The Curious Case of Jermaine Beckford

After a summer of nothingness in the transfer market, which saw Everton exiled from the hype and sensationalism of Sky Sports News, deadline day proved to be a dramatic one for the Toffees.

Too dramatic for some fans – resulting in the club being reconciled once again with Sky channel 405, and rewarded with pride of place on the infamous Sky pad.

Histrionics aside, the outgoings of Beckford and Yakubu have left an already anaemic front line looking perilously thin. Anichebe and Saha are notoriously injury prone (the former having returned from international duty this week for just that reason) and in all likelihood the Elastoplast front line of Fellaini and Cahill is not too far away. Which begs the question why sell Beckford?

The former Leeds forward never quite looked comfortable in the top flight, like a child who has just had his armbands removed for the first time, he seemed to thrash around in a struggle to stay afloat. His touch is questionable at best, link up play non-existent, and he appears to have a long running feud with long ball challenges. Such shortcomings made him an easy target for fan’s lamentations, and he was never fully embraced by Evertonians en masse, with the name Beckford having never echoed around the Gwladys Street.

It was a gamble plucking a player from League One and asking him to repeat his scoring heroics two divisions higher, but on a free transfer it was a gamble Everton could afford to make – a very rare occurrence nowadays. Injuries meant that Beckford was thrown in at the deep end, starting the first game of the season against Blackburn, and to Moyes’ own admission it was a case of too much too soon for the former RAC man.

Asides from a penalty against Huddersfield Town in the Carling Cup, it was a sparse beginning to his Everton career. A rather impressive last gasp strike against Bolton in November hinted at future promise, and then seven further goals over the next 24 games, including a brace against Sunderland and a superlative-warranting solo effort against Chelsea, suggested that the Beckford gamble had paid off. When employed alongside Louis Saha rather than lost at the head of 4-5-1 it looked like the former League One top scorer could be an asset in the English top flight.

Last season Everton struggled to carve out opportunities, and for all their resilience and possession the final third of the pitch was a maiden Moyes’ men consistently failed to conquer. Apart from when Beckford was playing. Even during substitution appearances the former Leeds forward would get chance after chance, but for many Evertonians he squandered too many of these. The 4-1 loss against West Brom is case in point, but the fact remains he created goal-scoring opportunities where others did not, regardless of his conversion rate.

Speaking of conversion rates, Beckford scored eight Premier League goals in 1,318 minutes spread over 14 starts and 18 substitute appearances, many of which were last ten-minute cameos. Kevin Davies managed the same number of goals in 3385 minutes, earning an England call up along the way whilst Nicolas Anelka needed 2362 minutes to notch just six goals.

His strike rate which, taking into account his debutant status, has to be filed under ‘impressive’, was not enough to save him from being cast in the role of sacrificial lamb last Wednesday.

Beckford’s sale and subsequent return to the same division he would have been in had he remained with Leeds appears to signal the end of his Premier League chances, the jury has spoken and he has been sentenced to a minimum of one season of hard labour in the Football League. But should Leicester be promoted will the powers that be at Goodison come to regret such a judgement? After all, in today’s era of blockbuster transfers just how many Premier League goals does £4 million buy?

Joseph Fitzpatrick

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