Miles Storey: Marmite Messiah
With Portsmouth reportedly leading Shrewsbury to sign Swindon’s quick forward on loan, Alex Cooke assess the value of a striker who has yet to turn potential into goals.
It is almost impossible to have a sensible conversation about Miles Storey online. He has become a totem for every polarising debate within the fanbase: potential v reality; loans v developing your own; possession football v something more direct. And none of it is Storey’s doing.
Questioning any aspect of his game is seen as provocative, praising him seen as simplistic. Fortunately I know you can handle that. After all you, theWashbag.com readership, are wiser, more thoughtful and yes, sexier than others. We already know your comments below the line will be cogent, considered and grammatically correct.
But just in case you can’t resist base abuse such as ‘hairy-backed zebra shover’ or ‘butter-brained pimple’, let’s use facts: Miles Storey is 20, he has started 13 league games and scored four league goals. He has come of the bench 24 times. He also scored twice in the League Cup.The Football League say he provided no assists this season, hit 10 shots off target, got four on target and once hit the woodwork. He also gave away 13 fouls and received one yellow card. He has been on loan at Shrewsbury and Salisbury. He is also under contract at Swindon until the summer of 2016 [corrected].
After that everything is subjective. Yes, that includes the notion that you are a brain in a jar and all of this ‘reality’ is the product of your formaldehyde-soaked synapses.
What is mildly uncontroversial though is Storey has a remarkable turn of pace, good acceleration and an ability to score goals 1v1. However, even the most ardent of Storeyite would admit that he doesn’t hold up the ball well or lead the line.
“It’s not all about running in behind people all the time. We are working with him but it’s about that ability to hold the ball up,” said his manager Mark Cooper. Having watched Storey try to get in behind the opposition on the edge of his own 18-yard box rather than clear the ball, it is hard not to agree. However, it is this kind of ‘game intelligence’ that experience should give him.
Both Paolo Di Canio and Cooper have citied it as a weakness. Obviously some of the same accusations have been made against Storey’s frequent striker partner, Michael Smith, but his ‘fact column’ also includes eight goals from his 20 Swindon starts.
Cooper has also questioned Storey’s ability to master other striking position. So where Storey started the season wide, his manager saw him outscored and outperformed by Nathan Byrne on the opposite flank and admitted the 4-3-3 system didn’t “suit him”. Instead, he said Storey needed to play off another striker. Even then, Copper preferred the likes of Dany N’Guessian, Mohammed El-Gabbas, Nicky Ajose in the supporting forward positions.
The traditional argument in favour of Storey has long been that this young striker hasn’t been ‘given a chance’ and seven league starts and 11 more as substitute seems to support that.
Except Town have a host of young players who have made their mark in a limited number of games. This includes Louis Thompson, Ben Gladwin and loanee Jack Stephens. There is Massimo Luongo and Yaser Kasim who, in one season, have gone from a handful of appearances to full internationals, and that is despite being just a little older than Storey.
In some ways Storey has almost become Schrodinger’s Striker: we dare not take him out of his box and play him in case he actually turns out to be incredible, or awful. Or both at the same time. Or dead, a bit like this metaphor.
If Louis Thompson is taken as a benchmark, Storey’s lack of progress is even more startling. The midfielder is a year younger, has notched only one less goal this season and has progressed from substitute to stalwart, and now scorer. By comparison, Storey has stalled. His chances of playing regularly seems to be no better than after the Aston Villa game.
Talk of Storey leaving on a season-long loan does seem premature – and Cooper has confirmed it as such. Town’s situation is simply too fluid for such a commitment. The club is in flux and the forward line is even more fluid. With only Connor Waldon, Andy Williams and Smith for competition for the central spot, it is possibly that this opportunity for Storey to develop runs parallel with the need for a more seasoned option.
However, this has to be the season in which Storey takes his chance, or risks being left behind – be that at Swindon, Pompey or Shrews. With just a year left on his contract, he can’t remain a mere prospect forever. He needs to start, and to start scoring. And at least that is relatively uncontroversial.