The Lee Clayton Column

David Connolly scored 42 goals in 63 games for Wimbledon. His international record, without having a real run in the side, stands at
one in four. Talk to Tony Cascarino and he will say that Connolly is the best finisher he has ever worked with. And Cascarino played at Marseille, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Celtic and with Teddy Sheringham, as well as the Republic of Ireland. He also says that Connolly needs to play off of a target man, to bring the
best out of him. Which might explain why he hasn't yet delivered the goods for West Ham.

Three goals in his first two games suggested the £285,000 paid for him by Glenn Roeder was outstanding business.
But when you are a goalscorer of excellent pedigree, eight goals in 25 games is poor. Especially in a division where defences are not exactly

In fact, as a ratio of goals-per-games, it compares with the worst record of his career. It's eleven games since Connolly last scored, in a 2-2 draw with Burnley,
back in October. He will accept that is not good enough for him, not good enough for West Ham.

So now we come to the time when Mr Connolly really needs to show what he can do. With Jermain Defoe suspended for five games, Connolly no longer has to play second fiddle. He is the goalscorer, he is the main man, the responsibility rests with him. Most strikers thrive on such demands.

Gary Lineker, for instance, always had to be the main spearhead. He had almost 20 partners with England because they too found it difficult to
share the job with Lineker. He was privately often accused of being selfish, always taking up the best positions and leaving his partner to feed off the scraps. It worked for England, it worked for Lineker. The same could be said for Alan Shearer. Being selfish is a prerequisite for being a successful goalscorer. Until Lineker found Peter Beardsley at the 1986 World Cup and Teddy Sheringham rescued Shearer's record in Euro 98, both struggled to maintain a working partnership.

Goalscorers need to be greedy and they need to find a partner. They also, it has to be said, need to be loved. They like their egos massaged, they like to see their name on the top scorers lists and in headlines. They feed off the fans chanting their names, buying their shirts and celebrating their glory.

Connolly, it has to be said, is still settling at Upton Park. Since scoring a dazzling goal against Millwall that showed grace, skill and a predatory finish at the end of a direct and forceful run, he has struggled to fit the bill. (I won £50 on a first-goal sweepstake at the ground on that one, so thanks Dave...)

Since coming to the club, Alan Pardew has attempted to find a way of playing three strikers. He believes that success in this division will come
to the team who score the most goals.

Norwich, the leaders, have a similar view. They have just signed three strikers in the space of a week, including the excellent business of landing Darren Huckerby for £750,000. Pardew opted for Marlon Harewood, the joint top scorer in the Division, who also came at a giveaway price. The balance between playing Harewood, Defoe and Connolly hasn't always been right, Pardew accepts. Sure, it is early days. And, just as it came right, in the 2-0 win at Nottingham Forest, news soon followed that Defoe's ban appeal had been rejected.

So now it's back to the drawing board, with him suspended and Pardew needing to change his team, with the weight on scoring goals shifting from
Defoe to Connolly's shoulders (although the odd successful strike from midfield wouldn't go amiss, either...)
It leaves Connolly as the spearhead, the attacking focal point, the man who matters.

So come on, Dave. Pardew says you would "walk into any other team in the division". Your record and reputation suggests he is right. Time to prove it for West Ham now, starting in the FA Cup at Wigan. Or else the "we can concentrate of the league" excuses can be trotted out for another year.

Useless fact.
The year West Ham last won the FA Cup, the best-selling record of the year was 'Grandma', by the St Winnifreds School Choir. A great year for the Hammers and for those of us celebrating along the Barking Road the next morning, but clearly not the best for the music industry.
The six biggest spending teams of the last year are Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Blackburn, Spurs and Birmingham. In 2003, West Ham were the 16th highest spending team in the land, , just £15,000 less than Arsenal, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The year before, they were the 25th highest spending team. Proof there is investment being made, even if we would like to see a bit more in the next month...