Last night’s game between Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Dundee United marked the 13th consecutive league game where Jon Daly has failed to score in open play (i.e. not from the penalty spot); his last goal coming against the same side at Tannadice back in mid December.
In fact, if you look at the season as a whole, Daly has only managed to score 6 open play goals in the SPL in 28 games, and 4 of them came within the space of a month. If you exclude a purple patch between November 16 and December 15, Daly has actually only scored twice.
Now, I know that he’s played a few of those games at the back, but in most of those 4 games he’s ended up playing up front at some point, and of course he’s up for every set piece too.
Those stats don’t make for great reading, especially when compared to his free scoring season in 2011/12.
So what’s the problem? And considering his contract is set to expire in 3 months time, is he worth re-signing?
Injuries Taking Their Toll
Jon Daly has had more than his fair share of injury problems over the years. While at United he’s damaged both cruciate ligaments and has struggled with various other issues like hernias and muscle strains.
Injuries like those take their toll on the human body after a while. Eventually, they’ll catch up with you. And based on his performances this season, it looks like they are nipping at Jon Daly’s heels at the very least.
Never a player who was particularly fast to begin with – if he did have pace to add to his other attributes he’d be at a far bigger club than Dundee United – Daly seems to be slowing down even more. It’s become quite frustrating to watch him move around the pitch in such a laboured manner, as if he’s pulling along an invisible sleigh behind him.
And that’s having an effect on his game. Whereas last season he’d convert the chances he’s getting, Daly is finding himself just that half yard away from the ball almost every time.
He’s still doing a decent job of holding up the play and – most of the time – getting the intelligent flick on to his rapid fellow forwards, but when it comes to scoring, he’s just not the player he was.
Watching him move, it’s hard to believe that he’s only just turned 30. He’s younger than me!
No Room for Sentimentality
So Jackie McNamara has a problem on his hands. Does he offer Jon Daly a new deal, or let him go and use his not inconsiderable wage as Captain to bring in a couple of new players in his place?
After a good first couple of games, the manager said he wanted to keep all the out of contract players, but I’d maybe put that down to the initial excitement of taking on the job. He might be changing his mind now.
When I asked fellow United fans what they thought, the ones who said he should unquestionably get a new deal invariably went back to his performances in previous seasons as a means of backing up their passionate defence of the skipper.
But what people often forget is that football is a business, and there’s no room for sentimentality when trying to make the most of a small budget.
You don’t look to the past when making these decisions, but instead look at what a player brings to the table now and into the future.
Considering he’s likely to be one of our highest paid players, if not the highest, the question is whether the manager believes he’s worth investing in further, or if he should simply shake his hand, thank him for his service, and allow him to move to a different club where he’ll probably make more money?
That’s the problem that McNamara faces.
So What Should McNamara Do?
Like any player, Jon Daly needs to prove he’s worth a new deal, and if he starts scoring again between now and the end of the season, the situation may become a no-brainer.
Some have said that since he’s missed only one game all season it might be that he just needs a rest, and that is a good point. But considering he’s the only target man at the club, and one of only two recognised strikers, that’s not going to happen any time soon. Maybe a rest at the end of the season will get him back to his level of fitness from 11/12 but it’s a risk.
For me, he’s certainly not worth any more than a one year extension, and even then that should only come on the strength of improved performances. Based on he’s playing now, he’s not even worth that.
Then again, all indications are that Daly wants more than a one year deal.
The Problem May Solve Itself
Ultimately, the problem may sort itself out.
As you’ll gleam from reading this, I’m not convinced Daly is on anything other than a forward on the decline and suggestions from some fans that he could one day move to centre back full-time are way off the mark. He’s decent there, but he’s made to look better because of the ineptitude of our normal back four – the second worst in the league – and because people make allowances for him playing out of position.
What will probably happen is that he’ll decide to move on himself, taking the decision out of McNamara’s hands. After all, a contract was on the table when Peter Houston was the manager and Daly didn’t sign it then. There’s obviously a reason for that.
Daly has been a fantastic servant to the club, but I feel the clock is ticking on his career. I say we shouldn’t stand in his way. We wish him well, remember him as a modern-day icon at the club and let him make his money in League One or Two before he retires.
That would probably be best for all concerned.
Or do you disagree?