10:57am Wednesday 16th February 2011
By Will Scott
MIDDLESBROUGH new boy Merouane Zemmama has been backed to provide the bullets for the club’s misfiring strikers.
The Moroccan midfielder made his debut at the Riverside in Boro’s highly entertaining, but ultimately gutwrenching, 4-3 defeat to Swansea at the weekend.
Zemmama was given a 15- minute cameo against the Swans but did not have much time to impose himself.
But Boro’s first team coach Mark Proctor believes the 27- year-old fleet-footed playmaker will turn out to be a fans’ favourite when he finally gets up to speed.
Proctor is well aquainted with the African footballer from their time together at Hibernian and believes the Teessiders’ acquisition could be the catalyst in turning around the fortunes of Boro’s under-performing Kris Boyd.
“Kris has a fantastic record in Scotland. It speaks for itself, but for whatever reason he hasn’t fired as regularly in the Championship,” acknowledged Proctor. “Having said that, when you scrutinise his stats with his starts and his goals, they’re not bad.”
The Scotland international’s goalscoring record north of the border has been well documented and this season’s strike rate of six goals from 18 starts is a reasonable return, yet he has still failed to impress at the Riverside.
The Scot’s contribution to the team has been the main criticism. Boyd seems reluctant to get involved in the ugly side of the game; running in the channels or closing down fullbacks. But Proctor made it known that another Boro striker was guilty of just that and went on to become a club legend.
“I played with Bernie Slaven, who rarely used to run about, but when he was at his most lazy he was at his most lethal because he wouldn’t leave the goal area,” said Proctor.
“When he had a dry spell, when he went without scoring for half a dozen games or so, he’d start chasing fullbacks and try and contribute to the team more. The crowd loved that, but as a player, I didn’t want him out there chasing fullbacks. I wanted him to be lazy and play on defenders’ shoulders so he could get on the end of things.”
The introduction of Zemmama could provide the inspiration to turn around, not only the fortunes of Boyd, but all three of a strikeforce which has managed only 17 league goals between them.
“He’s not an orthodox midfield player or striker,” said Proctor of Zemmama. “He is a little creative player who will play in between the lines and people. He is clever; can score goals and can pick a pass.
“He will be able to provide chances for Boydy, Leroy Lita, Scott McDonald and the others, and will help us immensely.
“Once he beds in and works out the transition from Scottish football to English football and acclimatises, he will be fine.”
Meanwhile, Boro today play a behind closed doors friendly against Sheffield United with Zemmama, Maxi Haas, Rhys Williams and Willo Flood all playing. The club has stipulated that no spectators can attend.
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