Every footballer loves scoring goals but strikers get an extra-special buzz from finding the net.
You saw what Billy Sharp’s header at Huddersfield Town meant to him. It was late and it was dramatic but his celebration told us something about how long it’s been since he had that feeling – and how badly he’s missed it.
He scored a penalty at Nottingham Forest before Christmas but that’s not the same as popping up with a deadly finish just when your team needs one.
Defenders and midfielders take penalties and the odd goalkeeper does too. A striker’s job is to read the game, time his movement and pop up at the back post just as the ball drops nicely with 90 minutes on the clock.
As a forward – and I was one – you’re judged on your goalscoring record. Billy could be the best player on the pitch for 46 league games but if he finishes the season with a handful of goals, he’ll be judged on that tally and he’ll be judged harshly.
Over the years his record for producing goals has been very good. It’s really not in doubt. So I appreciate why his time on the bench has been hard for him to take. Leeds United have struggled in patches and he’s the sort of experienced, proven player you’d back to help them out. That’s probably how he feels himself.
When he’s sat idle as a substitute he’ll be thinking “I’m a goalscorer, I could change this game” and forwards in my experience are the most impatient players.
All of us have the same attitude – “give me a chance boss and I’ll tuck a few goals away” – and frustration can be hard to avoid.
But as much as Billy hasn’t played too regularly, I don’t think his performances have been great either. He said it himself on Saturday – he needs more games but at the same time, he needs to score more goals. He’s got three for the season at the moment and that’s a long way below his usual benchmark.
The bottom line is that he has to do what Steve Morison’s done. Earlier in the season it looked to me like Morison had no future at Leeds United. There were times when I wasn’t sure if he’d play for the club again. But a chance came his way and he’s taken it with both hands. He’s in the side on merit and our new signing Edgar Cani is going to have to work hard to dislodge him.
Morison hasn’t been in the goals yet but he’s doing what Leeds need him to do. He’s leading the line, bringing other people into play and helping with our attacking flow. It’s working well and barring injury, Morison knows he’ll start against Brentford this weekend.
Sharp might feel that on the back of his goal at Huddersfield he deserves to start too. Maybe he does. But if that opportunity comes along, he’s got to grasp it. He’s got to follow up his goal at Huddersfield with another against Brentford. Football isn’t an exact science but at the end of the day, Billy’s here to find the back of the net. That’s what he’s all about. If he isn’t doing that, whatever the reasons, it’s difficult for a coach to stick with him.
It’s pleasing all the same to be talking about competition in the squad. This little run of form seems to have perked everyone up and it feels all of a sudden like places are no longer so easy to come by.
Will Giuseppe Bellusci get back into the side after his ban or has Sol Bamba knocked him to the sidelines?
Has Gaetano Berardi lost his place again after the way Scott Wootton’s been playing?
I thought Alex Mowatt had a tough afternoon at Huddersfield and Mirco Antenucci looked sharp after coming off the bench.
It’s a pretty healthy situation.
The only frustration for me on Saturday was Millwall going to Nottingham Forest and winning.
If that result had gone differently we’d be eight points clear of trouble.
But still, we’re a team in form and I’m sitting far more comfortably now than I was a month ago.
Maintain the performances of the past few weeks and we’ll be absolutely fine.