Jake Speight intrigues me. I’ve not really been totally convinced by him this season, but analysis of what he’s actually contributed to Wrexham’s cause this season suggests he might just be our most effective player.
His form has been erratic and he was left out of the side for a while by Andy Morrell prior to the Brentford victory. It was an understandable call at the time as he doesn’t naturally link up with the other strikers, being more the sort of forward you give the ball to and then leave to his own devices. That’s fine as long as you back that up with results – nobody complained when Gary Bennett was selfish because he was scoring forty goals a season! However, if you don’t support sort of approach up with end product, questions will be asked.
I must be honest and say that, until I looked into it, I didn’t feel Speight was producing the figures to justify his approach. However, once I actually had a look at what he’s been doing for us this season I started to revise my view. The fact is that he’s the most productive player in the side, and perhaps deserves a little more credit for his role in a team which doesn’t carry passengers.
Obviously he’s our top scorer, which clearly has to count for something. With a strike rate of a goal every 2.3 league matches, he’s making a key contribution to our promotion push. Unsurprisingly, that’s the best strike rate in the squad this season, and his stats also stack up well if you combine the players’ goals and assists to work out which player has made the most contributions to goals this season. He leads the way in that category too, if you ignore the statistical accident of Jay Colbeck setting up a goal in his only appearance of the season, in the Welsh Cup (fig 1). On average Speight has been involved in the sharp end of a goal every 1.8 games this season, comfortably ahead of the next two in the list, Mathias Pogba and Andy Morrell.
In fact, as was gleefully noted on Red Passion, he’s got more goals than Andy Mangan in the league (only one more, admittedly, and Mangan ties him overall as he’s got one in the FA Cup, but let’s not let technicalities get in the way of a good argument!)
A glance at Speight’s season so far (fig. 2) gives us further evidence of his erratic form, but also of the admirable nature of his strike rate. He’s played the full ninety minutes of a match just once since the victory over Ebbsfleet on October 1st, and that was against Hinckley in what was in essence a reserve match: Andy Morrell only made one substitution in that game as he clearly saw no purpose in throwing on the youth players who were on the bench.
So what does this tell us about his season? Clearly he’s easy to subsstitute; admittedly strikers are often the first to get the hook, but it seems Speight is often the first of the attacking trio to go off, and that doesn’t really feel like a surprise. Often in games I’ve felt that it’s the logical change.
Yet the fact that he actually doesn’t spend that much time on the pitch makes his effectiveness in front of goal even more impressive. He’s been on the pitch for 1,825 minutes, so his ten goals have come essentially every two matches (182.5 minutes per goal), and his league goals have come at a very impressive rate of one for every 154.7 minutes on the pitch, just over one every one and a half games.
Throw in the assists, which have all come in the league, and he makes a major contribution to a goal every 103 minutes in the Conference. Useful.
There is one other conclusion we can draw from the chart, and it’s rather less impressive. He gets far too many yellow cards, and as so many seem to be earned for pretty silly reasons, that’s clearly something which both stats and gut feeling say he has to address!
Fig. 2 Jake Speight’s games in the 2011-12 season
It’s also interesting to have a look back at his pedigree (fig. 3) to put his efforts this season into a bit of perspective. Clearly he’s never actually held a regular first team place down in his career. His lack of starts for Mansfield can be ascribed to being nursed through an injury, but nonetheless Speight has already started more games this season than he ever managed in any other season in his career.
His scoring streak stacks up well against anything else he’s managed too. Obviously, he had a purple patch at Mansfield, but apart from that season and this one he’s hardly been prolific. Bearing that in mind, surely we can hardly ask for any more than what he’s giving us.
Fig. 3 Jake Speight’s career record.
So in summary, Speight deserves more credit than he’s getting, although to be fair many of us would be surprised to see how effective he is when comparing his output to what we’d judge him for by the naked eye. Admittedly, these figures don’t measure other aspects of his game, such as how useful he is when we haven’t got the ball. My gut feeling is that it’s a weak point in his game; full backs on his flank often lack cover, as we saw with Neil Ashton at Telford, and although he certainly is willing to show some energy when he we’re defending, he doesn’t always apply it in the most effective manner.
But then that might be completely incorrect, because as we can see, when it comes to Jake Speight, appearances are deceptive!