How good is Jermaine Beckford?
Leeds striker is the surprise star of this year's FA Cup – and tonight he can cement his reputation against Spurs. Phil Shaw on what makes him tick
Wednesday 03 February 2010
Trainee at Stamford Bridge
Born in Ealing, west London, and reputedly supported Queen's Park Rangers as a boy. Signed by Chelsea as a trainee and was a contemporary of Carlton Cole, but was released at 19. Began playing part-time for Wealdstone in the Ryman League where his modest form initially led them to loan him to Uxbridge. He has known hard times. "I've had £40 to last the month and I was only in the second week," he recalls on the fan website jermainebeckford.co.uk. "I've had to scrimp and scrape. I've worked for the RAC [fitting tyres], in sports shops, in supermarkets, in an office, fitting windscreens, all sorts."
Began scoring prolifically for Wealdstone, attracting an offer of a trial from Crystal Palace, who played him against Arsenal reserves. This forced the hand of Leeds' then manager Kevin Blackwell, who paid £45,000 to sign him in 2006. "I always knew it would be a tough period of my life," he later told the Leeds programme. "I'd jumped up six leagues and the quality was a totally different level. The pace was quicker, the players more aware. I tried to embrace it and wait for my chance."
Goal of the season
Early in 2007, Leeds' new manager Dennis Wise farmed him out to Scunthorpe on loan. He scored eight goals to help Nigel Adkins' side gain promotion, including the Football League's Goal of the Season for League One. Adkins tried to buy him during the summer but Leeds having passed Scunthorpe on the way down, brought him back to Elland Road.
Statistically speaking, his 78 goals in 129 appearances for Leeds – 24 of them already this season – put him in the company of celebrated forwards such as the late John Charles, Peter Lorimer, Mick Jones and Lee Chapman, albeit at a lower level. Last season he netted 34 times in 37 appearances, five of which came as substitute, which was the fourth highest aggregate in Leeds' 91-year history and only the sixth occasion one of their players had passed the 30 mark.
The complete package?
Quick off the mark and adept at timing his runs, as he showed before converting Jonathan Howson's long pass for the winner at Manchester United in the FA Cup third round. Can finish with either foot, and at 6ft 2in, is strong in the air. Lack of goals in Leeds' play-off final defeat to Doncaster at Wembley (2008), a missed penalty against Millwall in last year's semi-final and chances spurned against Liverpool in the Carling Cup led many to argue that he did not have the composure to score in big games. Three goals at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane, the last a nerveless stoppage-time spot-kick to take the fourth-round tie to tonight's replay at Elland Road, seem to have answered the critics.
Doubts over his attitude
There have been question marks over his disciplinary record and team ethic. Last season he was sent off twice, once for elbowing Millwall keeper David Forde, which resulted in a three-game ban for violent conduct. This season he has picked up just three bookings. Submitting a transfer request before an FA Cup tie at Manchester United revived doubts about his attitude. It was later withdrawn although he is expected to sign for Everton when his contract ends this summer.
Wary of reporters, saying he prefers to focus exclusively on football, he did not do TV interviews even after scoring twice at Tottenham. Has been portrayed as surly and cocksure, although colleagues say he is actually shy. Has tattoos on his neck and arms but less has been seen of his ear-piercings.
What they say about him
"He's a goalscorer, pure and simple. He still has a bit to learn in his all-round play, but inside the box he's very dangerous." (Jimmy Armfield, ex-Leeds manager).
"I know enough about this game to spot a born goalscorer, but there has to be a question mark about whether he can do it in the Premier League." (Allan Clarke, former Leeds and England striker).
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