Talk of Kris Boyd dominated the early season betting trends in the ‘Championship Top Scorer’ market; the Scot was widely expected to hit the ground running and propel Middlesbrough to automatic promotion, amassing a tally of 30+ goals in the process. A paltry return of three goals – hardly supplemented by the wastefulness of one goal strike partner Scott McDonald – has resulted in Gordon Strachan losing his job and the pre-season favourites Middlesbrough slipping to 20th position.
Instead, it is the comparatively understated trio of Chris Iwelumo, Jamie Mackie and Jay Bothroyd who head the goal-scoring charts, each of them casting aside the memories of relatively inauspicious 2009/10 campaigns to fire their respective clubs towards the head of the Championship table.
Iwelumo’s exploits in front of goal have arguably been the most unexpected; the former Wolves frontman failed to find the net in fifteen Premiership appearances last season – albeit the majority of them coming as a late substitute. A broken metatarsal in pre-season severely hindered Iwelumo’s Premier league bow, a series of further niggling injuries (combined with manager Mick McCarthy’s adoption of a lone striker system) saw Iwelumo fall out of the first-team picture and paved the way for his subsequent £500k sale to Burnley.
Many Burnley fans felt this to be a foolhardy move from Brian Laws; a significant outlay on a 31 year old, out of form striker. The big Scot has, however, been a revelation at the Lancashire club, rediscovering the form that saw him briefly lead the goalscoring charts two years ago. Burnley fans will be hoping that wingers Chris Eagles and Wade Elliot can continue to supply the target man with pinpoint crosses and allow Iwelumo to fire them to an immediate Premier League return.
While neither Mackie nor Bothroyd endured as profligate a season as Iwelumo, neither set the world alight with their attacking prowess last campaign. Their respective totals of eight and eleven were, while useful, far from extraordinary. Once more then, the contrast in the manner that the two have started this season is very stark indeed. Mackie has found the net eight times for table-topping Q.P.R, while Bothroyd – despite injury – has scored seven times himself. Both Mackie and Bothroyd could be considered as ‘gambles’; the former was never prolific at Plymouth, while Bothroyd has always been labelled as something of a ‘problem player’.
Under the guidance of Neil Warnock and David Jones – both highly respected, vastly experienced managers, the forwards have flourished, firing their clubs to the much-coveted automatic promotion places. With both Q.P.R. and Cardiff possessing a plethora of attacking talent, the pressure is on both Mackie and Bothroyd to continue scoring goals, proving to the footballing world, journalists, their managers and – perhaps most crucially of all – themselves that they were both gambles worth taking.