You could argue that new Blackburn Rovers striker Leon Best had a bit of a raw deal during his time Newcastle United; he always put a shift in and scored a reasonable amount of goals for a man who was dogged by injury and constantly in and out of the side. He wasn’t trusted in the Premier League by Chris Hughton, never enjoyed a prolonged spell in the team under Alan Pardew and was constantly shown the cold shoulder by Giovanni Trapattoni, who bizarrely labeled him lazy. If the Italian octogenarian had bothered to come and watch Best play, he would have discovered that’s not the case.
The Republic of Ireland striker arrived from Coventry – where Steve Kean had been on the coaching staff – in January 2010, one of a host of sensible signings we saw during that window. It was clearly a mild spate of panic buying designed to get us over the finish line during our Championship exile. Admittedly, Best didn’t exactly set the place alight; failing to weigh in with a single goal during the second half of that season in the second tier which many thought would be his level. Instead he spent most of that period between the bench and treatment table as Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan did most of the scoring.
If the Italian octogenarian had bothered to come and watch Best play, he would have discovered that’s not the case.
I had time for Best, but one thing that drove me round the bend was the amount of time he spent offside. It became laughable. Sir Alex Ferguson’s appraisal of Filippo Inzaghi, applies here – Leon was born offside. He’s not blessed with a great deal of pace and tries to make up for it by sitting on the shoulder of the last man. It doesn’t work and he needs to find another way of dealing with this shortcoming by being cleverer with his runs. Coming shorter and holding up the ball would be my suggestion, but his first touch will have to improve dramatically if he’s to eventually use this tactic in the Premier League where time on the ball doesn’t exist.
On the plus side he’s still only 25 years of age, powerful, strong on the ball and a nuisance in the air and, as his excellent side step finish at home to QPR last season demonstrated, he has a touch of skill in his locker. His high point in black and white came when he scored his first Newcastle goal against West Ham in January 2011 and went on to notch a hat trick before leaving the pitch to a standing ovation on the hour. When he was fit and in the side I always fancied him to score, but therein lies the problem - whenever he would appear to be turning the corner and hitting form, an injury would inevitably strike and he’d vanish from the radar again.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s appraisal of Filippo Inzaghi, applies here – Leon was born offside.
11 of his 46 appearances for Newcastle came from the bench and, particularly under Pardew, he seemed to make it his business to enthusiastically run down lost causes and chasing back passes when coming on later in the game. It won him easy points with the Geordie faithful I suppose – most of whom seemed to have labeled him not good enough before we’d even returned to the Premier League – but at least it demonstrated a genuine will to contribute to the team with some good old fashioned work rate.
The last time we saw him was limping off against Aston Villa to be replaced by a debutant called Papiss Cisse and since then the writing has been on the wall. No-one at St James’ Park will lose any sleep over his departure, but I speak for almost everyone on Barrack Road when I say we’d much rather have seen the back of the defendant Nile Ranger than Besty. If we have any ambition we need to improve the quality of our squad and sadly, Leon fell short of what we need.
If he can keep off the treatment table and get a run in the Blackburn team I fancy him to do a job for you Rovers fans. All the best, Leon.
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