At one time last season David Ngog was Liverpool ’s top scorer. That time lasted for several months, despite barely starting a game. There will be those that will use the argument that more than half of this goals came in Europe but to me, that is neither here nor there because at a time when Liverpool were having a rough spell, Ngog stepped up when the like of Torres, Gerrard and even Dirk Kuyt weren’t delivering the goods. Without his goals, we would never have made the latter stages of the Europa League, that much is a fact.
During those months the young Frenchman went unchallenged at the top of the Red’s scoring charts. And during this time, there wasn’t a murmur of discontent in his direction. Sadly, that’s as good as it got and that’s about as positive as a lot of fan’s feelings toward him have ever been. But why? He was never bought to be a Torres or a Drogba and he certainly cost nowhere near as much as either of them. He cost us around £1.5 million in 2008 and has played the same role for the past 3 years: bench warmer. Unlike a lot of players though, he’s played that role without complaint, he appears happy to learn from those more experienced around him and to play wherever it’s required of him, yet he still can’t please some fans.
For the fee we paid for him, I believe we’ve got more than enough back. Particularly, if he does end up being sold at any kind of a profit. He has managed 8 goals in each of his last two seasons and when, in the past season, the Reds scored 70 goals overall, in all competitions, Ngog contributed 12.5% of these. That’s 1/8 of our entire haul for last season. For somebody who has made twice as many substitute appearances in his Liverpool career than starts, that is a pretty impressive contribution as far as I’m concerned. As always though, there is a section of fans that expect every single one of our players to be world class and score 20+ goals a season regardless of their own situation.
If we look at it from another angle, we have here a young French striker who, at the age of 22 has scored 19 goals in his Liverpool career; it’s not hugely impressive, sure but weren’t we just prepared to pay over £10 million for a young English striker who’d scored about 3 goals in his entire career? And Ngog has played less than 100 games for Liverpool so that’s about 1 in 4, which is not bad at all.
Just two years before we signed Ngog, Chelsea paid £9 million for Salomon Kalou ; a young Ivorian who had just joined off the back of 50 goals in 99 games in 3 seasons in Holland. A lot was expected of him. Has he delivered? Well, it depends on how you look at it really. He’s managed 55 goals in almost 230 games for Chelsea; a relatively decent amount for a 3rd, 4th or sometimes 5th choice striker. Compare his rate to Ngog’s and you have the same ratio of 1 in 4, so why the massive disparity in the way they’re perceived in the press and by their respective groups of fans?
At the age of 22, David has already been playing Premier League football for 3 years and while he may not be the most talented Frenchman to walk these shores, he never shies away from hard work; he’ll play where he’s asked and, I’m sorry, but he’s a bloody good young striker. His only problem, as far as I can see, is that he’s just not a great striker. But who’s to say how he’ll turn out, if he isn’t kept on and given the chance? He’s been relatively prolific for France: scoring 24 goals in 46 games at all youth levels. The potential is still there and he is still only 22. The vitriol often aimed in his direction from some quarters is truly hard to fathom.
Whatever you think of Ngog personally, the argument that ‘he just isn’t good enough’ just doesn’t wash with me, as the statistics and physical facts during his performances would seem to argue otherwise; just look at his two goals against a Malaysian XI on Saturday: real poacher’s goals, showing real quality in the second one, in particular. Now, I should make it very clear that I’m not trying to argue from the point of view that Ngog is an amazing player. He isn’t. What he is, is a great squad player with a top attitude. He’ll never be a world-beater and may never be an international striker but you’re unlikely to find a better young player who will put in as much effort from the bench and do whatever is asked of him when called upon. And that, is why I feel that David Ngog should be given much more credit and respect that he has ever been given by our fans.
Read more of David Tryer’s articles at Live4Liverpool