Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
So, Jamie Reid’s gone. With him, he takes 30 goals a season. Ever since his departure was confirmed, I’ve wearily droned on to friends, family and anyone who’ll listen that we’re better off trying to sign two strikers who can score 15-20 each, rather than piling the pressure on one big signing to replace all 30. Well, this weekend it was announced that we have recruited (subject to medicals and all the boring contractual bits) two strikers: Andy Nelson and Danny Wright. But who are they? Where have they come from? What type of player are they? Well, let’s see.
Nelson is a 22-year-old striker born in Stockton-on-Tees. He began his career in Sunderland’s academy where he made a handful of U23 appearances before being loaned out to Hartlepool. He made his Football League debut with the Pools before subsequent loan spells at Harrogate, Falkirk and Darlington. It was the latter where he had his best success, scoring six goals in five games and earning a move to Scottish Premiership side Dundee in January 2019, for an undisclosed fee. Despite scoring on his league debut and thrice thereafter, Nelson’s season ended in relegation that May to the Scottish Championship. When the season north of the border was cut short by Covid-19, Nelson had four goals to his name and Dundee lay third in the league. In part due to the impact of Lockdown on the club’s finances, Nelson agreed to leave Dundee a fortnight ago. To date, he has scored 17 goals in 55 senior league appearances (although hours after we signed him, his Wikipedia claimed he had scored 102 times for Dundee in 31 games. Who to believe?!).
Danny Wright is a much more experienced campaigner. By the time the season starts, he’ll be the spritely age of 36. Since winning the Conference South in his first season at Histon, United’s new target man has spent a fair chunk of his career in the Conference, taking in spells at Cambridge, Wrexham, Forest Green, Gateshead and Kidderminster before joining up with Gary Johnson at Cheltenham. It was here where he kicked on, leading the side to the National League title in his first season. He scored his first Football League goal, a penalty at Newport, on his 32nd birthday. After twice avoiding relegation with Town, he returned to the National League with Solihull Moors where, last season, he played 32 games – suggesting his legs are far from gone. Wright has scored goals wherever he’s been: 34 in his first three seasons at Histon; ten in one for Cambridge; 23 in two for Wrexham; 22 in his first term at Cheltenham then 11 more the following season in League Two. His career total is 134 goals in 485, which is a handy return for a target man whose game is as much about making chances as it is about taking them. Also, fun fact, his son’s middle name is “9”.
Any player can look like Lionel Messi based on his YouTube highlights alone. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch them though, does it? Here’s a compilation of Andy Nelson’s goals and assists in the Scottish Premiership, soundtracked wonderfully – although, as far as I can see, inexplicably – by Joy Division:
And after 17 seconds, here, you can see him score an absolute screamer for Darlington.
What about Danny? Here’s an eight-minute compilation of his goals in Cheltenham’s title winning season, soundtracked by Coldplay, beginning with a brace at Plainmoor. Good to see Exodus in a Yellow shirt again, isn’t it?
And here’s some grainy footage of him scoring for Wrexham. It’s generously described as a “wonder strike”.
Style – Views from the Gaffer
Nelson seems to be an all-rounder up front. He has played on the left and right of a front three, and as a number 10, but he is better suited to a traditional striker’s role. He has decent feet, knows where the goal is, and – at just under 6ft tall – is no slouch in the air. Gary Johnson describes him as a “clever pest” with “all the potential in the world”. He’s a “bustling, goalscoring centre forward” with a “natural work rate”, which The Gaffer will look to harness into the right areas, encouraging The Column (as he will henceforth be known) to “remain dangerous” by concentrating his play in central areas.
Danny Wright is an archetypal target man, a presence, the type of player who can occupy defenders and bring others into play. “Lads like playing with him because he can create goals,” Gary says, “whoever plays alongside him normally scores a lot of goals.” A perfect partner for sharp-shooter Nelson, then. Johnson was also keen to quell any concerns about Wright’s age, saying “he’s unbelievably fit” and that he “wouldn’t sign a has-been”.
Well, the squad looks like it is coming together. With two frontline strikers added, and Olaf Koszela in reserve, Gary has an able battery of forward players. He also seems to be keen on the possibility of Ben Whitfield, Armani Little or Jake Andrews (or the other new signing, who is supposedly an attacking midfielder, rumoured to be Connor Lemonheigh-Evans) playing in a number 10 role behind one number 9. Nonetheless, we seem to still be two injuries away from a crisis up front, so probably a forward short. Presumably that’ll be a job for the loan market once we have a bit more certainty and perhaps after the season is underway.
COYY – Matty