‘Little and large’ partnerships, although they seem to have died off in recent times – with teams looking to adopt formations with a five-man midfield and a target-man up front – were once a major must-have in English football. Take Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy in their Newcastle days, Emile Heskey and Michael Owen at Liverpool and more recently Jermain Defoe Peter Crouch who were together at both Portsmouth and Tottenham.
Leeds have had their fair share of partnerships over the past couple of decades. No one will forget Lee Chapman and Rod Wallace in the title winning season. Mark Viduka was a target man alongside many forwards throughout his Whites career including Robbie Keane, Robbie Fowler and Alan Smith. More recently we’ve had Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio, not really a little and large partnership (Beckford being 1cm taller) but one played as a target man and one as a poacher – which is similar to how the little and large partnerships worked.
Like I mentioned earlier, these – some might say ‘telepathic’ combinations have died off in the last few seasons, with the attributes of a front man needing to be more technical these days. We’ve signed two strikers during the Summer in Matt Smith and Noel Hunt. In terms of physical appearance they couldn’t be more different. Hunt being around the 5’8″ and Smith 6’6″. We also have an upcoming striker with huge potential in Dominic Poleon, the 19 year-old has scored plenty of goals during pre-season and there’s no doubt he’ll be in and around the first team throughout the season. We’ve also got Luke Varney. He didn’t have the best of starts last season but he found his form towards the end of the season, especially when employed as a front man!
All four have had solid pre-season’s so far. It looks as if Brian McDermott will use a formation that uses two strikers. I’m presuming the two will be out of these four forwards, with Ross McCormack playing in a deeper role. But what two looks to be the best partnership?
Smith and Hunt
Both started pre-season fairly well. I don’t know too much about Matt Smith, but he looks to be a handful in the air! Hunt on the other hand is probably the shortest player in the first-team, yet he has an excellent leap. He will chase lost causes all day. Smith will probably win the majority of headers he challenges for, and could provide the knock-downs for Hunt, who wasn’t always the main central striker at Reading. This season though, it looks as if he might have to, as I can’t see us signing anymore forwards.
Hunt and Poleon
I’m not sure how this partnership would work. Both are fairly small so wouldn’t win as many aerial balls as Smith or Varney. Maybe Poleon could play more of a wide role, as he has the pace and power to beat a man, and provide for Hunt to finish. Hunt has played out wide for Reading in the past, so that could also be an option for McDermott.
Poleon and Varney
The two started the 3-0 friendly win against Stevenage, and we weren’t really getting much joy until Poleon was moved into a wide area. Varney grabbed himself a hat-trick and that will do him the world of good. Good in the air, he could win plenty of knock downs for Poleon to chase, but he can also play with the ball at his feet.
Varney and Smith
You’d think that playing Matt Smith would encourage our defenders to look to just hoof it forward, but Brian McDermott has insisted that this isn’t the case, but what other way can we play to get the best out of him when we’ve no wingers? Playing these two would probably mean Varney playing on the shoulder with Smith as a target man.
Smith and Poleon
This is definitely Dom Poleon’s time to shine with no real natural goalscorer in the team. If he starts scoring early on in the season his confidence will be sky high and who knows how many he could score? If the service is there frol the wide men he could easily bag 10. He’s also probably the fastest forward we have, so could get in behind opposing defences and would be our most suited player to race on to Smith’s knock downs.
Varney and Hunt
If the link up play works well between these two I think both could score 10-15 goals each. Out of the four attackers these two look to have more similarities, both have been played as inside forwards for their previous clubs and both are pretty decent in the air. If they can just add goal scoring to their repertoire then this could be the partnership for McDermott’s Leeds.
So that’s my thoughts on each partnership. Personally I think the best pairing would be Noel Hunt and Luke Varney. I’d still like to see Poleon and Matt Smith given game time in the first team to show what they could do, but Varney and Hunt are the more experienced of the four, and like I said, if they could start scoring between them then I think they’d make for a solid striking combination.
What two would you prefer to be Leeds’ leading strikers ahead of the new season? Leave your comments and vote in the poll.