Shankly Knows Best For Maguire-Drew

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Last Saturday was the first time this season that Jordan Maguire-Drew wasn’t in the matchday squad. There might be nothing more to see here than a continuation of our regular rotation of forward players. However, it’s tempting to view the decision, at least to some degree, as an attempt to try something different in order to get Maguire-Drew back to the exciting form he showed at the start of the season, either that’s by resting him or changing up his routine.
In the opening weeks of the campaign, Maguire-Drew’s form was thrilling. His reputation preceded him, as we fixated on his prolific season as an 18-year-old at Dagenham, and ignored the last year, which had been interrupted by injuries.

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Maguire-Drew’s opening contributions lived up to our expectations. His magnificent goal at Maidenhead followed a first goal for the club three days earlier, after he’d marked his home debut with a scintillating run from box to box against Fylde which ended in a rocket of a shot shaving the post.

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Since then his talent has still been obvious, but accompanied by an apparent frustration that things aren’t quite happening for him the way he wants them to. This was epitomised against Havant and Waterlooville.
In the opening stages he was at his match-winning best, but unfortunately he came up against a goalkeeper in the form of his life, who twice in the first nine minutes pulled off brilliant saves to turn a blistering shot onto the bar.
Soon afterwards, another incident encapsulated Maguire-Drew’s frustration. Trying an intricate piece of skill to beat a full back, he got the ball stuck between his feet and lost it. You could just sense the frustration seeping out of him – here was a player who was doing everything he could to hit that terrific early season form, and it just wouldn’t quite click.

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His luck was summed up against Hartlepool when he dribbled through their defence and hit a shot which beat the keeper but struck the backside of a defender who lunged from nowhere to appear on the line.
A couple of times recently he’s got within range of goal, but instead of letting fly as he did at Maidenhead, he’s taken an extra touch to make sure and the chance has gone.
Perhaps a break has given him a chance to reflect, and see that he might benefit if he simplifies things rather than fret and overthink. As Bill Shankly said to Ian St John when he went through a hesitant period in front of goal, “If you’re not sure what to do with the ball, just pop it in the net and we’ll discuss your options afterwards.”
A change is as good as a rest, after all. Maybe he just needed to press the reset button and remember what a precociously talented player he is. It might have seemed surprising to see a team sheet without Maguire-Drew’s name on it, but Sam Ricketts will have been motivated by a desire to rejuvenate, not punish. To quote Shankly again, when an upstart journalist questioned his team selection, “Laddie, I never drop players, I only make changes.”

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

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