Curb the criticism, Rico’s worth his weight in goals

Curb the criticism, Rico’s worth his weight in goals

OVF founder Rob Fielding says he’s “staggered” by some recent supporters’ comments about top scorer Marc Richards and says “keeping the services of a proven goalscorer should be the manager’s top summer priority.”

Curb the criticism, Rico’s worth his weight in goals

By Rob Fielding

I’ve been somewhat surprised by some comments I’ve read on the OVF website recently.

Let me take you through two comments I received about an article on transfer speculation involving Marc Richards.

The comments read: “Richards is an average player in a poor side” and “if he [Richards] wants to go – see ya pal!”

I’m staggered. Richards averages better than a goal every three games for the Valiants. In total, he’s scored 74 goals in just under five years at Vale Park.

He’s a striker and he scores goals – what more do you want? I’d argue that far from being complacent about letting Richards leave, keeping the services of a proven goalscorer should be the manager’s top summer priority.

To this observer these comments fit the pattern of criticism levelled at another striker – Leon Constantine.

Constantine, despite scoring an awe-inspiring 26 goals in 50 starts in 2006/2007, was constantly accused of not putting in enough effort and therefore being “lazy.” I’d argue that he really was that lazy then how come he found the energy to put the ball into the back of the net, on average, once every two games?

I think fans have to be realistic. We are in League Two. When Constantine played we were in League One. At these depths you are hardly going to find a player who “does everything.” It seems that strikers get this criticism most – after all, I’ve not seen any supporters moaning that Anthony Griffith doesn’t get more goals. It seems that his role – midfield enforcer – is accepted as such. Griff is allowed to be (if you pardon the phrase) one-dimensional (don’t get me wrong, he does his job brilliantly), but it appears that goal scorers are not.

Constantine’s prime job was to score goals. He did that. Very well.

And so does Marc Richards. Unless Sean Rigg, Louis Dodds or Tom Pope hit double figures in the final game of the season, Richards will be confirmed as this season’s leading scorer. For the fourth season running. Only Wilf Kirkham (five seasons in a row) has done better. With that sort of goalscoring consistency, who cares what Richards’ contribution is elsewhere on the pitch?

Every team needs different roles. The midfield enforcers (Ant Griffith, Andy Porter) work best alongside playmakers (Doug, Loft, Ian Bogie). The goalscorers (Marc Richards, Leon Constantine) combine well with grafting centre-forwards (Tom Pope, Akpo Sodje). This combination of contrasting skills works much better than a partnership that’s too alike.

Some fans will argue that Vale’s 2007/2008 slump in form and subsequent relegation can be at least partially attributed to the failure to replace Constantine’s goals.

Do we really want to tempt fate again should Richards be “forced” out through such ill-thought-out comments?


Rob Fielding has been a Port Vale fan for 31 years and he remains a Marc Richards fan.

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