The latest ‘next big thing’ is Leeds United striker Jermaine Beckford. The Elland Road hot-shot has been knocking in goals for Leeds for a while now but his consistency (20 goals in 07/08; 34 last season and already 22 this season) have elevated him to one of the most talked about transfer window targets.
His FA Cup exploits have certainly helped his profile. Scoring the winner at Old Trafford will do that for most strikers; doing in for a League One side, ousting the Champions in the 3rd Round will send your reputation stratospheric – at least for a while. To give Beckford his due, he as good as repeated the trick at White Hart Lane, scoring twice against Spurs to earn Leeds a replay.
However, Thoughtsport question the focus of the attention in the Leeds forward line. How many times have ‘next big things’ flopped as soon as they secured their ‘big move’? Robert Fleck was a goal-machine at Norwich – ask Chelsea fans about him. Savo Milosevic was the answer to Aston Villa’s goal-scoring problems… until he wasn’t. The list is endless.
Where the problem may be is in the supporting cast. Alan Shearer was the headline striker at Blackburn Rovers as they romped to the title on the back of Jack Walker’s wallet. Talk to Rovers fans as they heralded the ‘SAS’ – Shearer and Sutton strike-force. Neither was as effective without the other.
The same is true for so many ‘big name’ strikers. Ian Wright? He
had Mark Bright – now more famous as a TV and radio pundit. Andrew ‘goal’ Cole? Dwight Yorke and before that – at Newcastle, Peter Beardsley.
Beardsley was the perfect front-man foil. Quiet, un-assuming and generous almost to a fault. There were times when, clear through on goal Beardsley would rather lay on the pass for his more ‘illustrious’ strike partner.
He even made an international career out of it. Would Gary Lineker have scored as many as his 48 England goals without the ever-reliable Beardsley along side him? Doubtful.
Beardsley was perfect though – he never complained. The fact he had a face more suited for chip-paper than newspapers may have played a part too. Lineker, as he has gone on to prove in his media career, was more suited to life in front of a lens.
For Beckford’s ‘Beardsley’ read Robert Snodgrass.
Unless you’re a die-hard Leeds fan, or support a team in League One (which rules out most football supporters in this country) you won’t have seen much of Leeds’ almost imperious march to the brink of promotion to the Championship. Therefore, allow me to enlighten you.
Snodgrass is everything Beckford is not. Short, quiet, unassuming, youthful and loyal. Having already faced adversity in his burgeoning career north of the border (he’s still only 22) the quicksilver Scotsman is fiercly committed to Leeds who ‘saved’ him – unlike the transfer-demanding (and then retracting) Beckford.
Snodgrass is consistent too. He’s on target for this third successive season with a double figure goal tally. How many chances he lays on for Beckford is less easy to research but the answer is surely “a lot”.
Thoughtsport aren’t knocking Beckford (much) putting the finishing touch to chances is a skill and a highly sought after one. Beckford is likely to move on to ‘bigger’ team in the close season, whether Leeds are promoted or not. Is it too simplistic of Thoughtsport to link Beckford to West Ham – a team short of mega-money but desperate for a goal-scorer? Perhaps.
Wherever he goes Beckford will no longer be the big fish. He’ll arrive with a reputation and (it seems likely) a hefty price tag. It’ll be sink or swim time and he won’t have his ‘wing-man’ Snodgrass with him this time.
More examples spring to mind. Andy Keogh and Billy Sharp fired Scunthorpe into the Championship (much as Snodgrass and Beckford are doing for Leeds). Sharp was the fox-in-the-box goal-getter, an irrepressible force in front of goal it seemed. Until he was separated from Keogh.
Sharp moved, amidst much fan-fare to his alma mater Sheffield United for £2m. He didn’t cut it for the Blades (sorry) and has been shipped around the Championship on loan – currently plying his trade for Doncaster Rovers.
And Keogh? A mere £600,000 took him to Wolves – now in the Premier League. He’s also picked up a few caps for the Republic of Ireland. Admittedly Keogh may not be a first-team regular but no prizes for spotting which player has gone on to better things.
All we’re saying is – keep an eye on the quiet ones.