The phrase `yo-yo club’ is well established in the football lexicon
, but is there also such a thing as a yo-yo player? While Michael Chopra himself might not reply in the affirmative, fans of Sunderland probably would. It was, though, the subject of another recent transfer
further down the Football League, Paul Hayes, that brought the notion to mind.
Every club has them. The players who look so adept in one league, but who are conspicuous by their anonymity upon elevation to a higher plain. Roy Keane’s £5 million acquisition of the aforementioned Chopra after a goal-riddled season for Cardiff is perhaps the most high profile recent example. At any level, the key attributes in those that make the transition are athleticism, speed of thought and of foot. Which brings me back to Hayes.
Unfortunately for a player who has spent a sizable portion of his career so far at Oakwell, his career resembles the topography of another South Yorkshire citadel
, and after a largely forgettable season with Preston, he has taken another downward step down to try his luck at The Valley
. For, despite some notable achievements, Hayes has never quite managed to establish himself as a Championship player. The most fruitful periods of his sporting life have come in the tiers below: two 20-goal campaigns – during separate spells at Scunthorpe, in 2004/05 and in 2008/09 – forming the twin peaks. That his best tally at Championship level was the 13 goals accrued with the Iron in 2009/10 perhaps hints at his difficulty in gaining a foothold there, despite receiving a no doubt much coveted nomination for this blog’s Player of the Season
award in that year.
Before you start to think that I hold some kind of grudge against the player, he has many attributes. His game is not all about goalscoring, as assist tallies into double figures in three different campaigns would indicate. In his appearances that I have seen first hand, Hayes has proved himself very dangerous when occupying the position known as ‘the hole’ – English football’s equivalent of the missing letter `e’ in Georges Perec’s lipogrammatic Disparition
. His partnership with Gary Hooper during the latter of his stints in north Lincolnshire was so successful in no small part because of Hayes’ willingness to find positions outside the box, opening space for his partner to terrify opposing defenders.
But, while Hooper has gone onto – albeit fleeting – Champions League football with Celtic
, Hayes finds himself back on the level at which they started. Which appears very strange at first glance. For all Hooper’s superb finishing, it was Hayes who received the plaudits from Scunny fans following their role in the club’s Championship survival. His touch and link-up play are acknowledged by fans of his former clubs, but it appears that a lack of pace could well be the reason for his falls from grace. Without a partner who can glide past defenders at speed, Hayes is less effective, possibly explaining the peaks and troughs in his goalscoring output.
Given that assessment, chances appear high that Hayes can establish such a bond with another young League 1 marauder, Bradley Wright-Phillips
. Charlton manager Chris Powell certainly seems a satisfied buyer
, no doubt focusing on Hayes’ part in promotions out of the third tier. His record in League 1 is formidable and at just 27 years old, Floyd Road should be the stage for his best years. The question remains, though: is this a signing for the long term, or will Hayes be looking for another club should the Addicks climb back up the hill at the end of next term?