It’s hard to believe that Wales star Kieffer Moore was plying his trade in the fifth-tier National League the last time the Dragons qualified for a major tournament at the 2016 UEFA European Championships, writes Holly Hunt.
But the Cardiff City striker has made a strong case to be the EFL player of this year’s tournament, and he has more than played his part in getting Wales to the last-16.
Moore, who averages the most headers at the tournament after Scotland’s Lyndon Dykes, netted against Switzerland in Wales’ Group A opener, levelling for Rob Page’s side in the 74th minute.
The 28-year-old also starred in the 2-0 victory over Turkey and made an appearance from the bench when Wales fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Italy but booked a place in the knockout stages nonetheless.
After beginning his career at hometown club Torquay United, he landed his big break in July 2013 when the forward caught the attention of newly-promoted Championship side Yeovil Town.
However, with his season cut short by a calf injury, and Yeovil facing relegation back to League One before being demoted to League Two the following year, Moore found himself a free agent by the close of the 2014/15 campaign.
One spell in Norway and a failed attempt at promotion to the EFL with Forest Green Rovers later, the Devon-born forward was granted a second chance by Ipswich Town, inking an 18-month contract worth the nominal fee of £10,000.
Finding game time hard to come by, he took his chance and headed out on loan to League One team Rotherham United, and it was there that his rejuvenated club career took flight. He made an immediate impression, introducing himself to the South Yorkshire club’s supporters by bagging a hat-trick on his home debut in a 5-0 victory over Southend United.
Netting 13 goals in 22 appearances as the Millers pressed towards the play-offs, Moore returned to parent club Ipswich and was subsequently sold to local rivals Barnsley in the January transfer window.
Despite his late arrival, Moore was unable to save the Reds from the drop but finished the 2018/29 season as Barnsley’s joint leading marksman, breaking into double figures as the club bounced back to the second-tier, whilst also securing a place in the PFA League One Team of the Year.
Those impressive figures earned Moore his next move to Championship rivals Wigan Athletic, penning a three-year-deal for £3.75 million before the club suffered relegation after being dealt a points deduction.
The 11th and most recent club on his CV became Cardiff City when Moore moved back to Wales for an undisclosed fee in August last year, finishing the 2020/21 season as the Bluebirds’ top scorer on 20 goals before dusting off his boots and heading off to Euro 2020.
And Wales’ fortunes could have been very different had Moore chosen to pursue his Chinese ancestry.
Through his grandfather, the Chinese Football Association attempted to make contact with the prolific striker on the grounds of the heritage of his great-grandfather, and Moore even journeyed to Beijing before being called up to the Wales training squad in May 2019.
His first international goal for his country came against Slovakia in a Euro 2020 qualifier in October, which he followed up with two more strikes in his first three away internationals.
For his contribution, he was rewarded by Page with a call-up to the squad for the delayed European Championships in May – a tournament in which he has shone brightly, and not just because of his neon headband.
You can follow Holly on Twitter @HollyHunt10