INSTEAD of being the centrepiece of Aston Villa’s jigsaw for immediate promotion, Ross McCormack is rapidly becoming the odd piece.
Everyone knows his exploits in the Championship – he’s a one-in-two striker and has been for nearly a decade (116 goals in 303 appearances before his move to B6) – but it could be a case of biting off more than he could chew.
To put it into context, McCormack has never graced the Premier League. Even clubs who have gained promotion have never fancied him to lead their line in the top flight.
Heck, you know something must be up if Gordon Strachan doesn’t pick you for Scotland. Strachan, meanwhile, prefers a player similar to McCormack in ex-Villa boy Shaun Maloney who, compared to McCormack, has cost just a pittance in transfer fees.
And, in fairness to Maloney, who spent just one season at Villa during 2007-08, the former Celtic man wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip under then-manager Martin O’Neill.
He bagged five goals in 30 appearances, including a sumptuous free-kick at the Stadium of Light and a brace at Stamford Bridge in a Boxing Day goal bonanza. Maloney put Villa 2-0 up before O’Neill hauled him off at half-time to shut up shop after Zat Knight was wrongly dismissed. The game ended four each after Gareth Barry’s last-gasp penalty.
But, in terms of our current Scottish playmaker, I think it’s fair to say that the former Cardiff, Leeds and Fulham hitman is way short on confidence at the minute.
Niggling injuries and a suspension doesn’t help matters but seven games without a goal is seriously unknown territory for the 30-year-old. He’s completed just four games for Villa, too, having been unfit when the club signed him.
The key factor, though, is that McCormack needs to be the main man in a team – the big dog – and, quite frankly, he’s not and will probably never be at Aston Villa.
He has led the line superbly for his last three clubs who are by no means Championship minnows.
But with Villa he’s had to adapt and play second fiddle to the likes of Jonathan Kodjia, Jordan Ayew and Jack Grealish.
For arguably the first time in his career the play’s not all going through him. His managers in the past have no doubt told his teammates to ‘always look for Ross and get him on the ball’ and McCormack’s now struggling as a result.
You’d think he’d thrive playing with Grealish and Ayew, who are both on his wave length. All three are intricate and clever players.
For example, McCormack and Grealish linked up lovely in Steve Bruce’s first match in charge – against Wolves – which resulted in Grealish doing what he does best: winning a penalty.
And Bruce, speaking at last week’s press conference, admitted it’s been a tough start for the Scot and he’s already looking at balancing out Villa’s top-heavy squad.
“It hasn’t really got off to the start he would have liked,” he said.
“It’s a long, hard season and we are only a third of the way through.
“There’s a long way to go. It could be the second part of the season that we see Ross.”
Bruce added: “I think we are a little bit unbalanced.
“We have got six or seven strikers but are only playing with one, so I think we are unbalanced in that regard.
But, with Villa set to lose ‘King’ Kodjia and Ayew in January due to the African Cup of Nations, Christmas and the New Year could be his time to shine. Even Bruce said McCormack “could be crucial”.
However, that’s the worrying part of McCormack’s time in claret and blue to date, he’s quickly become a cover player which something he’s never been in a league he has dominated since moving south of the border.
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