Just look at those goals, for example. He hit twenty-one last season, which anyone would agree was a formidable total. Yet scratch the surface of the stat and things look slightly less impressive: only four of those goals came against the sides that finished the season in the top ten. So is he a potent striker who can carry you to the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier or a flat track bully whose numbers are boosted by his ability to put poor sides to the sword?
On the other hand, this most enigmatic of strikers is surprisingly good at providing chances for others. In fact, despite the fact that he seemed to be as selfish a player as I’ve seen playing for Wrexham for some time, constantly barrelling into the box from the left with no interest in whether anyone’s available inside him, he actually finished the season top of the assists table for the club, having set up ten goals throughout the campaign.
There was a sense throughout his Wrexham career that Speight’s figures were better than his actual performances. I know it sounds foolish to say this, but he gave the impression that he “only” scored goals. Often I left a match feeling that, if you took his goal away, you’d be unhappy with his performance, yet he did score, which surely justified his presence in the side.
I’ve already blogged on the quixotic nature of the man this season, suggesting his output is better than he’s given credit for. Dan Thomas also suggested that Speight was central to our ambitions. But ultimately, it’s difficult to mourn his departure too deeply because what he achieved on the pitch was only part of the story. Andy Morrell inherited a problem in Speight when he took over, and he has handled the matter pragmatically and wisely.
The bottom line is that too much slack was cut to accommodate Speight when he signed last Summer. I’m not blaming the player for that for one moment: surely it’s human nature to take advantage of any generous offers that come your way in life. But the picture painted this week is of a player whom Dean Saunders was so desperate to sign that he was willing to waive some of the basic principles which underpin squad harmony.
Speight’s homesickness seems to be a genuine issue rather than a Robbie Savage-style invention, and he appears to have been fairly popular among the squad, a rather precious willingness to play the asthmatic card notwithstanding. However, he seems to have been fairly intransigent in failing to meet Morrell half way in trying to sort out the practicalities of playing a couple of hours from home. Again, a big part of me feels that if you were made a bend-over-backwards offer to sign for a club, which was then withdrawn with a change of manager, then I’d dig my heels in.
Morrell was 100% correct to make an issue of this though. You can’t change training schedules to accommodate one man or make exceptions to club rules on punctuality and attendance. Speight, through little fault of his own, became a ticking timebomb; one Saunders ought never to have activated. Speight and his agent, after all, hardly have a history of scratching their clubs’ backs. To create exceptions for any player is dangerous; to create them for a player who has left teams frustrated in the past, and has only started a season at the club he ended the previous one with once in a career which goes back to 2004, was reckless to say the least.
Morrell had to take a stand, and the collatoral damage, although regretable, was a blow it was necessary to take. At least Morrell, by losing one of his big earners, has created some wriggle-room in his budget. And if the tales of serial lateness I’ve heard are anywhere near the truth, a big chunk of that large salary will have stayed with the club anyway!