Name isn’t the game for Johnson
Date published: 18 July 2014
EMILE Heskey will not be coming to Athletic . . . and nor will any other big-name strikers way past their prime.
With no fresh faces brought in as an equivalent of last season’s big move for Adam Rooney, the rumour mill has been in overdrive linking players to SportsDirect.com Park.
There is barely an over-the-hill goal-getter Athletic haven’t been rumoured to be chasing, with 36-year-old Newcastle Jets man Heskey the latest name thrown into the ring.
Manager Lee Johnson rubbished that rumour and said that he will not sign a player on his name alone.
Hunger and work ethic are key factors, the Athletic boss insists, when it comes to potential targets.
And he believes a new goal hero could emerge from within a squad which should create more chances for the forward line than was the case last season, when Athletic managed only 50 goals in 46 Sky Bet League One outings — including a paltry 23 on home soil.
“We have got strikers,” said Johnson, whose side take on Melbourne City tomorrow in a pre-season friendly at SportsDirect.com Park (3pm).
“We have Danny Philliskirk, Jonson Clarke-Harris and a couple on trial who are possibilities.
“I don’t want to bring in someone who won’t drastically improve us. I believe in these players and believe that they deserve a chance.
“If someone comes along and offers me Miroslav Klose, then of course I would do everything I can to bring them in.
“But I don’t want to bring a ‘number’ in for the sake of it when they are not right for us.
“Last year, I bet you would have struggled to find many Coventry fans predicting that Callum Wilson would score 20 goals.
“When Yeovil signed Paddy Madden, nobody down there thought for one minute that he would get 25 goals.
“Sometimes, people get caught up in names. And quite often those players’ legs have gone and have been released from other clubs for that exact reason.
“We can’t head-hunt the best and pay transfer fees for them.
“We are always looking, of course. That is a constant process. But it is easier for us to build two strong units behind, to give these players a chance and wait for an opportunity to possibly provide itself in time.
“The 20-goal striker is considered the holy grail but it is not always so. Ryan Lowe scored 20 goals for Tranmere and they still went down.
“If a certain player doesn’t press well for the team, for example, then it can be a problem and you do get that in football.”
Of the strikers on trial with Athletic at the moment, William Gros could be set for a month-to-month contract.
And Amari Morgan-Smith is another versatile option Johnson may choose to bring in, once he has recovered from injury.
The former Kidderminster and Stockport man (25), who scored at Curzon Ashton, is currently out for three weeks with a knee problem which Athletic are treating.
“I am keen on (Morgan-Smith),” Johnson said of the trialist. “He can fulfil a number of roles and he scored 10 goals last season for Kidderminster from out wide, which is a decent record.
“There are things in his game he needs to work on, but he is powerful and big and a good footballer who understands what we want.”
Philliskirk has a slight tightness in a thigh muscle which has troubled him of late and is likely to sit out tomorrow’s game, with a view to starting at Morecambe on Tuesday.
David Noble, who is currently unattached and training with Athletic, is also injured and a couple of weeks away from returning to fitness.
Meanwhile, Anton Rodgers has been confirmed as a Swindon Town player, signing a one-year contract.
The midfielder had been training with Athletic in pre-season, but linked up with the Robins at their army training camp this week.