Making a successful step up from the Championship to the Premier League is difficult for any player, but strikers seem to suffer the most scrutiny.
Put a hat-trick past Stephen Bywater, did you? Racked them up against Rotherham? Yeah, well, how’s your strike rate now? Welcome to the Best League in the World™, chump.
There’s still time for some of these strikers to prove people wrong. We start, though, with an England international (one cap, one goal) who played nearly a century of Premier League matches but couldn’t shake off the reputation of... well, ‘being a bit Championship’.
1. David Nugent
Championship: 342 games, 113 goals • Premier League: 97 games, 14 goals
In David Nugent’s debut Premier League season he didn’t score once in his 15 appearances, though his confidence can’t have been helped by Harry Redknapp declaring in late August that he might sell the player he’d bought for £6m seven weeks previously, in order to raise funds for “somebody who can get us 15 to 20 goals a season”.
So, it was extremely satisfying that Nugent’s first Premier League goal, in January 2009, came against Redknapp’s Spurs. He mused: “It’s taken a while but I timed it perfectly, I think.”
Still, Redknapp was right: Nugent wasn’t going to score 15 Premier League goals. In fact, after four and a half top-flight seasons with Portsmouth, Burnley, Leicester and Middlesbrough, he still hasn’t.
2. Michael Chopra
Championship: 238 games, 74 goals • Premier League: 60 games, 9 goals
Discount Chopra’s last two seasons in England with Ipswich and Blackpool, when his runaway train of a personal life finally came off the rails, and a pretty decent record of 74 goals from 238 Championship games becomes a very decent 70 from 187.
The Premier League was another world for Chopra – specifically, the North East. Newcastle didn’t trust him; neither did Sunderland, because he’d played for Newcastle. Only at Cardiff did ‘Chops’ look a prime cut.
3. Jordan Rhodes
Championship: 238 games, 100 goals • Premier League: 6 games, 0 goals
Rhodes was never really given a chance in the Premier League - and considering he’s now 28 and on loan at Norwich (14th last season) from Sheffield Wednesday (15th), he seemingly never will be.
His 208 Premier League minutes followed Boro’s promotion, and despite concerns about his all-round game, you’d be forgiven for thinking his astonishing second-tier goal haul would give him the benefit of the doubt.
Only at Hillsborough has his rate finally dipped below one in two, yet Premier League clubs have decided: where they’re going, they don’t need Rhodes.
4. Danny Graham
Championship: 184 games, 64 goals • Premier League: 124 games, 18 goals
Look up ‘diminishing returns’ in the dictionary and you’ll find… nothing, because it’s a phrase, not a word. But if it was a word, you’d find a picture of… OK, you wouldn’t find a picture of Danny Graham, because dictionaries don’t have pictures. But if – hang on, we’ll start again.
Graham netted 12 goals for newly-promoted Swansea in 2011/12 after firing home 24 goals in the Championship with Watford. This good start was enough to convince Sunderland that the Gateshead-born Newcastle fan was worth buying in January 2013, even after he’d lost his place and Sunderland’s own fans had booed him. He scored once in 37 games there, and once in 18 on loan at Hull, then returned to banging them in at a lower level for Middlesbrough and Blackburn.
5. Leroy Lita
Championship: 170 games, 52 goals • Premier League: 65 games, 10 goals
It’s easy to forget Lita was just 19 when he arrived on the scene with then-third tier Bristol City, 20 when he helped Reading to a record second-tier points tally, and 21 when he made his Premier League bow. He’s only two years older than Jamie Vardy.
Nor was that top-flight introduction a disaster by any means: despite not starting regularly, Lita scored seven league goals, plus another seven in the cup competitions, as Reading finished eighth. Ten of those 14 strikes came in the space of a dozen games. But it didn’t last. Lita couldn’t take his few subsequent chances with Reading and Swansea, even as he scored with ease on numerous Championship loans. Frustrating.
6. Patrick Bamford
Championship: 92 games, 35 goals • Premier League: 27 games, 1 goal
Harsh? Maybe. But 25 goals in 59 games on loan from Chelsea to the promotion-chasing pair of Derby and Middlesbrough generated expectations that haven’t been met. Of Bamford’s three Premier League loans to Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley, two ended prematurely and none brought any goals.
