Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar are players with something to prove. For the Croatian the Premier League represents the chance to show he can score goals at the highest level. Thirty goals in forty-five Scottish Premier League games represents an excellent return, however, as everyone knows – old firm games aside – the standard is lower, the game north of the border less demanding. That said David Moyes has history; he specializes in picking players from the lower leagues, players who are scouted and flagged-up by lots of clubs as having potential, but time and again it has been Moyes who has had the judgement to step up to the plate and do the deal. He has usually been proved correct; Jagielka, Lescott, and Tim Cahill being the big successes. The latter probably, at the time, being the most contentious.
Could the Aussie really transfer his all-action, goal-scoring exploits at unfashionable Millwall to the Premier League? The answer is clear: Between his debut for Millwall playing in Division 2 and leaving them in Division 1 in the summer of 2004, Cahill scored fifty-two league goals in 217 appearances. His Premier League record at Everton, despite his recent barren spell, is virtually identical, fifty-five in 213 appearances.
Jelavic must know that if he proves himself weight of goals will make selection by national manager Slaven Bilic for Euro2012 a formality and you can be sure that the dressing room banter at Finch Farm, with its large contingent of Irish players, will focus his mind on one date, one place – Sunday 10 June, Poznan, Poland – where Croatia play the Republic of Ireland in their first game of the tournament.
Two strikers who were much more costly than Jelavic failed at Everton, at least in part, because David Moyes demanded they be something they were not. He wanted Yakubu and James Beattie to play as lone strikers, able to hold and recirculate possession, a role that carries a huge workload – the role that Kevin Doyle relishes and, had he moved to Everton, would undoubtedly have filled and which the sturdy Denis Stracqualursi was seemingly born to fill. We suspect Nikica Jelavic is not that player. Deceptively quick, good in the air, two-footed but favouring his right, an exponent of the over-head kick, we think our Croatian hitman will be at his best as part of a two-pronged attack, or with plenty of support. Just so long as David Moyes doesn’t ask his new pedigree thoroughbred to pull a brewer’s dray.