Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Good Will Hoskins

The Blades' deadline day signing of Will Hoskins is an interesting one. A player familiar to local fans after he burst on the scene at a tender age at Rotherham. He then drifted from view at Watford, before a sparkling spell at Bristol Rovers last season led to a move to Brighton in the Summer. As with Watford he has struggled to make an impact on the South Coast and his name came up as a Blades target quite out of the blue, late this morning.

With a striking quartet of Ched Evans, Richard Cresswell, James Beattie and Chris Porter available, it isn't the obvious area to target in the transfer market. To the extent that his arrival immediately leads to rumours of departures. In teh absence of these you assume that Hoskins must be able to offer us something that our other strikers cannot. I asked Millers fan David Rawson (@DavidRawson) for his memories of Hoskins and what made him stand out at Millmoor.

"I think we were probably all vaguely aware of the name long before it was anywhere near a first team line-up. In the Advertiser summaries of youth team games and the reserve matches came fleeting mentions of a wonderful finish here or a super goal there. And then, at the JJB Stadium, on Boxing Day 2003, the name, with its hint of promise became a tangible thing.

Having played one minute of professional football in his career to that date, he was brought on with half an hour to go in a tight, competitive game, Will Hoskins scored two goals in two minutes and won us the match. Both were similar, both were typical of him. Quick feet and quicker brain, an incisive first touch gained him a yard on the suddenly toiling Breckin, a neat second took him clear into the area with an angle on goal for a precise, placed finish beyond the keeper's dive.

Following which, he effectively vanished, bar a few lacklustre substitute performances. And nothing much better the season after, although the appearances were more regular. Ronnie Moore mused about players who thought they'd made it, and the word on the Tivoli was that he was a bit big for his flash new boots, that, rather like the very fast car he'd bought and supposedly crashed soon after, his talent was too powerful for him to handle.

Other voices suggested that Hoskins was one of a new breed of footballer, who knew just how good they were and just how much they were worth and weren't prepared to pay their dues to the likes of Ronnie Moore. Maybe there was something in that, because he did little under curmudgeonly authoritarian Mick Harford, either.

Then, under Alan Knill, his youth and reserve team coach, a man with personalised DVD's for each player to watch and a less regimented approach to how to behave, he blossomed. After missing the first few games of 2005-6 with a back injury, he became the focal point of a team capable of moving the ball swiftly, inventively to his feet.

Williamson's energy created the gaps in midfield for threaded balls into the spaces Hoskins instinctively ran into. The accuracy of his finishing, married to an ambition of approach that bordered on the unfeasibly cocksure, saw him notch 16 goals in half a season of all kinds: mixed in with the poacher's tap ins were the instant turn and volley that left the Forest defence helpless spectators, and the delicate, placed chip, from an impossibly acute angle, that stunned the home fans at Vale Park into rueful, appreciative applause. You can find them all on YouTube.

Then a move to Watford (Boothroyd secretly prized Williamson more highly) and a meandering of a career. A year of Boothroyd forcing him to run the channels and asking to do a job out wide punctured his confidence and form. He's now a more straightforward striker, if still unerringly accurate with his shots. If someone can rekindle the exuberance of that glorious half season, without stoking the fires of the arrogance that nearly derailed his career before it really began, truly they will have a player."

Reading David's words generated a flicker of hope at a re-kindled link-up with Lee Williamson of the kind witnessed by Millers fans. However, that would require a more consistent run of performances (and an injury free spell) from Williamson. We should also remember that Stephen Quinn also had a spell alongside the pair of them on loan from the Blades. Maybe there will be further benefit in reuniting the three of them?

What also strikes a chord is the reference to "fires of arrogance". When, this afternoon, I asked fellow writers and Brighton fans Danny Last and David Hartrick why Hoskins hadn't succeeded at the Amex they were surprised at the then potential for the move back North. Hoskins had scored one goal (on debut) in just nine appearances (both starting and from the bench) for the Seagulls and Danny described the lack of success as "as a very strange one, he's not really been given a chance. Gus gives a lot of weight to the way they train, so it could be attitude?"

Having said that, David pointed out that his limited opportunities were not necessarily down to form; "He has had some bad luck with injuries as well. I'd like to keep him to be honest, I still think he has a lot to prove and to give us."

He may well do. At present it is a pure loan deal, no mention of a permanent deal at the end of the season. Till then all we can hope is that he adds some firepower to the Blades' now five strong frontline. I only hope that the loan market provides an increased quality of supply from wide and defensive back up. That is unless Danny Wilson is taking the Vindaloo approach for the rest of the season;

"We're gonna score one more than you......"

Thanks to the two Davids and Danny for their input.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like he enjoys an arm round the shoulder and a manager who will make he feel loved. Someone exactly like Danny Wilson. Got a good feeling about this signing. Other than a lack of depth, I felt that if we had a weakness it was the lack of a real threat alongside Ched. Porter and Cresswell have done OK but Hoskins should take us on another level (and hopefully to another level).