There was once that Bobby Zamora, scorer of 70 goals in 119 appearances for Brighton & Hove Albion, a legend to this Seagulls fan some years ago:
Blessed with power, pace, some aerial ability and a calm finish, Zamora led the Albion up two divisions with successive championships at the start of the decade through his goalscoring exploits.
28 goals in 2000-01, 28 again in 2001-02, and 14 in 35 in what’s now the Championship in 2002-03.
When the ball hits the goal it’s not Shearer or Cole, it’s Zamora.
He would, of course, swiftly move on up to the Premier League, a young striker with his record and ability attracting the expected attention: to Tottenham Hotspur he went in 2003, seemingly destined for England duties as both Cole and Shearer approached the end of their careers.
But then for the first time in his career the goals did not come: he never scored for Tottenham in league play, departing after just sixteen appearances for West Ham in January 2004. There, in the Championship, he rediscovered his touch, scoring a decent 13 goals in 39 appearances in 2004-05, including the winning goal in the playoff final to take them back to the Premier League in 2005.
And then the goals stopped again. Zamora scored just six goals in 34 games for West Ham in the Premier League in 2005-06, as he continued to struggle to adapt to the top flight. He improved the next season, but ended up with just 34 in 136 for the Hammers. His best streak, at the start of 2006-07 season, saw him lead the league in scoring early on with five goals in his first four games, though then arrived Carlos Tevez, and a season of torpor ending in relegation.
So to Fulham Zamora went last season, where he has taken his goalscoring production down to Emile Heskey levels: just six goals in 47 appearances over the two years.
Roy Hodgson, though, continues to pick him, and Roy Hodgson is not a stupid man. And Fulham finished seventh last season, despite the loss of club captain and man of steel Brian McBride. Indeed, it was Zamora who largely filled this unforgiving role: McBride was no goalscoring machine in the Premier League either (40 goals in 153 matches), but you don’t need me to tell you about his other abilities and value.
Yet where McBride became a legend, captain and two-time player of the year, with a pub on club grounds renamed after him, Zamora has become a target for fans: the boo-boys counting only his lack of goals. I’m not suggesting Zamora is the equal of McBride; but nor is he the polar opposite.
Perhaps this is a legacy of the golden early reputation Zamora earned when the goals rained easily in the lower divisions, where he made easy pickings because of his superior size, strength and skill, qualities largely nullified in front of goal at the highest level. Instead, Zamora reinvented himself as an all-around industrious target man, but this transformation in his role has been occluded by his earlier reputation, which he know fails to live up to, as a striker with the golden touch.
Which brings us to this weekend, as Zamora scored the winning goal for Fulham against Sunderland: in the Guardian, Dominic Fifield rips into Fulham’s “vocal minority” who have given forward Bobby Zamora such stick for his lack of goalscoring production.
Zamora clearly felt he had a point to prove here. His headed reward, plundered in front of the visiting support, had prompted home team-mates to converge upon him in celebration only for the striker to shrug off John Pantsil and Damien Duff, stride towards the half-way line and, his eyes fixed on the home partisans in the distant Hammersmith End, put his finger to his lips. That gave way to an outburst of “Shut your mouths”. The minority who have voiced some disquiet were most likely too busy leaping in celebration even to notice.
This useful chalkboard from the Guardian illustrates that again, Zamora was much better value than just the lone goal. This is that old cliche illustrated, workrate.
Fifield even wonders if Zamora might not be a better option than Emile Heskey for the target man role for England. Perhaps we will see both Bobby Zamoras finally get recognised for their value. And maybe he needs a second line to the old ditty.
When the ball hits the goal it’s not Shearer or Cole, it’s Zamora. . .