Michael Woods, born on July 23, 1962, was brought up in Gżira. There must be something in the air in this locality which nourishes star footballers because Gżira, or rather the Gżira Primary School, has given to our game some of its best footballers.
Willie Vassallo, Ronnie Cocks, Toninu Camilleri, Hugh Caruana, Eric Schembri, Ronnie Schembri, the Cristiano brothers and Woods are but a few that come readily to mind.
Woods was educated at the Gżira Primary School and the Ħamrun Lyceum. It was here that he learned the basic skills of the game under the expert guidance of sports master Anthony P. Scicluna.
Since the opening of the new Gżira Primary in September 1956, the school's football team embarked on a number of successes, the envy of other district teams.
Joining Gżira United as a minor player in 1980, Woods was quickly drafted into the first team. In 1981-82, the Maroons were enjoying a short spin in the Premier Division.
Woods made his first team debut on September 27, 1981 at left half in the first league match of the season against Hibernians.
I remember that particular game quite clear. Although Gżira lost 0-3, Woods did enough to keep his place in the team.
That season, he chalked up 14 first-team appearances. The next term his game continued to flourish and he was hailed as the most promising player in the First Division.
The big clubs cast covetous eyes on him and it was certainly no surprise when in 1983-84 he joined Sliema Wanderers. After all, in those days many people regarded Gżira United as the nursery team of the Blues.
It seemed at the time that he had a good future with Sliema. However, they did not fully appreciate his obvious talents. The campaign went by and he was never given the chance that he deserved.
Therefore, at the end of the season, he moved to Hibernians. He never regretted the move.
At Paola, he found the space he needed and before long he had established himself as one of the brightest prospects in the Premier Division.
Woods made his debut in senior football for Hibernians on October 16, 1984 against Valletta. Despite the wealth of talent in the Hibs squad, he soon made the left half position his own. His game improved with experience and in 1984 he received his first international call up. He made his international debut against West Germany at the National Stadium on December 16, 1984. This was the first of 21 full caps for Malta.
At the end of season 1986-87, now an established player for Hibernians and Malta, he decided to immigrate to England.
His career seemed to be over but in 1992-93 he returned to Malta and Hibernians. This comeback earned him two championship titles, a Super Cup medal and the Footballer of the Year award in 1994-95.
In 1997-98, he joined Naxxar Lions where he stayed for three uneventful seasons before he retired to take up coaching. For a short period he coached Naxxar before joining Hibs as assistant coach to Robert Gatt.
Woods was the complete defender. He was a strong tackler but, at the same time, quite happy and confident when with the ball at his feet.
At the start of his career he played at full-back but in his first seasons with Hibs he took a more central position in midfield.
Later on, he moved back in defence where his experience and fine sense of defending could be more appreciated.
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