FOOTBALL IS A cyclical sport. Clubs tend to replicate the methods used by successful teams in the hope of reproducing their success in the future, whether that takes the form of formations, tactics or player recruitment.
Consequently, it’s no surprise to see the media and fans on the lookout for the ‘next Jamie Vardy’ after the goals of the former non-league striker has added to the narrative of Leicester City’s remarkable rise to the top of the Premier League table.
Grimsby town striker Pádraig Amond has had to continually deal with comparisons to Vardy as he produces the most prolific season of his career.
“It has been a fantastic season for him. He has captured everybody’s imagination by scoring so many goals,” Amond tells The42.
The former Shamrock Rovers striker has scored more goals than any player from England’s top five divisions. The Carlow native has notched 27 goals in 36 games in the National League (formerly the Conference) for Grimsby, not including the four goals he has scored in the FA Cup and FA Trophy.
The 27-year-old puts part of his goalscoring spree down to playing with a strike partner in the Grimsby Town side, with the Mariners operating the 4-4-2 formation that has brought Leicester within touching distance of becoming champions of England for the first time in their history.
“I am back playing up front in a 4-4-2 .That formation suits me best. I am not the fastest, I am not the tallest but I am a pure out-and-out goalscorer. If I get two chances I will back myself to score at least one if not both. I’ve the habit of being at the right place at the right time, the manager [Paul Hurst] has mentioned to me it’s not luck if it’s continuing to happen.”
“I work really hard in games; I don’t give the defenders a minute’s rest, I keep them under pressure to create a sense of panic, and put a doubt in their mind.”
“When I was with Accrington and Morecambe I was playing on the wing of a front three. I just wanted to play and willing to play anywhere. I worked as hard as I could and was probably doing more defensive work because I was always chasing back.”
Before scoring against Aldershot during the week, the manager joked that he was on a goal drought after failing to find the back of the net in the three previous games but to illustrate the fragility of a striker’s confidence Amond admitted that when a goal was wrongly given as offside against Cheltenham Town he was concerned that his fortune was beginning to change, but thankfully for him his fine form shows no sign of abating.
Amond rates the National League as the second hardest league to get out of in England, behind the Championship, with teams of strong Football League pedigree like Tranmere Rovers and Wrexham in the division.
That opinion is based on the rewards for both the club and the players; promotion to the Football League opens up more channels to generate much-needed extra income for the club while the jump up to League Two means that the players are entitled to join the PFA’s pension scheme.
There are a couple of other Irish players at the club with Amond. Conor Henderson who was highly rated at Arsenal’s academy has fallen down the divisions after several injuries hampered the midfielder reaching his potential. The 24-year-old has struggled to get game time at Blundell Park but Amond still rates the midfielder as one of the best players at the club.
“You can build teams around players like him. But if you don’t make it, these players can filter down the leagues where there is less good play. If you’re playing in midfield the ball is over the head a lot of the time, it’s not what they grew up playing. He’s technically the best player at the club.”
In March, former Dundalk striker Pat Hoban joined on-loan from Oxford United for the rest of the season but has yet to score in his seven games so far as he improves his match sharpness.
Despite playing for a non-league club, Amond says the National League can operate as a springboard for players hoping to play at a higher level while players in the League of Ireland “need to produce extraordinary performances to get noticed, look at Chris Forrester, if he was putting those performances in at this level he will be rising through the divisions a lot quicker.”
Before making the move to England, Amond played for Paços de Ferreira in Portugal and agrees with the sentiments share by Jack Byrne that playing outside of England can broaden your horizons. “It will benefit him so much, I loved my time there. It improved me so much technically. England is not the be all.”
Defeat away to league leaders Cheltenham meant the chance of automatic promotion for Grimsby remains only a mathematical possibility but over the coming weeks they will be hoping to cement their place in the play-off positions, while also having the final of the FA Trophy to look forward to against Halifax Town.
“It’s a chance for double success. It’s not the FA Cup final, but it’s still Wembley and my chance to play there. There are about 24 or 25 [friends and family] already booked to come over for the final and hopefully more in a couple of weeks.”
Amond is out of contract at the end of the season, with both the club and the striker happy to discuss a new deal once they know which league they will be in come next season.
In January there were rumours of Championship clubs keeping a close eye on the striker but Amond’s mind is fully focused on the challenge ahead. “I want to score as many goals I can for Grimsby. I’ve not looked once to force any move.”
Amond may be unsure as to which club or which division he will be in next season, but this season proves that things can change so quickly in football.
Nobody would have predicted Leicester City would be currently sitting seven points clear with six games to go at the top of the Premier League table and while Amond may not be the ‘next Jamie Vardy’, he is currently in the form of his life with at least one trip to Wembley guaranteed, and that will do for now.