Transfer news: Newcastle to sign relegation rival Burnley’s star striker Chris Wood

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Newcastle United are set to pull off one of the shrewdest pieces of transfer business you’ll ever see, after reportedly activating a $34-million release clause to sign Chris Wood.

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Burnley, for who Chris Wood plays, are Newcastle’s nearest and first rival in the Premier League relegation battle. Both the Clarets, in 18th, and Magpies, in 19th, are on 11 points, though Burnley have played two fewer games thus far. The gap to 17th-place (and safety), where Watford currently reside, is two points.

The move was necessitated by Callum Wilson’s calf injury, which is set to keep him out for eight weeks. Wilson’s absence leaves manager Eddie Howe and Newcastle without a reliable option at center option for as many as eight Premier League games between now and early March.

Not only will signing Wood critically (and potentially fatally) weaken Burnley in the relegation battle, but a player of Wood’s expertise — a strong target man, who’s worth his weight in goal on set pieces (at both ends), with huge experience in back-to-back-to-back relegation scraps — will also be expected to fill the role of “consistent finisher.” Newcastle have exactly two players (Callum Wilson – 6, Allan Saint-Maximin – 4) with more than one goal this season.

At (many) times in recent seasons, it felt like Chris Wood was singlehandedly dragging Burnley to points and, ultimately, safety with precious little help from anyone. The New Zealand international has scored at least 10 league goals (a startlingly high percentage of goals scored by Burnley) in each of his four seasons in the Premier League (49 in total, including the current season).

With Wood in the team, Burnley have scored 16 goals this season. Without Wood in theirs, Newcastle have slightly more at 19, though it’s virtually the same, sad number on per-game average.