Why it makes sense
For the Club
Tommy Wright has done a decent job of keeping the side in the top six without striker Steven MacLean since the middle of October, though it is clear St Johnstone are not as strong a unit without the veteran playing alongside Stevie May. This was evidenced by the seven game run they suffered through where May’s hat-trick against ten man Dundee United was the only goals they scored. Initial optimism surrounding MacLean’s injury has depleted every time his return date has been pushed back. Even if he does return next month, there’s no guarantee a player over 30 is going to be fit enough to slot right back into the team and then avoid further setbacks. The club desperately need to strengthen at the position.
In terms of the type of player it very much makes sense that they’ve gone for a target man. They need someone to compliment the direct style of May. MacLean did so with his work outside the penalty area: linking with the midfield, dictating play in the attacking third and threading passes through for May to move onto. They won’t be getting that in Chris Iwelumo, but what they could be receiving is a strong body capable of getting the ball and retaining it much closer to goal. That kind of play, if successfully implemented, could move the entire team further up the park.
The fact that he’s a veteran should help also. It was underlined by comments the forward made in his first meeting with the media after signing, saying that he was there to compliment May, not to take his job. A younger player might not have had the same mindset. Iwelumo’s done enough in his career to know that all that’s required of him is to assist May in his progression and help St Johnstone secure a top six finish.
For The Player
How much he cares we can’t be sure, but it is certainly a nice way to end his career (if he plans on doing so) by playing in the country of his birth for the first time since he left St Mirren way back in 1998. There’s something poetic about it coming full circle after all those years.
More importantly, he was unemployed and, as is often the case in these blogs, we have to reiterate the opinion that beggars cannot be choosers. Sure there may have been a better money offer from League One or League Two, sad as it is to say, but when you’ve had such a long career playing for clubs that could, at best, call themselves the 25th best team in the country then why not move to a club who’re playing at the top level in their country? A team where he’ll have the chance to perform in front of 25,000 people (and 25,000 invisible people) at Parkhead and compete for a place in a cup final.
Iwelumo is also renowned for being a selfless, decent guy and he should relish his role of mentor to the bright talent of May.
Why It Doesn’t Make Sense
For The Player
It all depends on how much he’s got left in the tank. If he can still play professionally and bring something to the table then by all means he should keep doing it. If not, he may want to think about giving the game up considering the reports he received from fans of his last three clubs. Oldham supporters in particular bemoaned a immobile front-man who, worse than looking unfit, just looked old.
If he can still compete there is little doubt that St Johnstone represents the best move for him. Some would go where they could get more security or an inflated wage packet, but that would only come from League Two or worse in England, and it would hardly be the most dignified move to make when he’s recently, as of three years ago, played on two teams (Burnley and Watford) with aspirations of making it into the English Premier League.
For The Club
This is a huge gamble. Through researching our Where Are The Now? blogs we’ve found that just about every footballer hangs on too long, wrongly convincing themselves that the last manager and set of supporters were wrong, and that their abilities can still bring something to a professional club. There are occasions where they do make the correct decisions, guess their level just right and have a happy ending playing positively on a smaller club – Bournemouth fans have good memories of Darren Anderton, for example – but most of the time they are terrible no matter what level of professional football they land at. Their legs have gone and they can’t met the fitness required to play alongside younger athletes. We can’t know for certain until he plays, but at first glance Iwelumo’s career appears to be going down this road.
A problem for St Johnstone since MacLean went down is that they’ve been overly reliant on May to get the goals. They’ve scored 16 goals in 13 matches since that time. May have netted 12 of those. They desperately need someone else to chip in. Desperation which was recently heightened by the injury to Murray Davidson. Can Iwelumo be that man? Never much of a scorer he found his shooting boots midway through his career, but has since regressed back to his previous form and hasn’t been counted on to score with any sort of consistency since the first half of Burnley’s 2010/11 campaign. Even if he proves to be a good signing he’ll be doing well to take some of the burden from May. In fact, seeing as he could help create chances for the striker, it’s more likely that he would increase the team’s reliance on the youngster.