Boro bought Bamford from a nonplussed Chelsea, but he’s starting every other game in the Championship. The 24-year-old has a big 2018/19 ahead.
7. Rob Earnshaw
Championship: 216 games, 90 goals • Premier League: 65 games, 13 goals
The somersaulting Welsh-Zambian striker fired Cardiff to two promotions before hitting 21 goals in his first second-tier campaign, so it’s no wonder West Brom thought he could handle one more step up.
Ten Premier League goals in 31 appearances wasn’t bad, especially when you consider that only 18 of them were starts, but it didn’t satisfy Bryan Robson, who sent him back to the Championship to score 27 in 45 appearances on loan at Norwich.
Derby gave him another shot at the Premier League in 2007/08 and… well, we know what happened there.
8. Tom Ince
Championship: 211 games, 68 goals • Premier League: 48 games, 3 goals
No, Ince isn’t a striker. But he is an attacking midfielder with a one-in-three strike rate in the Championship, and he embodies the gulf in divisions possibly better than anyone.
Goals came regularly for Blackpool and Derby either side of failures to launch at Crystal Palace and Hull, so while Huddersfield probably never expected Ince to replicate that form in the Premier League last season, the Terriers probably hoped he might register an assist or goal before Boxing Day - especially considering he played every minute of almost every game behind the striker.
Alex Pritchard arrived in January and managed two in his first three starts. Ince is 26 and has signed for Stoke (in the Championship). This is probably as good as he gets.
9. Jason Scotland
Championship: 170 games, 48 goals • Premier League: 32 games, 1 goal
In 2009, Wigan paid Swansea £2m to buy Scotland, which will stump easily-confused historians of the future. He was 30 but something of a late bloomer, who blossomed for Ipswich after one Premier League season brought him one goal – in a defeat to Fulham. Gah.
Hamilton Academical hired him as a striker coach in August 2017, which, given his record, is optimistic at best, but at least he can live up to his name.
10. Dwight Gayle
Championship: 61 games, 36 goals • Premier League: 99 games, 21 goals
Another late bloomer, Gayle (now 28) made an incredibly rapid rise from the Conference North to the Premier League within two years, and his all-time league record outside the top flight stands at 121 games, 72 goals. In fairness, his minutes-per-goal ratio in the Premier League isn’t bad, either, equating to one every two and a half games, played for two mid-table teams.
So why is he here? Because top-flight managers seem reluctant to put their faith in him. Just 50 of his 99 Premier League appearances have been starts and when your competition includes Marouane Chamakh, Connor Wickham and Joselu, that’s got to hurt.
11. Marlon King
Championship: 323 games, 123 goals • Premier League: 64 games, 12 goals
While a rate of one goal every five games isn’t totally abysmal in a struggling team – and all four of King’s Premier League teams were struggling – his record in the old Division One and Championship hinted he could do better.
King scored plenty in second-tier spells with Gillingham (40 goals), Nottingham Forest (10), Leeds (0), Watford (32), Coventry (12) and Birmingham (29). OK, maybe not Leeds.
12. Matej Vydra
Championship: 187 games, 65 goals • Premier League: 24 games, 3 goals
While it tends to be feast or famine for Matej Vydra in the Championship, the former Watford man ended last season as the division’s top scorer - not that it was enough to get him picked in the play-off semi-final, mind.
Up in the Premier League, though, the cupboards are almost completely bare. An important caveat: three goals in 24 games for West Brom and Watford came from just seven starts, with the Hornets signing the Czech permanently after two successful loan spells and then giving him just two minutes as a substitute against Chelsea before selling up. Sorry, Matej, you had your chance.
13. Cameron Jerome
Championship: 255 games, 76 goals • Premier League: 211 games, 33 goals
Jerome sits just outside the top 50 for all-time Premier League appearances by a striker, one behind Fernando Torres and five ahead of Sergio Aguero, yet he has scored fewer goals than Mark Noble.
In his defence, Jerome’s game is about more than goals (although he found plenty at Norwich in recent Championship campaigns), but the fact that more than half of his Premier League strikes came in his first two seasons with Birmingham means that, across five campaigns since then with the Blues, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Norwich, he has played 146 Premier League matches and scored 15 goals.
We don’t expect much, Cameron, but we expect more than this.
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