so much joy to so many.

JL;Who’s the best player you have played with and why?

KW: I like to think I have played with many, Shaun Williams at Millwall was technically amazing, along with Aiden O’Brien, Ben Thompson and Ebere Eze. I don’t want to offend anyone by missing someone out!!

You can follow Jimmy on Twitter, @JimmyLangton2 ... watch out for another of his Rocks interviews soon