I’ve been reading a few posts on social media today lamenting our business in the summer. Obviously, most of this speculation revolves around Matt Green and his lack of goals.
My defence of Green has nothing to do with the fact the site name is next to his in the programme as a sponsor. I’m very lucky to have my name associated with a player, but the actual money was provided by two fans of the blog who wanted to contribute to the club and remain anonymous. I don’t have a financial interest in Matt Green, I just think he’s a good player who is taking the rap for our recent sparsely populated ‘goals for’ column.
The problem does not lay with the players we brought in, it is predominately an outcome of the players we did not bring in. I’m going to deal with some of the summer speculation and, if anything I say is wide of the mark, I’m happy for a club insider to contact me and I’ll put it straight.
Firstly, we were obviously in for Akinola, a deal that would have significantly altered the outlook of our attacking options. Akinola is an athletic boy, quick but also good in the air. His role would have been as partner to Matt Green, doing much of his running and picking up the balls from midfield to feed him in. In order to be really effective at this level I think you need two mobile forwards, such as Green and Akinola or Collins and Hylton at Luton. Danny’s plan was never to have Green ahead of Rhead or Palmer, it was to link him with another player, someone mobile and good in the air. My gut feeling is that Ollie Palmer was brought in as a speculative piece of business, a big lad with lots of promise who Danny and the team could work with. He wasn’t the only one I’m led to believe we were interested in for that reason, Ade Azeez was also on our radar for a similar role. Azeez and Palmer would have been the new lizards, the Checkatrade Trophy players who fleshed out the squad and provided options, not the main forwards. Azeez followed his former Partick Thistle buddy David Amoo to Cambridge. He’s made two starts so far and hasn’t been a success.
Missing out on Akinola was the tip of the iceberg. For whatever reason Danny had a frustrating summer as well as a good one. Anyone saying we had a poor summer needs to go back and check their facts. Bostwick, Anderson, Eardley, Raggett staying, Dickie, Long, Vickers… all of these have proved to be good players. Billy Knott perhaps hasn’t reached his levels yet, but he’s the exception to the rule. However, it is no secret that we missed out on a couple of other targets, players who could have really altered the landscape of our season.
Firstly, Oliver Hawkins. It’s a badly kept secret that he was around the club in the run up to transfer deadline day. The Echo reported that a player was close to joining but was also a target of a League One club. 10am deadline day Hawkins signs for Portsmouth and our chatter goes quiet for a few hours, make of that what you will. What type of player is Hawkins? A big unit that can be competitive in the air, but also mobile enough to get back around other forwards for a second phase of play. He scored four in five games upon arriving at Portsmouth and has been almost ever-present since. What does that tell you about Danny’s ability to spot a player?
It’s also been suggested to me that we were in for Stefan Payne. Payne was at Barnsley and has been on our radar for a while, I understand we wanted him on loan last season and then permanently in the summer. What happened? Well, he moved to League One Shrewsbury on loan last season and grabbed a couple of goals, he’s there permanently now and is almost in double figures for the season. Not long back I had a conversation with a senior figure at the club who mentioned, in passing, that Payne was one ‘they liked’ in the summer. I heard the same phrase when discussing winger Jordan Williams, another confirmed target who ended up at Rochdale. Williams, a player we allegedly didn’t want to overspend on, hasn’t pulled up trees at Rochdale. Payne, a player I believe we would have been prepared to pay for, wanted higher level football.
The point I’m making here is the players we did want, the ones who we were willing to spend on, have gone on to do good things. Akinola at Barnet, Hawkins at Portsmouth and Payne at Shrewsbury. You may recall we were linked with James Alabi and Danny categorically denied it. Where is Alabi now? He joined Tranmere, didn’t make the grade and is on loan at Dover. There was a player we don’t seem to have been interested in who has not pulled up any trees.
All of this brings me back around to Matt Green and his current role. He was brought in with a view to having one of these other players around him in the starting eleven, players that would compliment his abilities and help make us a potent attacking force. Instead of landing those players we’ve been left to make do with just the three forwards that perhaps don’t have the answers between them. Green does too much running and covering ground whoever he plays with at the moment. I believe Rheady is the best option, I don’t mean Palmer disrespect but to heap the goal scoring expectations on a player who has never been prolific is not fair. If he was a ‘project’ so to speak, he will be best left to develop on the fringes of the first team, not in the full glare of critical fans such as myself singing about his lack of heading ability. We can rely on Matt Rhead to do what he does and right now he’s our best option, but to accommodate the change in style we strive for does mean him coming off the bench for impact. In my opinion, he must start tomorrow though as I discussed earlier.
I have every faith in Danny, both in his transfer dealings and his ability to take us to the level he wants to be at. I have every faith in Matt Green as a centre forward too, I think he works hard and hasn’t had the breaks he deserves. I can pinpoint matches against Chesterfield where Palmer held on to the ball instead of putting Green free in the six yard box, I can point to headers against Morecambe, Crawley (I think) and Coventry that have struck the bar rather than go in, a mere inch lower and he’d have goals. He’s been halued down one on one against Wimbledon and Crawley without getting the decision too. I know you make your own luck and I know Danny doesn’t make excuses, but how fine are the margins between success and apparent failure? His endeavour also found him wriggle free and get a volley off against Coventry that was superbly blocked. If just three of those half chances had been converted he’d have six goals and the monkey would never have climbed on his back. The red card at Stevenage upset his rhythm I believe and as the games go by the pressure becomes more intense. The more intense the pressure, the more likely he is to miss the chances. It’s a vicious circle that needs breaking, but when it does he’ll be a different player and when January arrives and we can bring the right bodies in the blend with him, we’ll be fine.
I may be labouring on a point here, but when I see people’s predictions for the starting eleven and they don’t have Matt Green in them I genuinely fear for the sanity of our fan base. This is a player who has been in the Championship, scored a gaols every three games throughout his career and is still only 30. To think we’d be better playing a winger up front or even to rest the burden on Ollie Palmer’s shoulders (a goal every five games and never reached double figures in a season) genuinely astounds me. It may get harder as the weeks progress to defend Matt Green, but I’d love nothing more than for him to get a goal and kick start his season. He looked excellent early doors and as Danny says, class is permanent.
I acknowledge everyone has a right to their opinion, whether it is fans, armchair pundits or former players / manager’s friends, but writing off Matt Green based on his individual goal return isn’t fair, especially when the rest of the team aren’t chipping in either. The problem doesn’t lay with an individual, it lays with the fact we’re a work in progress team that missed out on quality accompaniments in the summer. The problem, by the way, is 12th place and four off the play-offs. What a problem to have, eh? We could be Leyton Orient, 21st in the Conference and managerless, or worse still York City who face Boston, Telford and Blyth Spartans in the run up to Christmas.
Oh, as a quick retort to the person who said the budget was one of the biggest we’d had in recent years, of course it is. We reached the FA Cup Quarter Final last year, we are as high as we’ve been in almost a decade and we’re nowhere near spent up yet. We’re not struggling here, we’re not fighting relegation. Get a grip, yeah?
Cheers, as always, to Bubs and LCFC