I made no secret of the fact that I liked Jack Payne.
I was thrilled when he signed for City, and I firmly believed he could be the link between midfield and attack in Danny’s 4-2-3-1 formation which brought us success. At his best, he is a creator, a tricky and slick attacking midfielder with skills and tricks to unlock the tightest of defences.
Sadly, at worst, he gave the ball away in poor positions and could be bullied out of a game. That is what it seemed like as he made his way into the MA era. A terrible outing at Gillingham looked to end his Imps stint, but a late cameo against Southend proved he could change the complexion of a game, despite not being given much time on the field. Personally, I felt that he would have been a better option than Jake Hesketh. Given Payne is a regular in a League One side, and Hesketh is at Crawley, I can’t help but think I might be right.
Still, Payne was a big investment and when the summer came around, it was touch and go whether he would remain at the club. We were never going to sell him, just as MK Dons didn’t sell McGrandles, but he did leave and freed up money for MA’s rebuild. Swindon got a player with lots of experience in League One, and MA got players in he felt were right for his system.
“Ultimately, you can only give so much to players and teams for them to go and do it,” Michael said in his press conference ahead of the game. “Jack will feel he didn’t get enough opportunities, which is fine. He had the opportunity to prove me and various other people wrong. That’s football.
“He’s obviously a talented player, but ultimately you need to make sure, whatever talent you’ve got, you can bring it every single week,” he added, hinting at the inconsistency that Imps fans would certainly have been frustrated about in the autumn period of last season. “When Jack went to Swindon, there were no issues. It was an opportunity for him to get more game time. I had no problem with that. I could see his reasoning and he could see ours. It was very amicable.”
Payne has gone to the County Ground and got game time in a turbulent season, but what has changed in terms of his input? I’ve turned to Wyscout to see if he has had more impact for the Robins than for us.
Positionally, it seems as though Swindon are trying to work out his best position but bear in mind they have had injuries to cover and a managerial change. He has played centre forward, attacking midfield, right-wing and left-wing across his 14 games. For us, he played in the ten role for much of the early part of his stay but last started there in the 1-1 draw with Wimbledon. After that, he was almost always used on the left-wing, including the final 12 minutes of his Imps career at Roots Hall.
He has been much more productive for Swindon than for us. During his time at City, he scored twice and created two assists. Both of his assists came under Danny Cowley, against Everton and Southend, but oddly both of his goals came under MA, including the first of his managerial stint away at Blackpool. For Swindon, he has four assists and a single goal in nine games, although much of that action came in September and the first week of November. Indeed, in his last eight matches, he has a single assist, coming against Plymouth as they lost 4-2. He is shooting more, 2.29 times per game for them with 40.7% accuracy, whereas for us it was 2.05, at just 33.3% accuracy. He is even creating better chances for teammates, with 1.95 shot assists per game for Swindon, but just 1.18 per game for us. Against Hull City recently, a game Swindon won 2-1, he created four chances for strikers, which eclipsed his highest single-game total for us which came against Huddersfield. His best game in terms of creation for Swindon came against West Brom Under 23’s in the EFL Trophy, where he laid on six shots for teammates.
He may have had more freedom in terms of dribbling for us, making 5.64 dribbles per game during his stay at the Bank, with a success rate of 49.2%, which is impressive. he lingers far less on the ball with Swindon, making 3.98 dribbles per game, but still packing a healthy 44.7% success rate. it does seem, at first glance, as though he is becoming more than player I thought he would be for us, which doesn’t bode well if he feels he has an axe to grind.
Again, this may reflect the style, but his forward pass tally, his passes into the final third and accuracy in both of those fields has reduced. For us, he made 4.64 passes per game into the final third (71% accurate), 9.22 forward passes per game (68.85 accurate) and 2.87 into the penalty area (65.1%). For the Robins, those numbers drop to 4.4 into the final third at 63.5% accuracy, 2.37 into the penalty area at 57.1% accuracy and 7.96 forward passes at 66%. The number shave dropped slightly which could be down as much to his teammates as to his own input.
I think we’re seeing the settling down of Jack Payne at Swindon, and how he goes from here will be interesting. it does seem as though he got off to a great start, but in recent weeks that has tailed off. He’s had just five shots on target since the beginning of October, compared with the likes of James Jones (seven) and Grant (ten) in the same time frame. He will have a point to prove tomorrow and I wonder if maybe, just maybe, his blossoming partnership with Brett Pitman might help pull the Robins away from the bottom of the table. Pitman is the type of player who should gobble up chances if presented and Payne thrives on players being in the right place at the right time. The onus will be on our midfield to make sure they stick close to him. From his time at City, it did seem as though close attention could stifle his game, something I’m sure Liam Bvridcutt will look to offer.
Despite MA’s comments, I strongly suspect Jack Payne will want to prove a point tomorrow. Let’s just hope tomorrow he tries too hard…
What were your thoughts on Jack? A luxury player or someone who can impact matches with his tenacity? Discuss here on our forum.