Anyone who has sat with me knows that I’ve had a love hate relationship with Ollie, but even I have to hold my hands up and ask whether it is time for him to start a game.
He changed the complexion of our attack and, no disrespect to the big man, but when we stopped going diagonal to him we looked a far more potent attacking force. If we’re not playing it into Rheady then there’s every chance he’s better coming off the bench, meaning Ollie has to start. Of course, the 4-3-3 means we could play Green centrally and someone either side of him, but you and I know Green can’t go a game without ploughing the channels, it is in his nature.
Once upon a time I said to anyone who cared to listen “I don’t know the question, but whatever it is the answer is no Ollie Palmer.” I based that on the old Ollie, the one who spent 45 minutes at Crewe and Colchester playing a game all of his own. That guy isn’t here anymore though, instead we seem to have been left with a wonderfully gifted striker capable of some truly outstanding moments of forward play. When his thunderous effort struck the underside of the bar on Saturday I rubbed my eyes and looked over the top of my glasses to make sure I’d seen it correctly. Yep, the one-time clueless centre forward has gone, in his place the striker we all hoped to sign on deadline day.
His eagerness to run at defenders poses them a huge problem, do they try to challenge him or not? He’s not some five foot eleven winger who blows away in a strong wind, this is a hulking great man, six-foot four if he’s an inch with power and strength. He’s single-minded in his approach, he runs at goal and drives on in that unorthodox manner of his, but he’s changed. No longer does he look like the tall kid who got picked towards the end of PE because he was tall but couldn’t play, now he looks like a footballer. He looks worthy of a red and white shirt and by god, if anyone has earned themselves a start, it is him.
I stand by the fact Matt Green should always start, without fail. I won’t be swayed on that, he’s been out third best player this season and bringing him to the club was a massive coup, not quite Bozzie standard but up there. Ollie Palmer snuck in as a project, a big lump we knew little about, surely the focus of a long ball or too. That wasn’t his style, it still isn’t, but he’s adapted as have we. Now, we know not to expect a dominant force in the air, in return he’s added aerial threat to his repertoire. It has been ages since I’ve seen him rise for a header, only for his head to shrivel into his shoulders as the ball approaches. Now, despite still not being ‘Luke Waterfall’ dominant, he meets the ball squarely and with purpose.
Heading isn’t what Ollie does though, is it? He’s a runner, as unpredictable and unorthodox as he is effective and energetic. Defenders can’t handle him, nobody knows what is coming next and he does look a much more rounded and complete player. He is the only one in our squad who looks capable of producing something from nothing, the only player who shoots on sight and bulldozes his way through banks of players. Sure, it doesn’t always work, but nothing ventured, nothing gained right?
For me, there’s still a question mark over that single-mindedness. I might be wrong, but it is my understanding Elliott was on penalties. A quick glance at the ‘goals for’ tally shows Ollie Palmer on nine, was he wanting the ball to secure a bit of a bonus? Is he on some extra wedge for hitting double figures? Whatever the reason, that wasn’t the sort of scenes we need to be seeing and had we lost the game, or indeed drawn, he might not have come through it with as much glory. It points to a player who perhaps doesn’t always think, the type who celebrates with his shirt off knowing he’s getting a booking, but I suppose it showed desire.
In an Instagram comment this week he told Sean Raggett there was more chance of him ‘folding a crisp’ than getting a start, but I think Danny hinted today at a change of heart. He said he might have to make decisions about key players given their current load. Rheady played the full 90 on Saturday, will he make way for my favourite worst enemy? Every time Ollie does well someone comes at me with a smart comment as if I still call him, well I don’t.
He converted me, I’ve admitted it on more than one occasion, I was wrong. Ollie Palmer has turned into the centre forward we all wanted to see join in January, quick and direct, resilient and unpredictable with a panache for scoring great and crucial goals. Is he going to have that ‘most improved’ player award, the fictional one we only award on social media, or is it still destined for Elliott Whitehouse? Both have bided their time, both have fallen foul of fans criticism and yet as we enter the final straight, both have flourished into key parts of our squad.
Who would ever have though it, those two player being the darlings of fans as we face our penultimate away day? Tremendous.