Smudger's Last Stand
Alan Smith has changed his hairstyles more in the last year than he's scored goals in the Premier League as a Newcastle United player.
Yet, Kevin Keegan still stands behind his striker and believes that Smudger is going to rebound.
About two weeks ago following an impressive 2-1 victory over Valencia which saw Smudger come on as a second-half sub, Keegan had this to say about his striker.
"I definitely think there's a lot more to come from Alan," Keegan said. "He knows that and we know that and that's what we're working to do. He's got a lot of desire.
"If he didn't have any desire I'd say you're wasting your time. Desire and hard work usually means you can turn it around. I've known lots of players turn themselves around, I know Alan will." (The Telegraph)
And after a goal drought of about a year, we're still waiting for Alan to turn himself around.
How much longer will we, should we, and can we wait for Smudger to reach down inside and find a goal?
The answer is not a simple one, it is indeed as complex as trying to figure out just why he can't find the back of the net.
Lack of skill? He's a good player, not great, but certainly not terrible.
If anything, it's a combination of getting over his broken leg and finding some confidence in his natural ability as a striker.
At first, I was right alongside the many who were calling for Smith's head. I wanted to ship him out as soon as possible to Everton, Rangers or whoever would just take him off of our hands.
But it seems that at 27, Newcastle United is Smudger's last stand in the Premier League and I’m not ready to give up on him just yet.
He needs the support of the Toon Army, and we should lend him our support because all we're doing now is kicking him when he's down.
The optimist in me wants to believe Keegan when he says that all Smith needs is one goal to get his confidence back—and what a goal that will be.
Now is the time for Smudger to stand up and show us what he’s made of. I say throw him on the bench and provided we're up a goal, give him a run out. Take the pressure off of him and let's see what he can do.
I'd prefer to see him used as a super sub who can hunker down and scrap for the ball when we need to protect a lead.
One goal might be all he needs.
Whatever Keegan does with Smudger, throwing him under the bus is not the right move.
Keegan must also fight the urge to start Smith in a striking role. It's no secret that we need another striker given the fitness records of Owen and Viduka, but starting Smith is not the answer and never has been.
If we can stop relying on Smudger as a striker to start games, then maybe we can lift the pressure off of him a bit and let him move freely and score when he's ready to score.
Not when we're ready for him to score.
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