Football is littered with players that could do that little bit better. Players that show so much promise but never really deliver the goods – not on anything like a consistent basis, at least. It’s not necessarily through a lack of effort or application, it just so happens that they are not quite ready to make such a regular contribution to the games they play in. They might lack a cutting edge or confidence, or even both. At Molineux for the last couple of years this description was perfectly suited for Matthew Jarvis, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ lightning fast, left-sided winger.
Since his arrival from Gillingham in the summer of 2007, Jarvis has often flattered to deceive, showing great potential but never fully delivering. In the Championship his pace caused defenders all sorts of problems but he always played second fiddle to Michael Kightly who was Wolves assists’ king last year in the Black Country outfit’s promotion winning campaign. But with Kightly out injured for the majority of this season, Jarvis has had to step up to the plate and become Wolves’ chief creator. He started back in August in lively fashion and contributed some impressive displays, giving a number of good Premier League full-backs a torrid time. But there were still doubts about his end product and there was also an absence of goals from the winger. On a weekly basis he would get into fantastic positions through his own hard work but would be unable to take advantage of them. Failing to beat the first man, or firing over everyone’s heads was a regular occurrence with his crossing, as was tamely shooting at the opposition goalkeeper when bearing down on goal.
But something changed at the turn of this year. Ever since he produced a fantastic off the ball run and emphatic finish to help defeat Tranmere in the FA Cup, Jarvis has not looked back. Three league goals have followed, including the brilliant third, away at West Ham last week. Three or four months ago it would be difficult to envisage the 23-year-old having the confidence to slam the ball past Rob Green like he did at Upton Park. And it is not just the goals that have started flowing since January – so too have the assists. Jarvis’ crossing has improved dramatically and he is now putting the ball into dangerous areas. Evidence of this was witnessed at Villa Park 10 days ago when a Jarvis centre was put into his own net by James Milner.
I have often been very critical of Jarvis, but only because he clearly had more in his locker than he was showing these past three years. But recently he has gone from a boy to a man on the pitch and rather than running himself into blind alleys he now seems to have added far more intelligence to his play. While confidence has probably had a big part to play in this I also believe that Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor – the Wolves assistant manager – should be given a lot of credit for developing another young players’ raw talent. Jarvis has come on leaps and bounds and as he scored that decisive third in the massive six-pointer in East London last week, you could see the delight on McCarthy and Connors’ faces. They were obviously ecstatic with the three points but I also think they saw reward for all the hard work they have put into helping Jarvis improve his ability. And I’m sure there is still more to come.