I’m a fan of Steve Morison’s and I have been for as long as I’ve watched him play.
After almost every game, supporters come into my pub and tell me that he doesn’t score goals and isn’t worth a place in Leeds United’s team and time and again I try to argue the toss, pointing out all the work he does.
I’m well aware that big, strong centre-forwards get a bad press. People much prefer to wax lyrical about cultured attackers. It amazes me still to look back now and think about how scathing people were of Lee Chapman in periods when he was part of a Leeds side in form.
Morison fits into the system we’re using at the moment and he’s one of many reasons why our results have been so good since the turn of the year. To argue otherwise is simply unfair.
Of all the strikers in our squad, he’s the most suited to playing alone up front. I think even Billy Sharp would admit that he doesn’t enjoy that role or thrive in it as much as Morison does.
Morison is quite happy to stick his head in, take a boot in the face, fight with two centre-backs and do it all without any personal reward.
Don’t get me wrong, he should have picked up a few goals this season. He’s had plenty of chances to score and the odd miss has been glaring. But in the main, his job has been a thankless one. It’s all about elbow grease.
I know from my time as a player that footballers appreciate that sort of character on their side. If someone else is willing to do the graft and the dirty work, there’s more space and scope for you to use the space and produce the moments of flair.
I very much doubt that Sharp wants to play alone up top. He’s more in the mould of an Allan Clarke, a box player who sniffs around for chances and backs himself to put them away. If you look again at the chance which Charlie Taylor passed up against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, you’ll notice Sharp inside him, unmarked and waiting for a pass.
Cut the ball back and it’s a tap-in for Billy. That’s where he’s so dangerous.
What Morison is not – and I reckon we’re all agreed on this – is a right winger. I remember pre-season when David Hockaday used him on the left wing at Chesterfield. At the time I thought ‘that’s completely bizarre.’
This time round, the whole thing seems more enforced. Sam Byram is injured and in fairness, no-one else in the squad looks like an out-and-out right winger.
Fair enough, you could experiment with Mirco Antenucci or Adryan but there would still be things about Morison you’d miss; his aerial presence defensively for one thing.
He does a massive amount of work in our box, and again people will tell me that he’s not on the pitch to defend. But if he wasn’t putting himself about, would Leeds be less reliable at the back? Would we be conceding more goals and losing more games? Very possibly.
I respect the fact that Neil Redfearn has been sticking to his guns with Morison. He’s paid to pick what he thinks is the best team, not to go with the general flow.
The fact is that Morison is a regular in a team whose results in the past couple of months have been as good as most sides in the Championship. The formula is working and there’s no reason to break from it.
Next season might be different, of course. Without question we need a goalscorer in our ranks because we’re one of the lowest scoring sides in the league.
The squad needs to change and it needs more variety in it. We need to be able to break from 4-2-3-1 as and when injuries leave square pegs in round holes.
But that’s a completely different argument to the debate about whether Morison deserves to be playing here and now.
In my view he does and he deserves to be playing up front.
His lack of goals will be a personal frustration but overall, the statistics don’t lie.