Tom Jenkins discusses whether it is necessary to have more talent in your squad than those with steel in the Championship…
As you can guess from the title of this article, I want to focus today on those players who can light up a dire match with nothing else but sheer talent. It can be a piece of skill, a goal, a pass or even a tackle but it takes a certain kind of player to produce it. In our current predicament we seem to have an abundance of players with this gift but none with the most powerful, in football that is, gift of all: goal scoring. When I thought about this I began to wonder if “flair”, or however you choose to describe it, was really necessary in the Championship where tackles and scuffles are commonplace and, a lot of the time, the keys to success. I certainly hope, at the moment, that this is the case as losing Zach Clough to another shoulder dislocation certainly has us lacking in the flair department.
But on the bright side, Zach isn`t the only one with great ability in Bolton`s starting line-up and to leave either Mark Davies or Wellington Silva out would be totally unjust. We, as a fan base, have always crowed about the talents of a fully fit Mark Davies and if I had a pound for the number of times someone has told me he could be the best in this league by far, Bill Gates would be very scared indeed. Finally, fingers crossed, he seems at that “fully fit” stage and is impressing us all both offensively and, perhaps surprisingly, defensively too. Wellington is also, undeniably, talented and has shown this most notably in midweek with a sublime turn (the video can be seen on the BWFC YouTube channel) that made his marker look about as significant as Katie Price having a new husband. His skill and direct running will cause a lot of problems this year but, as has been well documented, his end product regularly lets him down. It is this composure and ruthlessness that is lacking from our squad and, despite having “flair” players it is biting us where it hurts the most.
Recent history in the Championship would have you believe that “flair” isn`t overly important to being successful as while Bournemouth boasted talents like Ritchie and Wilson, Watford merely had those who could score goals to get them up. Ighalo and Deeney aren`t players blessed with immense skill but they sure can finish and thus we must decide what is more important: excitement or results? The answer is too obvious for me to print. The need for results should come first over wanting to play exciting football with exciting players and, as Sam Allardyce has proven many times, winning ugly is still winning and shouldn`t be underestimated. This form of victory is commonplace in the Championship and that is why, for me, steel is just as important as skill. Although there are 50 Spearings for every Clough every side needs ‘boring` players as much as sensational ones and, if we are all honest, we love a crunching tackle as much as a nutmeg (if not more so). The dirty work is just as necessary as the bits you remember.
As is often the case with these debates, the result is that a balance is the best outcome for the team. It is possible to win without naturally gifted players but look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn`t love to see Jay-Jay and Djorkaeff play again if it meant we lost a few. The game we love is what it is because of the natural ability some players have as they are what bring in the crowds. While steel is often the key to successful teams, what is the point if you don`t enjoy it?