Part I – You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?
Morning, Wearsiders. It's been long time, almost too long.
I told myself I wouldn't dust off my keys and commit pixels to paper until I had something worth saying. I've read some outstanding articles this summer about the state of the club and the transfer window that became a revolving door, yet I've had next-to-nowt to say.
As a student of the let's-see-how-this-plays-out school of thought, I've been on mute since Jack Ross' appointment. He doesn't know how this season will play out and neither do I.
But for what feels like every day from the last two dozen, I've had the same niggle. The same observation. An insight so steeped in neoclassical intellectual thought, that I had to spread the word:
The phrase "big unit" gets said far too much these days.
Incredible, I know. I wonder if there's PhD funding in this. Or a Wet Wet Wet song.
But I swear it *is* all around me. In conversations with friends, fans, flatmates. Tweets from the great, good, and unfollowed. It even reared its head recently on a popular fans podcast. I want to avoid blogger's bias, so I probably shouldn't say, but I think we both know which one.
It's like hearing a song on the radio and then it haunts you all week. Only this week, we've been given context: new kid on the block Charlie Wyke.
Part II – A Lot to Unpack
I don't know if you've ever Googled "big unit" - if you do, prepare yourself for some interesting tailored ads – but you'll find two things cropping up.
First of all, a guy called Randy Johnson. Rest easy, it's not what it sounds like. Let's move on.
You'll also notice lots of shiny new flatpack furniture from a well-known outlet. Again, I probably shouldn't say which one, but we both know, and other distributors are available.
So, if we're making a checklist: large, immobile, not going anywhere.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm a hopeless defender, but I think even I could get the better of a TV cabinet in a one-on-one. More often than not, anyways. (Randy on the other hand can have as much space as he wants.)
But seriously, I know what everyone's getting at. People want a Kenwyne Jones-shaped battering ram to fight for crosses, a Victor Anichebe to batter his way into the box.
Okay, so maybe I'm romanticising these two examples, but the point still stands – people want a figurehead at the pointy end of the spear.
Is Charlie Wyke that player? No. But let me explain.
Part III – The Selfless One?
We have much to learn about Red Ross' designs for the team. Today's shirt numbers will go a long way to revealing that. But for now, it very much sounds like a 4-2-3-1 is on the cards.
Chances are you know the formation as well as anything – it was very much in vogue across the English leagues five years ago. You set up three creative midfielders behind a strong, capable striker – Wilfried Bony, Romelu Lukaku etc. - and watch him gobble up as many chances as his legs will allow.
By most accounts, Wyke isn't this sort of one-dimensional, relentless solo assassain. He's also not the battering ram I was talking about earlier.
But that's fine. That's not what he's for.
Rather than housing an attacking threat in front of three creative forces, expect Ross to play a little role reversal – with short intelligent passes from the "target man" and three midfielders making runs from deep.
When Wyke eventually takes to the field, don't think of him as the "big unit". Think of him as the "beehive", the guy who allows our busy bee-like midfield to get to work around him.
The centre forward's goal tally won't be inconsiderable – I'd be surprised if he didn't sail north of a dozen – but that's only half of his job. He'll be keeping tabs on Lynden Gooch's runs, and looking for George Honeyman who has the ability to teleport into the box from nowhere.
If the team ends up playing the way I expect, Wyke may end up slotting into the least dramatic number 9 spot in the league. But for exactly that reason, it could prove to be the most important.