Date:Tuesday September 12 2006
Saturday saw Blackburn Rovers awarded their first penalty of the season but conceded two, which now makes it four penalties conceded in four fixtures. Despite being involved in five penalty decisions only one has been scored (and that was only just as Brad Friedel got a strong hand on Frank Lampard`s penalty in the defeat to Chelsea).
The main issue here is not focusing on what is going wrong at the back, as I strongly believe we have seen four of the softest penalties we will see all season awarded against us, but on who should be taking our penalties and why was Lucas Neill stepping up anyway?
It is well documented that Neill has ambitions away from the club emulating from his refusal to sign a new contract and his vocal agent. Despite this, Mark Hughes continues to choose him as the captain and, as it would appear, choose him as the chief penalty-taker as well.
Everyone knows what Neill is capable of and he has continued to look solid if not a tad distracted as well early on this season. Whereas many are happy with him continuing as captain in the absence of Ryan Nelsen, it seems odd that he has assumed penalty responsibilities as well. On Saturday against Sheffield United Neill saw his penalty saved after pulling rank on new-boy Benni McCarthy.
It was McCarthy who won the penalty, rather contentiously I may add, and he seemed confident of taking it. However, Neill was soon in the opposition penalty area with the ball in his hand. After a brief conversation with McCarthy, Neill put the ball down and McCarthy trudged out of the area. We all know the outcome.
The debate here is whether or not McCarthy would have been more suitable to take the penalty. He is after all our main marksman. Would it not serve the team better if one of our forwards were stepping up? Strikers thrive on confidence; we only have to look at the example of Andy Johnson a couple of years ago who slotted home ten penalties in his twenty-one goal haul. I have even heard suggestions claiming Francis Jeffers would have been more suitable in a bid to build up his confidence.
In our previous couple of seasons we have had four different penalty takers: Paul Dickov, Robbie Savage, Craig Bellamy and Lucas Neill. Savage missed his and hasn`t taken one since. Bellamy scored his only penalty but it was assumed Dickov was the clubs leading penalty-taker. Indeed he only missed one of his penalties and this was Neill`s first miss.
It appears we have more success when our front-men, confidence players, are taking penalties.
What do people think on this subject who would you have taking penalties for Rovers this season? Keep an eye out for a poll on this matter over the weekend but have your say now.
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Date:Tuesday September 12 2006
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