The Monday Profile: Jason Puncheon
I should start by mentioning that I’d planned to profile Jason Puncheon before his match-winning contribution for Millwall on Saturday. Making his debut at the Riverside for the Lions, his fifth League club, I’d had a feeling that the Croydon man would start and, more so, that he’d have an impact.
Puncheon spent an unhappy eighteen months at my own club, Plymouth, where he made just six appearances, instead enjoying several extended spells on loan to MK Dons, the same side that he’d originally started out with in the game. Even so, he still managed to make an impression on this blogger, and it’s with regret when I think of what he could have added to one of the poorest Pilgrims squads in recent memory. The archetypal bag of tricks, the squat left-sided winger lit up the few games that he played in, lashing numerous shots in from both feet, and attempting all manner of tricks and flicks on his way towards goal.
Unfortunately, his showings were all too fleeting and despite protestations to the contrary, neither his heart nor his head were ever in the South West. With rumours ranging from homesickness to serious changing-room bust-ups doing the rounds, fans weren’t surprised to see the ex-Barnet man depart first for Franchise, and then to Alan Pardew’s Southampton in January for a similar fee to the one that Argyle had originally paid the Bees.
At St Mary’s, Puncheon was quick off the starting blocks, playing a central role in the Saints’ jaw-dropping rise up League 1 alongside a number of fellow lower league galacticos. This season has been nothing like as successful, however, and the emergence of pacy teenage prodigy Alex Chamberlain on Southampton’s left side combined with Puncheon’s patchy form has halted progress in its tracks yet again.
An unused substitute in several recent matches, it’s clear that Nigel Adkins couldn’t entertain the thought of keeping an out-of-form luxury player in his starting XI, and the penny really dropped with fans when Puncheon was left out of the Saints’ squad altogether for the 2-0 FA Cup win over Shrewsbury. Signalling that Adkins was intentionally keeping the player’s options open, a two month emergency loan move to Millwall was set up within a fortnight. It seems to be a good move for both parties, at least in the short term.
While Southampton will get Puncheon’s wages off their (presumably large) bill and will benefit from a discontented individual clearing off over the busy festive period, Millwall have added a player whose qualities should add a further dimension to their play (although Lions fans shouldn’t expect him to track back). As impressive as their start was this term, Millwall’s conservative approach has seen them drip down the Championship table, and the addition of a naughty wide man alongside fellow loanee Calvin Andrew should help take the pressure off their foremost attackers Steve Morison and James Henry. Now in possession of interchangable width and a highly acclaimed front man, these could be a sparkier couple of months at the Den if Puncheon can continue in the right direction.