Sunday, 8 March 2015

Stating the obvious

Stating the obvious

There is a scene in the cult comedy series Fawlty Towers where Basil gets annoyed at his wife stating a rather obvious point and says to her, ‘Can't we get you on Mastermind, Sybil? Next contestant - Sybil Fawlty from Torquay. Special subject - the bleedin' obvious.’ What I am about to write below may well have some of the Celtic fans saying the same sort of thing to me. The words below will be to many of you a restating of facts which are in most people’s minds ‘bleedin’ obvious’ but bear with me.

I had an interesting debate with a friend who follows the blue side of Glasgow recently and had a wry smile when he told me that Kris Boyd was a better striker than Henrik Larsson. He had been listening to Gordon Dalziel singing Boyd’s praises on the radio and said of Boyd… ‘He’s the SPL all-time top scorer,’ as if this was the clinching argument. I shook my head in disbelief and outlined the reasons why he was wrong. It is never easy to convince a chap with an innate dislike of Celtic that he is mistaken but he listened politely enough as I outlined a few facts which pedantic folk like me like to rhyme off.

Firstly Henrik Larsson is indeed behind Boyd in the SPL goal charts but it took Boyd 374 SPL matches to score 192 goals, giving him a ratio of 0.513 goals per game. Impressive but consider Larsson’s record of 174 SPL goals in 221 games. This gives Larsson a ratio of 0.78 goals per game. Boyd has played 153 more SPL games than Larsson and is a mere 18 goals ahead. Let’s look at games against the big two of Scottish football: Larsson hit 15 goals in 30 appearances against Rangers and his all-round contribution to the team in these games was immense. Boyd has scored 1 goal in over 30 games against Celtic for Kilmarnock and Rangers and as a ‘penalty box striker’ was often criticised for his work rate. Larsson was top SPL scorer in 5 of his six full seasons at Celtic. This is discounting season 1999-2000 when a serious leg break made him miss most of the season when he had already hit 12 goals in 13 games.

Let us now consider European competitions for here indeed is a tough testing ground for any striker with a Scottish Club. The standard is more demanding in the European arena and it takes a decent striker to find the net with regularity there. The statistics tell us that Henrik Larsson has scored 59 goals in 106 European games and his 35 goals in Europe for Celtic remains a record for a player at a British club side. Kris Boyd has scored 3 goals in 20 European appearances. International matches tell a similar tale with Larsson scoring 37 times in 106 games. Boyd has a decent record with 7 goals in 18 appearances. A closer look at who the goals were scored against tells an interesting tale. Boyd’s victims were Bulgara, the Faroes, Geogia, Lithuania and South Africa, Larsson has scored international goals against the likes of Italy, England, Croatia and France. He also has a medal for finishing 3rd at the 1994 World cup and indeed scored against Stoichkov’s talented Bulgaria team in the play-off.

In terms of honours outside of Scotland Larsson has won the following:

Holland: Cup winner 1994 and 1995

Spain: La Liga winner 2004-05 and 2005-06

Spanish Super Cup winner 2005

European Champions League winner 2006

England: Premier League winner 2007

Boyd had a brief spell in England with Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest scoring a creditable 12 goals in 37 appearances. He has not won any major honours outside of Scotland. Larsson’s best spell apart from the Celtic years was his impressive 19 goals in 58 games for Barcelona in what was at the time probably the best league in the world.

Career total goals for Larsson are an equally impressive 434 in 768 games which is over 1 goal every 2 games. Kris Boyd stands at present on 249 goals in 522 games in all competitions, the vast majority of these goals being scored in Scotland.  All of these hard facts undeniably prove that Henrk Larsson is a more prolific goal scorer. They are not laid out to demean Kris Boyd’s achievements which are considerable in the limited arena of Scottish football. However, few around Europe will know who Kris Boyd is while Larsson enjoys a decent reputation as a man who has scored in the World Cup finals, the European Championship finals, La Liga, the English Premierships and against the likes of Liverpool, Juventus and FC Porto in Europe. He is also credited with being the player who turned the 2006 European Champions League final in Barcelona’s favour after coming on as a substitute with his team trailing Arsenal.

All of that apart, Larsson was more of an all-round team player than Boyd and having watched both over the years, I would say Henrik is one of the best players I have ever seen in the Hoops. Boyd was a very useful striker at SPL level although his goals tended to come against lesser opposition. His paltry goals record against Celtic and in European competition suggests he was not in Larsson’s class. That is not to disrespect him but merely to point out what the career statistics tell us.

If all of these facts were laid before a jury I think I could say with confidence that they would find that Henrik Larsson was a better and more prolific scorer of goals than Kris Boyd. He has demonstrated that he can score goals at the very highest level of European and world football. Anyone who knows the game knows that it’s no contest.

As Basil Fawlty would say…. ‘it’s ‘bleedin’ obvious.’

I rest my case.

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