Kieffer Moore: Wales striker whose fortunes changed at Torquay | Wales

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On the night of November 2019, when Wales qualified for the European Championship, the winner of the match, freshly arrived at Juventus from Arsenal a few months earlier, was Aaron Ramsey. The architect of his first goal was Gareth Bale, the Cardiff lad who became a galactic at Real Madrid, but his second stemmed from a smart move by Kieffer Moore, whose route to the biggest stage was a bit more scenic, taking spells at Torquay and Truro, for whom he played part-time while working as a lifeguard and personal trainer.

five months later Wales won hearts at Euro 2016, Moore was treading water in non-league football deemed essential by Forest Green, who sent him on loan to hometown club Torquay. Prior to this there had been unsuccessful trials at Exeter and Leyton Orient.

Moore caused a stir at Torquay – scoring five goals in four games – so much so that they were close to signing him permanently in January 2017, until then-Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy headed to the club. ‘attacker. A £25,000 deal has been struck. Two days later, Moore was in the directors’ box in Portman Road, putting pen to paper ahead of Ipswich’s 3-2 victory over Blackburn. Tom Lawrence, excluded from Wales’ 26-man squadscored twice.

Moore is more than a target man. The 1.96m (6ft 4in) striker is deceptively quick, nimble, two-footed and a cunning presence, as evidenced by the awareness he displayed to score Ramsey’s second goal against the Hungary, during his fifth cap. He has scored five goals since his debut against Belarus 18 months ago. “For my height, people think I can’t do what I can, but I’m a good mover,” he said last year. “I can run the ball, I can run the channels and cause a nuisance.”

This season he became the first Cardiff player to score 20 goals in a league season since the late Peter Whittingham in 2010. “We could do with a replica of him,” McCarthy said in February.

Kieffer Moore in Wales training. He’s 6-foot-4 but says, “I’m a good mover.” Photography: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Until Dave Bowman, Ipswich’s director of football at the time, became aware of Moore’s availability, they were open to a move for Oli Hawkins, then of Dagenham & Redbridge. Hawkins was another striker who had moonlighted as a makeshift centre-back. At Yeovil, for whom Moore played against Manchester United in the FA Cup, he was sometimes used as a defender – “it’s always a position I felt he could be comfortable in,” his manager said, Gary Johnson – but after his release he signed for Norwegian side Viking, where he played alongside Millwall and Iceland striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. It was an intriguing move but playing time was limited and he returned home before joining Forest Green.

Twenty-four hours before signing for Torquay, he made his debut for England C, a side made up of non-League players, in Tallinn. Ethan Pinnock, now of Brentford and former Forest Green team-mate, and Jamal Lowe, now of Swansea, also featured in this match.

Moore’s rise earned him a call-up to Wales while at Barnsley, but there was a time when a move to China was on the cards. Plans to explore his Chinese ancestry have also been put on hold.

The Devon-born striker, named after actor Kiefer Sutherland, qualifies for Wales through his maternal grandfather, Raymond, who hails from Llanrug near Caernarfon, the scene of many summer trips. ‘childhood. Proving his eligibility was another thing, however. “There was a lot of back and forth because we couldn’t find my grandfather’s birth certificate,” Moore said two years ago. “My mother was looking everywhere, rushing into the attic, everywhere; the whole family is looking for him. We had to send a copy, but we had to get more information and there was a lot of paperwork involved.

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Moore made 11 substitute appearances for Ipswich and did not start a game in the Championship, but the move put him in the spotlight. Suddenly, any fall was not so important. He excelled on loan at Rotherham in League One and was sold to local rivals Barnsley. His prolific form led Wigan to pay £3.75m, plus extras, for the striker before financial problems forced him to join Cardiff last summer for half.

The 28-year-old took every step in his stride and Ryan Giggs quickly recognized he could get the most out of others by building his offense around a focal point. Qualifying was a team effort, but Moore’s breakthrough has transformed the Wales front line and he is a favorite amongst a section of the supporters.

But if it hadn’t been for that 28-day spell at Torquay, which included a hat-trick, including two headers, against Solihull Moors, and the move to the second tier with Ipswich, he certainly wouldn’t be soaring to Azerbaijan on Monday. as Wales’ No.9.

“I slowly ascended [the divisions], slowly went down and slowly came back up,” he said. “I spent a lot of time outside the league. My journey has been very different from that of many players. It has been a very special trip.

Ben Fisher writes for the Guardian.

Follow him on Twitter @benfisherj.

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