Rodgers Ready to Shine?
With the new season just 25 days away, Crewe's front pairing remains undecided. Dario Gradi has admitted that he is unsure which pair will begin the season up front, as reflected by the 3 strikers we have training with the club.
Billy Jones ended up as our top scorer last season with 8 goals, as our strikers failed to perform on a consistent basis. Gareth Taylor was perhaps our most effective last striker, as he bagged 4 goals in his 15 appearances, at a ratio of 0.27 goals per game. Although Taylor only managed the 1 assist, his ability to hold up the ball was crucial. However, following the departures of Taylor, Steve Jones and Eddie Johnson, Crewe appear to be lacking in the goalscoring department.
Luke Rodgers, however, should have done enough to have secured himself a regular first-team place. During his career, Rodgers has shown himself to be a regular goalscorer, having scored 79 goals in 230 appearances, at a ratio of 0.34 goals per game. Last season, Rodgers made 26 appearances for Crewe, scoring 6 goals at a ratio of 0.23 goals per game. However, more impressively, just 13 of those 26 appearances were starts, suggesting that the speedy striker is likely to trouble opposition defences next season, should he be given the opportunity to shine by manager Dario Gradi. As well as bagging the most goals of any of Crewe's forwards last season, Rodgers also weighed in with 4 assists.
It is fair to say that Luke Varney is yet to fulfil his potential. The striker scored 40 goals in one season for Quorn before arriving at Crewe, though has failed to find the net on a regular basis since. Varney has scored 10 goals in his 66 appearances for the club, at a ratio of 0.15 goals per game. However, 26 of those appearances have been as a substitute, offering some hope that his scoring record may improve should be be given regular first-team football. Dario Gradi has often suggested that Varney's problems are largely mental, as he fails to convert his hot form in training to meaningful games. Last season Varney bagged 5 goals and provided 1 assist, so the promising forward will need to do more to earn himself a regular place in the starting line up.
Michael Higdon has failed to impress the majority of Crewe's supporters. Higdon has made 59 appearances for Crewe, scoring just 7 goals at a ratio of 0.12 goals per game. Although just 25 of those appearances were starts, the striker needs to improve his first touch and all-round game if he is to prove himself worthy of a first-team place. Furthermore, with just 1 assist last season, the striker needs to ensure that he is effective on those occasions when he isn't finding the net.
Ryan Lowe, meanwhile, boasts a fairly impressive scoring record. Although also considered as a right winger, Lowe averages 0.23 goals per game during his career, with 54 goals in 236 appearances. Considering 80 of those appearances came from the bench, Lowe's work-rate and understanding with Luke Rodgers suggest he may have a useful involvement next season.
Bas Savage's career stats suggest that he isn't the solution to our goalscoring puzzle. His strike rate of 0.02 goals per game is only very slightly better Peter Schmeichel's ratio of a 0.015 goals per game. Moreover, Savage has only contributed 2 assists in his 48 appearances for Football League clubs. Pavol Suhaj is arguably even less deserving of a first-team place, whilst Abdoulai Demba is somewhat of a wildcard. His scoring record at Yeovil was impressive, albeit in the Conference, and although he scored 1 goal in just 2 appearances in the African Cup of Nations, the 29-year old is unlikely to out-perform the likes of Luke Rodgers or Luke Varney. Lee Matthews, meanwhile, has a ratio of 0.19 goals per game, which, combined with his injury problems, suggests that he is unlikely to be deserving of a regular first team place.
Therefore, Luke Rodgers seems to be more than worthy of a first team place, and will hopefully score the goals to secure Crewe a decent league position next season. Ryan Lowe would appear to be the most suitable partner for him, though Luke Varney will hopefully challenge him for that position. Dario has faith in Michael Higdon, but the scouser will need to do more to be worthy of a starting place next season. Nicky Maynard impressed during his outing against Millwall last season, and may find himself with greater opportunities. Meanwhile, of the 3 strikers on 'trial', Lee Matthews appears to be the only one worthy of a contract next year.
To conclude, we thought we'd provide you with a fairly narrow goalscoring guideline for next season. If each of the striker's were to play all 46 league games next season, based on their current goalscoring ratios, this is how they would fare:
Luke Rodgers: 16 goals
Ryan Lowe: 11 goals
Luke Varney: 7 goals
Michael Higdon: 6 goals
Pavol Suhaj: n/a or 0 goals
Lee Matthews: 9 goals
Bas Savage: 1 goal
Abdoulai Demba: n/a
And, to end on a more positive note, as Nicky Maynard scored 1 goal during his only 45 minutes for the club, perhaps he will score 2 goals every game next season and end up with 92 goals next season? Hmmm, perhaps not.