From: Leeds United - £150,000 - August 2005
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Currently uncoiled
Past Profiles: September 2005
There are certain things in life that just fit right. My own most personal example is a pair of now sadly torn pair of French Connection jeans. Boot-cut, blue, not too heavy. Simply perfect. The fit was bang on. Perfect.
Last season you could add Matthew Spring to that list. He came from Leeds with something to prove to Aidy and typically sceptical fans and by the end of that mad afternoon in Cardiff he became one of the star turns in a season of amazing and unexpected highlights. Straight into a team of unknowns, favourites for the drop, Spring was a hit straight from the off, scoring on his debut against Burnley. Weighing in with a frankly obscene number of goals for a midfielder, Spring was the first to leave the celebrations at Cardiff and trot off down the tunnel. Whilst the players donned silly wigs and sprayed champagne it was Spring who departed in a manner that was the equivalent of pulling up his shirt to reveal a t-shirt that simply said "Job Done". That's my kind of player.
Come Inter Milan's arrival (okay Aidy, this is getting silly now) and the job is now currently in danger of being done by other members of the squad. Through no fault of his own, but victim to the success that he in part shaped, Spring is one player down the pecking order. Between him and a place in the starting eleven sit club captain Gavin Mahon and new one and a half million pound signing Damien Francis. Unbeaten in pre-season, it is therefore hard to see anything beyond a place on the bench at Goodison Park come opening day. It is hard not to feel sorry for the guy.
Marlon was the focus of the team last season and the spearhead for many a move, and thankfully whilst chaos ensued and defenders were left tangled in knots there was Matthew Spring arriving unmarked in or around the opponent's box, left boot cocked. Away at Derby, Hull and Preston they fell victim to the Spring counterpunch and most memorably at Carrow Road, Norwich were floored by the footballing equivalent of an unexpected, vicious left hook. Delia and Co can still be found reeling on the ropes. His goals, spread throughout the season, kept the momentum going when both pundits and fans thought the wheels would come off. Even a small blip around Christmas and the return to Kenilworth Road failed to throw the guy. He was, like his goal at Palace in the play-offs, vital.
So what on earth has caused this change? It is certainly not hard to argue with the concept of competition within a team. And to be honest I'm not really qualified to draw too many arguments with the manager based on his current record but you have to wonder how Spring will fit in this season. The vacant right midfielder's role might be currently his best chance as we could move Young to that side and open up a space for Matthew on the left but then he doesn't have the pace or guile to scare Premiership opponents who are used to the likes of Robben, Giggs or Henry week in week out. A five man midfield might offer the surest bet, but then again we've reverted to four-four-two in pre season.
Rather cynically, suspension and injury might lead to his chance to fight for a place in the starting line up. Suspensions will happen as we are forced to defend and chase games. They are inevitable. For me the biggest question he needs to answer is whether or not he can make the step up to the Premiership. If he can then his place will be assured, as a goal scoring midfielder in a struggling team is worth its weight in SKY endorsed gold. Tim Cahill, before him, is the most obvious example of a goal scoring midfielder making the step between divisions. Every season the gulf widens but if Spring can again perfect his art of arriving unnoticed and unmarked then he might well just be one of the key factors in deciding if the season is just a brief flirtation with the big boys or something more permanent.
Last updated: August 2006