With a handful of first-team appearances for Crystal Palace under his belt, Sam Woods headed to Scotland with Hamilton Academical in the next exciting part of his development.
The centre-back will be with the Scottish Premier League side until their final league game in the middle of May. Although it's a relatively brief spell with the SPL outfit, Woods has settled in quickly. He says: "It’s been really easy. I’ve settled in well and the team have been really welcoming. It’s a good group of lads.
"I'm living away from home for the first time and that has taken getting used to. But I’m growing up as a person as well as a footballer whilst up here."
Developing off the pitch, Woods is making quite the impact on it, too, with a debut goal against Livingston seeing him make the perfect start on a personal level. "It was a great feeling [scoring on my debut]. Naturally I was disappointed with the [2-4] result but personally it was great to get a goal as I don’t get many."
There was no time for Woods to enjoy his rare moment of glory in front of goal, though, with his second appearance for Hamilton Academical pitting him against now-runaway leaders, Celtic.
"Celtic was a great game to play in," he recollects. "It was at home but they brought so many fans with them. The atmosphere was crazy. I was playing against top-quality players like Odsonne Édouard, Scott Brown and Ryan Christie."
Woods continues: "I wasn’t intimidated. I was focussed on the game and wanted to prove I could compete with them. We went down to 10 men early on and everyone was defending for their lives – it was unfortunate that was conceded so late on."
Hearing Woods talk about playing against a high calibre of opposition will please Director of U23 Development, Mark Bright, and Woods reveals that despite the long move north, Bright is still actively tracking his progress.
He says: "I regularly talk to Brighty and he has come up and watched a couple of my games. He will also watch back my performances and send me advice on what I can be doing better or what I did well. It’s not like I’ve been sent up here and been forgotten."
He adds: "The biggest learning curve for me is getting used to the physicality. I remember in my first game and I went up for my first header and I was like: ‘Wow. Ok this is proper football now.’"
Nearing a return from a hamstring injury picked up against Aberdeen, Woods will be hoping to continue making great strides with his own personal development and playing a role in helping the Accies stave off relegation.