There’s a large amount of speculation surrounding Rovers striker John Marquis at the minute, the sort of ‘will he wont he’, ‘we’re doomed without him’ woe that is more akin to some tedious Coronation street story line than the status quo at the Keepmoat.
Strip all the sentiment and speculation away and let’s try and look at this in real terms. Marquis scored 26 League Two goals last year, he’s 25 years old and attracted a lot of attention over the last 12 months – his stock, and his value, has never been higher. However, there are a couple of little niggles of doubt that exist for me, mainly borne out over the last couple of months of last season.
For me, the most eye-catching thing about him at the start of the season was “wow, we’ve got someone who is scoring goals, but look how hard he grafts”. The blokes application was faultless and he regularly tore around chasing down, harrying, kicking and generally making life uncomfortable for opposition defenders. It’s this, even more than his goals, that was the most stand out thing.
In the last couple of months of the season I did not see this anywhere near as much and this went along with a return of 0 goals in the last 6 games. Now, this could be down to lots of things; having Alfie ‘the workaholic’ May alongside him who happily did enough running for two meant he did not have to work as hard, maybe it was a case of someone believing their own hype, or maybe he was carrying a knock – I don’t know but for me a major part of his game ebbed away at the back-end of last season.
The other doubt for me, and I know this will sound ridiculous, is that whilst he accumulated a lot of goals, he doesn’t look like a ‘proper’ goal scorer. He’s not the kind of player who will snaffle his only chance of a game having not had a touch for 20 minutes. League Two allowed us the opportunity to create a number of chances relatively regularly and I doubt that League One defences will be quite as accommodating. I’m not sure Marquis has it in his game to turn a match out of the blue in the way a Billy Sharp or even a Paul Dobson (there’s a name many will have forgotten!) would’ve done.
Would now be the time to cash in? If a club came in with a couple of hundred grand I would be tempted when the likelihood is he’ll walk away for nothing in 12 months. If he struggles in League One that price tag will quickly reduce. I don’t know, in an ideal world I’d give him 2 months, watch him score a load of goals and then offer him a bumper deal but at this moment any decent offer would be tempting.
To be clear though, I’d rather keep him and for me John Marquis needs an Andy Williams alongside him. Too often when playing as a lone front man, or in front of a deeper forward, Marquis spends too much time with his back to goal, isolated and obliged to hold balls up. When he has a player alongside him who offers a threat ‘in behind’ he appears far more effective and benefits greatly from the extra space this affords him.
Williams, for all his hand throwing, exclaiming, tantrum throwing faults offers that threat and doesn’t want to drop deep, into Marquis’s space. When Williams is in the team, opposition back fours are forced to drop 10 yards deeper allowing Marquis time and space to turn and be at his most effective, as well as allowing the like of James Coppinger and Tommy Rowe room to be at their creative best. However, Williams up top means someone needs to be working hard behind him, and it’s this graft we saw from Marquis at the start of the season and when we largely saw his best form.
Bottom line is Williams is only staying with us because there is no one to bring in who is better than him. Perfect he ‘aint, but at the minute he’s right for us and he’s right for John Marquis too.
If I were John I’d be asking my agent to sort out a move. One of the country’s top scorers last season, if he stays with the Rovers he will spend next season playing in a bang average team who will struggle to make chances and struggle to score goals. It will be hard for anyone to enhance their reputation at Rovers next year, and if I were him I’d get out while the goings good.