Walsall, Staffordshire born inside left Harry Wood began his football career with Walsall Swifts in 1884 before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer of 1885, making his senior debut for the Wanderers in an FA Cup tie against Derby St. Luke’s on 31 October 1885. After the formation of the Football League in 1888, although he didn’t play in their inaugural League fixture, his League debut coming at Accrington in October 1888 when he scored in a 4-4 draw, he was Wolves’ top scorer in their first League season with 14 goals in the campaign, including a hat-trick against Derby County in a 4-1 victory in November 1888, the first League hat-trick scored by a Wolverhampton Wanderers player. A pen-picture printed in 1889 described him as being “clever in ball manipulation and staidley exact distribution.” He finished the season playing in the FA Cup Final where Wolves lost 3-0 to The Invincibles of Preston North End at The Kennington Oval in their unbeaten Double winning season.
He continued to top Wolves’ goalscoring charts with 18 strikes in 1889-90 and played in Wolves’ 1-0 FA Cup semi final defeat to eventual winners Blackburn Rovers at The County Ground, Derby, then top scored again with 12 goals in 1890-91 before a brief return to Walsall Town Swifts in July 1891 meant he only scored 8 times in 1891-92, albeit in only 8 games, including a hat-trick in a 6-3 win at Aston Villa in April 1892, having returned to Wolves in December 1891.
Known as a real gentleman, he was a model professional who played the game with great skill and enthusiasm, he was first selected to play for England when he played in a 3-1 victory over Wales at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham in March 1890, and scored in his second international, a 1-1 draw against Scotland at Hampden Park the next month. He was also selected for the squad against Scotland the following year but was a non playing reserve.
He again topped Wolves’ goalscoring charts in 1892-93 and played in every round of their FA Cup campaign which saw them win the trophy for the first time, beating Everton 1-0 at Fallowfield in the Final. After being demoted to second top club goalscorer in 1893-94, scoring 12 goals to Joe Butcher’s 14, he returned to the top of the club’s list with 10 goals in 1894-95 and 17 goals in 1895-96, when Wolves again made the FA Cup Final, losing 2-1 to Sheffield Wednesday in the Final at The Crystal Palace. Wood was recalled to the England team in April 1896, playing in a 2-1 defeat to Scotland at Celtic Park, his fourth and final cap. Additionally he represented The Football League on four occasions between April 1893 and April 1898.
In the summer of 1898, Southampton’s trainer, Bill Dawson, was on a short holiday in Stoke when he read in a local paper that Wood had not yet renewed the terms of his contract with Wolves. Dawson tracked Wood down to a Walsall pub and eventually persuaded him to sign for The Saints, who had just claimed the Southern League Championship for the second consecutive year. According to Holley & Chalk’s The Alphabet of the Saints, “Harry Wood stands out as probably the most popular footballer to wear the Saints’ colours during the Southern League era”, being appointed the club captain.
In his first season at The Dell Wood was an ever-present making 24 appearances, scoring 16 goals as The Saints took the Southern League Championship for the third time. The following season, Saints only managed third place in the League, but reached the FA Cup Final for the first time in their history, beating three First Division clubs along the way. Unfortunately, the Cup Final was a great disappointment as Saints were swept aside 4-0 by Bury.
In the following season, 1900-01, Saints once again took the Southern League Championship, with Wood scoring 10 goals and Edgar Chadwick their top-scorer with 14 goals. The 1901-02 season followed a similar pattern to 1899-1900 with Saints finishing in third place and reaching their second FA Cup Final, losing 2-1 to Sheffield United after a replay at The Crystal Palace, the first match having finished as a 1-1 draw. In 1902-03, Saints won their sixth (and last) Southern League Championship with Wood only missing two games, scoring 12 goals. By now he was sharing the goal-scoring with John Fraser (15 goals), Fred Harrison (17 goals in only 13 games) and Joe Turner (14 goals).
Wood’s cunning passing earned him the nickname “The Wolf” and for seven years he captained The Saints during their most successful era. In all, he made 180 appearances for the Saints, scoring 65 goals.
In his final season at The Dell, The Saints played a testimonial match for Woods against Aston Villa. The gate money raised was £106 5s 6d which was boosted by donations from the Southampton public to make a total benefit cheque of £250 5s. After hanging up his boots in 1905 aged 37, Wood was appointed trainer of Portsmouth, a position he held until 1912.
He was the father of Arthur Wood, who kept goal for Southampton either side of the First World War and Clapton Orient throughout the 1920’s.
NB this photograph was taken ahead of Wood’s debut appearance for The Football League in Glasgow on 8th April 1893, The Football League beating The Scottish League 4-1.