Maybe This Time Matty?
Let me take you back to the summer of 2008. Leicester City had just been relegated to League One for the first time in their history on the back of an abysmal season in the Championship under Ian Holloway.
Matty Fryatt had scored an equally abysmal 2 goals in 30 Championship appearances. Questions were asked whether or not the former Walsall striker had it in him to lead the Leicester frontline next season. Surprisingly, most folk were quick to jump to the praises of the forward. I was not one of these people.
Fryatt was signed in January 2006 by then manager Craig Levein, after scoring 14 times for Paul Merson's Walsall in the 2005/06 season. Three goals in his first four starts for Leicester, and hopes were high for the Nuneaton-born striker.
But as Leicester's season deteriorated, so did Fryatt's form, and he hit the net only three times more in his next 14 appearances. It was the start of a two-year slump which saw him in and out of the side thanks to an unhelpful mixture of injuries and general poor form.
The next season was another to forget. Just four goals in 34 appearances later, and it seemed as though Fryatt's early promise had been completely erased. I'll admit, my own patience was wearing incredibly thin, and to my amazement Fryatt was still being backed by the Foxes faithful, who are notoriously difficult to please at times. He was even being linked with moves to Wolves and Preston.
So, I'll give him another chance I thought. The 07/08 season was even worse. Admitedly this was the season that we were relegated, but Fryatt's form was unbelievably poor. The striker returned just three goals in 34 appearances, and I'd had enough quite frankly. If you'd have told me Fryatt would be leaving last summer I'd have been delighted.
And, just like the last two seasons, most fans refused to criticise him. What was I missing? I had absolutely no idea how this player, somebody with arguably little pace, height or strength, would lead us to League One glory. 'He's been played on the right wing all season' was a commonly used argument to back Fryatt's cause. Nonsense. 'He'll come good eventually'. Eventually? How long? One year? Two years?
Now, fast forward slightly to the 9th August 2008. It's Leicester's first League One game of the season against Mk Dons at the Walkers. We win 2-0, with none other than Fryatt hitting them both. Where had this come from? Had this magical spark I'd been supposedly missing for so long suddenly hit home? I was confused to say the least.
And the goals kept on coming. By December, Fryatt had re-written the club record books by being the first player since Derek Dougan to hit 20 goals before Christmas. This also included successive hat-tricks against Dagenham & Redbridge and Southend. He was rewarded for his efforts with a new three-and-a-half year contract.
Now, fast-forward to 18th April 2009. Leicester have just secured the League One title with a 2-0 win at Southend, a certain Mr.Fryatt finding the net twice for his 29th and 30th goals of the season. By the conclusion of the season, he had 31, and was voted the best player in League One. Incredible for a striker I'd written off so many times previously to this.
Now, I beg the question, was I wrong? Most would say yes. However, I put forward a question of my own; Matty, can you do it this time in the Championship? Only time will tell I suppose, but I still hold my reservations. An abysmal 7 goals in 68 Championship appearances speaks for itself for now. However, with a completely new team and manager, the future is hopefully much brighter for Matty Fryatt.
Prove me wrong.