Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Earnshaw must start

Robert Earnshaw scored another couple of goals last night. He has now netted 14 goals in 20 starts for Norwich City. For another player, that statistic might sound like a freaky spell of good luck. For Earnie, it represents normality. So why do some managers refuse to pick him ?

Frankie Burrows was the first man who thought he could improve the little Zambian by not picking him. Earnshaw had signalled his arrival to the first team with an astonishing overhead kick to score at Hartlepool on the day I got married in August, 1998. So Frankie dropped him, and signed Dai Thomas to score the goals that season.

Dispirited, there were rumours that he spent the Summer of 1999 in the pubs of Caerphily, and he returned overweight to pre-season training .
Frankie punished him by farming him out to Morton, far away from local distractions. He scored twice in four games on loan at Morton and became a cult hero. Meanwhile City fans were screaming for his inclusion. On his return, he was given five games, scored a goal and promptly disappeared for another six months.

It started going well for Earnie in the new millennium and he became a regular in the Cardiff side. But even then , you always had the sense that Burrows would drop him if he could. Earnie's only protection was to keep scoring, and he did.

By 2004 he had become a star, after scoring 105 goals for the Bluebirds. City were skint, and he was a hot property. He went to West Brom where another manager wanted him to be something he wasn't. Bryan Robson was the wrong man for Earnshaw. Paranoid and defensive, Robson's tactics were to pack the defence and hope for a goal. Strikers need chances, and West Brom weren't creating any. Still, Earnie managed 17 goals in 42 starts for the Premiership team.

The problem is that he wasn't contributing around the park. He couldn't go back and defend corners like Geoff Horsfield, and he couldn't hold the ball up like Kanu. But you don't get points for keeping the ball up, and Earnie rescued West Brom on a number of occasions off the bench.
But Robson just refused to change his opinion.

Mark Hughes was another manager who refused to believe his eyes. Earnshaw has scored 9 goals for Wales in 23 appearances, most of the as substitute. But Hughes wouldn't risk picking him, and it backfired. Remember that game in Serbia ?

With Serbia down and out, Hughes left Earnshaw on the bench, preferring the physical presence of Nathan Blake. Earnie came on in the 77th minute as a last throw of the dice, and only a dramatic goal-line clearance denied him. With more playing time, Earnie would have scored, I'm sure of it.

And still it goes on. John Toshack seems reluctant to play Earnie from the start, even in a Wales side desperately lacking creativity. Bellamy is quick, but he doesn't score a lot of goals. Now that Giggs has dropped into a deeper, more thoughtful role, I'm sure that he could create havoc if he were given pitch time with Earnshaw. He tried him out against Brazil from the start, so there is hope.

The lesson to the managers is, despite your better judgement, Earnie succeeds. But he has to play to score.

1 comment:

Kevin Finnerty said...

Excellent article, spoilt only by it's presentation.

Para three should start with a capital letter and sentences in paras three and six seem not to scroll properly but hanf in the ether.