Monday, 23 December 2013
Calvin Zola? A striker never to be confused with Gianfranco
By ANDY RITCHIE
THERE will be a few people trotting out the poacher-turned-gamekeeper line as I make my Christmas analyses of the men whose job it is to bring goals to Scottish football.
And they’d be absolutely right, except for one important factor: I was never a poacher in the first place simply because the penalty box was a virtual no-go area for me. I’m afraid I contributed to the art of heading what Jim Baxter contributed to the culture of monastic living.
There were compensatory factors, however: I could kick that old pudding of a ball with a fair bit of venom - I must have been a mule in a previous life - from all sorts of distances and angles. Someone once remarked that I wasn’t a great goal-scorer, but that I scored great goals.
That’ll do me. Trying to score from corner kicks, in fact, was one of my party pieces for Morton. Even then, the facts suggest I didn’t need to be a penalty box specialist: I hit the onion bag 133 times in 246 games.
Anyway, back to the point of this exercise. We’ll set the ball rolling with a quick look at a couple of Celtic incomers. Only a quick look, mind you. There’s a lot of good things on telly this time of year, so we don’t need eye strain.
It’s claimed that Neil Lennon is looking to bring in more strikers. He needs to, ’cos he’s never replaced Gary Hooper in any shape or form. They say Teemu Pukki is promising to deliver the merchandise. They can say what they like. It looks to me as if he’s Harald Brattbakk in disguise. Amido Balde? You would need a radar system to find him. Sat-nav if the radar is too expensive. The stats tell it all: four-year contract, nine appearances, two goals.
Let’s be more positive for a minute. What about this intriguing guy Billy McKay up at Inverness? As evidenced by his performance against Aberdeen, he seems to have retained the knack of scoring goals. I imagine the big Yogi Hughes goes to bed praying that he doesn’t get injured, or that someone takes a real fancy to him and puts in a bid that cannot be refused.
Hey, I don’t see too many others taking up the scoring challenge at Inverness. If they were to lose Mackay, I don’t know where the goals would come from.
You might say the same thing about Kilmarnock. There you have the resurrection of Kris Boyd. He looks as if he’s got himself in shape and has rediscovered his appetite for the game. I remember him playing at Pittodrie last season, and the home crowd getting after him, suggesting he was built along the lines of a Sumo wrestler. Not any more.
He will always get goals: they just come naturally to him. But, with his regained fitness and a new and welcome maturity, he’s putting in the yards out with the box. It looks good from here.
Up at Dundee United, they’ve brought back David Goodwillie, but he’s been less than impressive. When he left United to go to Blackburn, his record couldn’t have been better, but these days it seems doubtful if he could hit a bull on the backside with a big stick. Mind you, United should worry: with their marvellous crop of youngsters, they’re getting goals from all quarters.
It’ll be interesting to see, meanwhile, what influence Terry Butcher can bring to bear on his striker, James Collins. For someone who cost £200,000 - a lot of money in these depressed times - he’s started with a whimper. But maybe Butcher will work out a system that will be beneficial to him. Whatever, Collins has much to prove. The Hibs supporters expected a lot more, after their times with guys like Griffiths, O’Connor, Fletcher and Riordan.
I’m sure some of the Motherwell fans favour a dander down memory lane, too. They said farewell to five really good players at the end of last season, but perhaps the loss of twin strikers Henrik Ojamaa and Michael Higdon was most felt. However, John Sutton has done a fair job in making people forget Higdon. And Henri Anier looks as if he’s just about to turn a corner and become a player.
Stevie May, of course, has already made his admirable mark. He’s been a revelation for St Johnstone ever since he returned from his loan spell with Hamilton Accies. He and the wee guy, Nigel Hasselbaink, have punched well above their weight, but May represents the business: he looks as if he could be a 20-goal-a-season man.
I can’t say anyone else has really caught my attention. I tell a lie: I forgot about Calvin Zola. Someone recently asked me what I’d have said about him on my report - I scouted for Aberdeen in Craig Brown’s last year as manager. Put it this way: if I’d been sent the run the rule over him and he’d played like he does for the Dons, there would have been only one visit!
To my mind, he’s been the worst signing as far as Scottish clubs are concerned. Wardrobe size, he’s a big plank of wood up front who looks as if he has little or no ability. Now Aberdeen have returned to Scott Vernon and that tells you plenty.
I understand former Dons player Zander Diamond said that his former Burton Albion colleague was unplayable on his day. I think Zander - he might not be the brightest star in the sky with that remark - got Calvin mixed up with Gianfranco Zola.
No, I don’t see him as any better than the ones who were up there when I was scouting for them. It might have been a salary that Aberdeen could have used better. Hey, with the amount of players who are in England’s lower divisions, they certainly could have got themselves somebody who would have scored goals and performed better.
Who does he remind me of? Did I hear someone say Adebayor? Eh, no! It’s hard to tag somebody who cannot play, ‘cos you’re automatically tagging somebody else who cannot play.
Maybe, of course, I’m being a bit harsh. Some players take time to settle into a new club. Calvin has a couple of things in his favour: he’s been there only a few months, and also when someone has a blast at someone like him, he suddenly becomes first scorer for Aberdeen on everyone’s coupons. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong and he’ll go on a run and score 25 goals this season.
If he does, I’ll be the first to blog that I was wrong.