By James Laing
The title of this piece is a quote from a friend of mine. Usually, I will focus on looking at both sides of an argument, offering validity to both, and then providing my opinion at the end. I’ll declare early on here that I do not, under any conceivable circumstance, agree with the quote above.
This however is not just the view of my friend (an Evertonian of 25 years) it is the view of many Evertonians that I speak to. I can only stare dumfounded at them when they say it to me. So why do a seemingly reasonable minority of the Everton faithful not have a great affection for Romelu Lukaku?
The argument that some put forward seems to be a question of his attitude rather than his aptitude. It can often be forgotten that Lukaku was only 20 years old when he first joined Everton and so it’s not entirely surprising that, at times, his attitude has been called into question. His seemingly endless need to talk to the press about possible moves away from the club on his international duties for Belgium have annoyed Everton fans in the past. There is a justification for this annoyance as he has shown a lack of respect for the club as well as a lack of maturity on occasion.
Since he has returned from the Euro 2016 competition however, (where he endured some heavy criticism) there does appear to have been a change to his attitude. His recent comments have been surrounding his happiness at Everton (who now sit under new management and ownership) and his desire to push the club forward into European football this season.
After the Euro 2016 competition his agent, Mino Raiola, also appeared to change his attitude after declaring that ‘there had been a change at Everton’ and therefore suggesting that Lukaku may very well have a future at the club after all. Time will tell where his future lies, however it appears that his attitude and maturity are both improving towards his career at Everton.
The argument against his attitude has often been a valid one but the title of this piece isn’t a quote that questions his attitude but does question his aptitude on the pitch. It is a similar quote that I read and hear from a number of Evertonians and so I wish to address it.
Let’s consider a statistical approach to Romelu Lukaku’s career at Everton so far. His first season at Everton was spent on loan from Chelsea during the 2013-2014 season. During this season he scored 18 goals from his 34 appearances in all competitions. That isn’t a bad start now is it? Everton then signed him for £28 million and in the 2014-2015 season he scored 20 goals in 52 appearances. A slightly poorer return but we must remember that Everton were not a very good footballing team in Martinez’ second season. In 2015-2016 he scored 25 goals from 46 appearances (the less said about Martinez’ final season the better) and in the current season, 2016-2017, he’s scored 17 goals from 26 appearances. He is currently 23 years old and has scored 17 goals in 26 appearances this season! That sort of goal scoring form can make a huge difference in a club’s final league placing. The point being that it is exceptional goal scoring form that has recently seen Lukaku shoot up to near the top of the league goal scoring position after recently putting four past Bournemouth. His record at Everton also means that he is the first player since Joe Royle to score more than 15 goals a season for four straight seasons.
So why do some persist in wanting a player that runs around for 90 minutes, making the occasional tackle, but ultimately not doing anything that might conceivably win Everton games? I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe it’s because Evertonians have had to endure players of that ilk for a considerable amount of time? Steven Naismith, James McFadden, Denis Stracqualursi are to name a few that could be construed as ‘hard-working footballers’. They all tried their best and some of them even had an element of aggressiveness that Evertonians seem to love so much. They all had one thing in common however – they couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net in any number near to what Romelu Lukaku can.
Goals win games (sorry for the Michael Owen style cliché) not players that run many miles but lack in fundamental quality. As Evertonains we love a player that commits 100% to that shirt. There is nothing wrong with admiring that as it should be a basic expectation, however quality always prevails. That’s often why I’ve seen ‘lazy strikers’ still stick a couple in at Goodison and win their team the game. It’s because, although we had ‘hard-workers’, they had goal scoring prowess.
I can only say that I have waited for a long time for Everton to obtain a goal scorer with the talent that Lukaku possesses. His job is to score goals and that’s exactly what he does. I daren’t think of what Everton’s current attacking outfit would look like without him and a replacement centre forward of the same calibre would cost an extortionate amount of money. Everton simply cannot sell Romelu Lukaku and must now focus on tying him down to a big contract to deter the prying eyes that will undoubtedly be watching him. That and finding other strikers that can offer him support by the time the Summer transfer window opens.
Lukaku is not finished in his development. There is always room to improve but he has been scoring goals in an Everton side that has struggled for two of the four seasons that he has been with the club. I only wonder what he could achieve in a Koeman side that are beginning to lay the foundations to build something special. He has shown his ability and his hunger to score goals and win football matches. He can even score goals when he isn’t playing well (even I’ve had to eat humble pie on occasion after complaining about his performance). As a fan base we must collect ourselves and recognise what we have. We have a young man who has an insatiable appetite and rather than get on his back we should rejoice in the fact that we can score goals because of him alone.
As long as he keeps on scoring, Lukaku can carry on ‘not running’ for me.