Jermaine Beckford has been a prolific striker for a lot of his football career; he netted just under 1 in 2 for Scunthorpe to make his name there, and has continued to score goals throughout his time at Leeds, Everton and Leicester. At each of these clubs, though, there has come a point where his moving on becomes inevitable and that is the point we find ourselves at now, with Beckford rumoured to be joining another club on loan (indeed, Huddersfield Town had a lot of the paperwork completed before the rug was pulled from under them on deadline day).
I first became aware of Beckford during his spell at Scunthorpe. I knew he was on loan from Leeds, but I didn’t expect him to make the splash he did either in Lincolnshire or back at his parent club. Sometime during that spell, I wrote an article on the old 606 site decrying his ability, pointing out how profligate he was in front of goal compared to Rickie Lambert and Simon Cox, both of whom were flying high in the top scorers charts for that season. I couldn’t find that, alas, though I had some fun looking through for it.
This piece, really, is an update of that piece. I think of Beckford as someone who will always get goals, but will need a fair few chances to do so – I want to know if I misrepresent him. When playing up top on one’s own, that eventuality is not necessarily a massive problem, as you can guarantee a few chances every game and Simon Grayson (should Beckford join Huddersfield eventually) does play one up top a lot of the time; as I recall, he did so in about 85% of his games in charge of Leeds (either in the form of 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1).
Looking at the immediate numbers, Beckford has improved his ratio of shots to goals – from 2006/07, when it took 7.44 shots for each goal, up to 2011/12, when it was down to only 4.60 shots – that’s not far off half as many; its been a gradual augmentation and is worth bearing in mind that he is playing at a higher level now to then (obviously Everton didn’t work out as planned, but his figures weren’t much worse on Merseyside than they had been beforehand – even at Premier League level).
I wondered, then, if that improvement was through better
decision-making (effectively, shooting less often, but from better positions) but that doesn’t seem to tally up either; his shooting accuracy (see below – a % of total shots that were on target) has been getting progressively worse. I don’t necessarily think that this is the sign of playing at a higher level but by shooting less often, he’s making the shots he does take count more – though with less accuracy; presumably tending to fizz a shot wide or over rather than make the goalkeeper make a save.
This, in return, has improved his ratio of shots on target to goals (down from 4.11 in 05-06 to 1.8 last season) gradually as he has, as they say, learnt the trade of a striker. It suggests someone who is playing more ‘in the box’, to me, rather than dropping deeper and taking shots from further out (even if they are on target) – the only available shot statistics seem to bear that out as the truth, as well; in 09/10, 39% of his shots off target came from outside the box, down to 32% the following year (whereas shots on target were 40% down to 26% the following year and 20% after that) – meaning a progression towards taking more shots from inside the penalty area.
If I were looking, then, for a replacement for Jordan Rhodes, a man who does most of his best work in the penalty area, I can see the sense in going for Beckford; a man whose game has gone more and more towards that since he came into the league – he might not create much in the way of assists (27 over eight seasons) but the way his numbers look, I would put him as a striker who, more likely than not, will score a goal every other game and – with 42 games left to play in the Championship, that would be 21 goals – everybody wants a 20 goal striker, no?