Number Nine. The main man. He who does what it says on the footballing tin.
How we love him.
Goalscorers. In a game of 11 vs 11 they are, all too often, the players that reflect the fans’ dreams and the ambitions of that player’s team-mates, manager and the club as a whole.
And it’s simple. He is there to score goals. And lots of them. If he is successful then his club wins far more matches than it loses. That means points, trophies and possible glory. And it sure as hell ensures your name on both the front and back pages of the newspapers.
And let’s be honest. Wayne Rooney featured on both when he was ‘caught’ visiting a lady who offered special services in return for a pre-determined fee. Yet if Michael Carrick had been caught doing the same thing…? Well, that’s the point. He would never have been caught because no-one is particularly interested in him and his hard-working midfield peers.
Rooney, on the other hand, well… it’s manna from heaven for all those “He Shoots, He Scores” headlines isn’t it?
If a football team made up a government, then the centre-forward would be prime minister. It might not be the most important or responsible role – that accolade goes to the chancellor aka ‘number ten’, the midfield maestro – but for all his glories nothing and no-one beats the adulation afforded to a goalscorer.
Was, is, and forever will be.
It’s been pretty much universally acknowledged at the time of writing that Norwich are a club in desperate need of this increasingly hard-to-find figure. Indeed, as we have recently seen with the case of Ross McCormack, if one becomes available then it’s not unlike the sort of scenes seen on a Norfolk marsh quite close to me if someone sees or hear a bittern.
This is a bird that is now so scarce in the wild that even the faintest hint of an appearance draws out the crowds, all desperate to see the poor thing, many of whom – and these are the most desperate of all – have no idea what it is they are looking for or quite why they are doing so in the first place.
But hey, it’s rare and everyone else wants a slice of it, so we’d better be there.
Ross McCormack has been that bittern this summer. He was a rarity in that he scored goals and he was available. So we ended up wanting him. A lot of people really weren’t quite sure why we wanted him in the first place as he is one of those strikers who, like the bittern, likes to hang out with a mate. But he was available so we thought we’d better have a look anyway.
If I’m brutally honest and, at the same time, ready to be labelled as a ‘happy clapper’ (oh woe, woe and thrice woe) then I’m not particularly bothered that he has ended up, as it seems likely, heading off to the Villa.
£12million plus. For a 30 year old.
Well now look, I know he is as likely to score goals for any club he plays for in this division but his hitting the back of any opposing teams net in a profligate manner is by no means ‘guaranteed’ (as some would have it) at all.
Consider this. In the 2009/10 season, he made 41 League and Cup appearances for Cardiff and scored just five goals.
Whereas Peter Whittingham and Michael Chopra scored 46 between them that same campaign.
Then, following his move to Leeds United, McCormack managed just eight goals from 39 appearances in the 2012/13 season. Leeds’ top scorer that season managed 19; maybe we should have offered them a small fortune for him – after all he was indeed a regular and almost guaranteed scorer of goals at the time.
Except that player was Luciano Becchio. And we all know what happened there.
But wait, there’s more.
Ross McCormack. 2014/15 season. Fulham FC: 51 appearances. 19 goals.
It’s good. But it’s not Cameron Jerome good. During the same season he made 45 appearances for us and scored 21 goals.
Now I’m no statistician but even I can work out he played in fewer games but scored more goals.
One every 2.14 games to be exact.
Even last season which is, it seems, the benchmark for McCormack being rated as a player worth £15million by Fulham – one that was easily the best of his career – he contributed 23 goals from 49 appearances.
Which is a goal every 2.13 games – 0.01 goals per game better than Jerome the season before.
And that makes him worth £12million? Look, I’ve been laughing at Fulham’s valuation of him almost as long and loud as Leeds United must have been laughing when Fulham paid them £11million for him.
McCormack’s overall record at Fulham is 100 appearances with 42 goals scored. An overall record of 2.38 games per goal. Now that’s not bad, not bad at all, but it does reflect these occasional purple patches he has had in his career, notably last season, 2013/14 (29 from 47) and 2008/09, (23 from 44). He’s had plenty more bang average ones.
He is, in effect, one of those strikers who blows hot and cold. Another, if I dare mention the name in comparison to him, Jamie Cureton.
We all went mad for Jamie when he ended the 2006/07 season with 24 goals from 46 appearances for Colchester United. He became just what we were looking for, a prolific striker; one who would guarantee us goals and who was worth every penny of the £825,000 we didn’t have that brought him back to Carrow Road over a decade after he’d last played for us.
Except that Jamie swiftly went from being someone who was hot to someone who was particularly not hot. He struggled to make an impact with us second time around and, for all his reputation and a CV that showed he was given the right team and circumstances, a decent goalscorer, that time with us was a disappointment.
A 76 games and 18 goals disappointment.
That didn’t, and doesn’t, mean that Jamie Cureton isn’t a good player. He is and he has had, albeit in the lower leagues, a splendid career in the game. But the fact that he played all of his career in the lower leagues meant that, as far as being a striker was concerned, he was never going to be world or international class.
Decent, yes. But never prolific wherever he went. And never at the very highest level.
Much like, dare I say it, one Ross McCormack.
He may, of course, have the season to beat all seasons with Aston Villa this season. He may score 30 goals as they positively waltz their way to the Championship title and then go onto get 20 more in the Premier League in the 2017/18 campaign.
He really might – I’m not discounting that possibility at all – but neither am I discounting the possibility that, had he signed for us, he may well have done exactly the same here.
But on balance I’m going to hedge my bets and say that he probably won’t. Sure, he’ll get some goals; he might even get 10-15 for them. He may even get 20. But what if Villa have relatively good runs in the Cups next season, say, four games in the League Cup and three in the FA Cup.
This is all hypothetical of course. But that would be 20 goals from, if he stays fit, getting on for 45-50 games.
Good, yes. But £12million good? No. You’d want and expect more. And maybe he will do just that and I’ll end up with a very nice omelette on my face. And not for the first time.
The bulk of the talk surrounding McCormack in the whole saga of our bids to sign him was that we had to do so because he “guarantees goals”.
But he doesn’t. His career stats prove that. If we or any other team want a striker that pretty much guarantees goals then I reckon we’re looking at having to put in a bid for a Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez or Gonzalo Higuain. All much better bets than Ross McCormack with the stats to prove it.
And, for that, worth whatever team might choose to pay for them.
If any goalscorer was ‘guaranteed’ to do just that and that his being a ‘guaranteed’ goalscorer merited paying an enormous sum of money for him, then the player in question would not have spent 13 years out of 13 playing at a level no higher than, at any stage, the English Championship.
He’s where he is right now for a reason. And for that reason I’m out. At that price anyway.