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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
Player profiles:
Paul Mayo
 
Position: Left Back
From: Lincoln City - 65,000 - March 2004
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: A Left Back. Hurrah.

Profile:

It stands to reason, I suppose, that on the odd occasion when you get a cash offer for a player in a depressed market, it's unlikely to be for someone that you can afford to lose.

Nonetheless, it's difficult to conceive of an individual in the squad at the start of the 2003/04 season who we could less have afforded to lose than Paul Robinson. As well as the beating heart of the team, Robbo was also, crucially, the only specialist left back in the squad, and such had been his increasing dependability and resilience to injury that only his annual quota of suspensions drew attention to a weak area of cover.

Suddenly, and yes thank you West Brom but we'd rather you didn't gloat about what an "unbelievable bargain" you got Mr.Megson if it's all the same to you, there was a great sodding hole in the side with water gushing through. Wayne Brown was briefly, if perhaps not briefly enough, entertained as an alternative; Jack Smith was then given the rather tall order of making his first appearances in the first team on his unnatural side.

Only in early March, as Jimmy and Vince Russo announced their arrival on the board, were we able to recruit a permanent replacement. Paul Mayo arrived from Sincil Bank untrumpeted and to the apparent surprise of Lincoln correspondents who had not seen this albeit competent third division full back as one of those likely to make the jump.

Nonetheless, Mayo got stuck into his new role and was one of few to impress in his first couple of outings... a ghastly 2-0 defeat at Bradford and a depressing loss by the same margin at home to Sheffield United. Unfussy and unflustered by what was often chaos reigning around him, but apparently with a good eye for a long, raking, accurate pass that we'd not mind seeing a bit more of. Best of all, this was a Proper Left Back. At last. Splendid.

Later performances have revealed inevitable flaws. You don't expect to sign Paolo Maldini for 65,000 from Lincoln, after all. Mayo's crossing, as we had been warned, is a little random, and perhaps more alarmingly he's displayed a tendency to get caught out of position that could do with some attention.

On the upside, he does kick the ball very very hard, which isn't a bad starting point for a full back, whatever level you play at. Hell, Roberto Carlos has made international stardom and Pepsi adverts on the back of it. He also has a beast of a penalty up his sleeve, we are told, which isn't too difficult to conceive, even if Paul Devlin denied us a glimpse of it by seizing the ball in Neil Cox's absence at Burnley.

And the throw. My word. Think back to Allan Nielsen's "long throw", a gentle lob by comparison... Nielsen would backpedal halfway up the stand, charge forward and hurl his entire body through the ball, straining and contorting every sinew and muscle to propel it as far as possible. In contrast, Mayo requires just a dainty and rather oddly angled two-step before harpooning the ball low and hard towards the penalty spot. Ridiculous.

We've made precious little use of it, mind... There's not much room for mystery when you load Sean Dyche into the penalty area whenever you get a throw-on inside your opponents' half. But Mayo's feats of defying gravity continue to be an entertaining diversion at worst, and if he can propel a few more missiles over a surprised defence from a deeper position for Fitz to hare onto, so much the better.

A rough diamond, perhaps. A left-back sized plug at worst. And hurrah for that.

Matt Rowson
Last updated: May 2004