Anthony Scully – The Imps’ Secret Star?

Credit Graham Burrell

Anthony Scully is something of an enigma. You can’t quite pin him down to a position, you can’t pigeon hole him as being anything specific other than perhaps and attacker, but he is coming up with the goods on a consistent basis and it is worth reflecting on that as we move into the transfer window.

You will be hard pushed to find a fan who doesn’t think we need a striker in the next month, even after the capture of Morgan Rogers. Tom Hopper is our first-choice number nine, but we (arguably) don’t have a dedicated reserve, back-up or protege. What we have is Anthony Scully, a player who can play out wide, behind the striker or as the nine, but doesn’t appear to be defined by any role. Ask if he’s a dedicated nine, you’d probably say no, same to him being a winger and as we don’t play a ten, he isn’t can’t be that right now either. He doesn’t play deep enough to be one of the two attacking midfielders, so to the letter of the law, he doesn’t actually fit anywhere.

Nine goals from 25 games isn’t bad for a player it is hard to define though, is it? Throw his four assists in there too, and you have a player who has been involved in 13 goals from just 16 starts this season. Even if fans don’t think they can call him in a particular position, it does seem that ‘on the pitch from the start’ is enough to guarantee a hand in almost a goal a game. If he kept that up over the course of a 46 game season, and with cup matches thrown in to, he’d finish on 20+ goals and maybe ten assists. That’s impressive by any stretch of the imagination. let alone for a young player such as Scully.

(Courtesy Graham Burrell)

According to Wyscout, he’s played RW, LW, LAMF, RAMF and CF since the beginning of December alone. After yesterday’s performance, some might think he’s best deployed through the centre, but only two of his goals have come with him playing through the middle – yesterday and his strike in the EFL Trophy win against Shrewsbury. He seems to have more luck drifting in from the wings, cutting inside and getting into the channels. The goals which stick in my mind include yesterdays, obviously, where he’s taken a position in the channel for a corner, and the Oxford season opener where he’s popped up in the same position. I would almost suggest that if we were to try to define him, we might have to go back a few years and say he is the perfect inside forward. Is that to say that he is a throwback, a player the like of which could easily have thrived in the game 100 years ago?

Maybe so, but there is no doubting his impact right now and in a fluid side such as ours, where positions are perhaps less clearly defined and stringent than most, he is well placed to make a real name for himself. The lad has the right ingredients to be a top Championship play in his career – his upbringing at West Ham is strong, given their habit of producing good footballers. He has the international pedigree too and there is something about him that makes him different, something hard to put the finger on. I see glimpses of other players that have been hard to define over the years, both here and in the wider world. Billy Knott is one who springs to mind, whilst in terms of physique and the way he approaches the game, Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney pop into my head too.

Shades of Knott? – Credit Graham Burrell

He isn’t the tallest, he isn’t the quickest, but he has something special about him that is hard not to like. Whilst that is all well and good, as it was with Knott, you also have to have something to back up the style, and Scully does. Nine goals at this stage of the season is not to be sniffed out, not when other players we (rightly) applaud such as Johnson, Montsma and Hopper only have one more each in the league and all have significantly more starts than Scully. He is the only player to score in all four competitions for us, and in terms of goals from open play, he is our leading scorer full stop. He snuck in from nowhere, ahead of Johnson, Hopper and Montsma to cement himself as a key part of our attack.

As you know I like a stat and there are some aspects of Scully’s game that further enhance the notion that he is integral to our arsenal, even if we are unsure where to deploy him. He averages 2.17 shots per game (Hopper, for comparison only, is 0.95), with 46.3% accuracy (Johnson hits 45%). He outperforms his xG too, meaning he is slightly more clinical than the stats people think he is expected to be. He creates 1.02 shot assists per game (Hopper is on 0.5, Anderson 0.58 and Johnson 0.59), and 3.51 dribbles per game, (Jorge Grant makes 2.84) with 53.2% success (Anderson and Grant are both around the 58% mark). These stats are not meant to call out the players I’m comparing him too, all have been key components in our push up the table, but instead, it is intended to show that Anthony Scully is competitive in every area with the other attacking players in the squad. This from a lad who has just nine league starts for us this campaign- only Melbourne, Gotts, Howarth and Roughan have fewer (aside from those with none, obviously). I’ll be honest, I planned this article to underline his potential and the further in I’ve got, the more impressed I’ve been.

Credit Graham Burrell

As you know, I do like to touch on the areas I feel he needs to develop, I try to be yin and yang on here, black and white, Evans and Appleton. Of his nine goals, only two or three could be described as being critical to the result – Oxford (2-0) and yesterday (1-1) are obvious, with maybe the opener against Northampton ensuring the rout. He thrived against Forest Green, Bradford and Shrewsbury in cup games against weaker or poorer opposition and added a goal against an awful Burton side. There have also been some games he has started which I felt he struggled to make any impact at all – Portsmouth and Shrewsbury being two which stand out. He has also struggled to make an impact from the bench against some teams, Sunderland, Doncaster and Bristol Rovers being key. The point is we did lose all of those games, so when we play well, he thrives, when we don’t, he seems to struggle too.

The key to his development, and the difference between him climbing the leagues or potentially not, will be his evolution into a player who can directly influence games himself, grab them by the scruff of the neck and make us play well. We have seen Jorge Grant become that sort of player (and he is a bit older and more experienced), and that will be the aim of the coaching staff at the club. They’ll want to see Scully take his natural ability, his knack of scoring and he enthusiasm and commitment and help mould that into a finished article, as I’m sure is the case with many of our youngsters. Anthony Scully has the ingredients to become a player who changes games on a regular basis, no doubt at all, and that will come with increased senior football, which leads me to my final point of the article for you to consider.

This whole piece has been written about a player who one year ago had never played in a Football League game, and who still only has 12 Football League starts to his name. In fact, he only has 22 starts in all competitions in his career, including his West Ham Under 21 EFL trophy outings, with 13 career goals already. When you step back and look at Anthony Scully in context, he is still at the very start of his career and is actually proving to be a massively exciting talent that I think gets a little overlooked in an Imps squad packed with potential and promise.