The summer holidays are over, the Olympics are but a memory in the collective minds of all Londoners, with images of rowers, triathletes and really really fast runners burnt into our retinas, and it is time for us to return to what we know. Football. The arrival of Alex Geijo has been somewhat neglected here at Wolf’s Mouth Towers, a disgrace that we must correct forthwith.
So, Alexandre Geijo (that’s Hey-Ho). Another striker. It seems odd that despite the majority of our signings this summer being based around scoring goals – creative midfielder Almen Abdi, winger Ikechi Anya and strikers of various descriptions in Matty Vydra and Leo Beleck – the weak link that has been most apparent over the course of pre-season is a lack of cutting edge. Yes, all of the above players have struggled to maintain any kind of fitness – and make of that what you will – meaning that Joe Garner has remained our go-to main striker, a position that he is very much unsuited to, but with so much emphasis put on recruitment of forward men, it would not be unreasonable to expect to have seen some progression on that front, especially with the first game of the league calendar only five days away.
Not that it is time for panic, several years of having a remarkably close-knit squad comprised virtually exclusively of British players, or ones who had spent most of their careers in England has perhaps led us to forget that foreign players need a grace period during which to adapt. Anyone who has read ‘A Life Too Short’, the tragic biography of Robert Enke, will know what a burden settling in a new country, even if only for a year, can be. It is easy to forget that housing must be found, shopping bought, cars, doctors, dentists, families sorted out before a player from abroad can focus solely on his football. So a lack of match fitness is entirely permissible. And besides, when was the last time we won convincingly in the first round of the League Cup? The good thing about the cup game preceding the league is that it can be openly treated as the glorified friendly that it really is, a chance for the first team to gel, rather than an irritation that is passed off to the reserves.
But I digress, although we have seen very little of Beleck, and although Vydra has now put in two very good performances in a yellow shirt, dropping deep, creating chances and generally being the player that Joe Garner wishes he could be, the lack of goal threat is still an issue. And that’s where Alex Geijo comes in.
Of all the incoming loanee strikers, Geijo’s goal scoring record stands head and shoulders above the others, which is to say, he’s scored some goals in his career. The main difference between Geijo and messrs Vydra and Beleck is his age and experience. Turning 30 next month, it’s hard to see what Udinese hope to gain from this loan – having spent around £2 million on him it is hard to imagine his value increasing into his thirties and there’s only so much developing that a player can do at his age, so he probably won’t be adding too many appearences to his tally of four for Udinese. Perhaps, having fired Granada into La Liga, his sole requirement is to take Watford into the lucrative lands of the Premier League. While Vydra and Beleck are assets, who could either develop into first team Zebras or earn the Pozzos a nice little profit, Geijo is the guy who gets things done, who helps the feeder club themselves develop. And having seen what he did in the Liga Adelante for Granada, who are we to argue?
Geijo, born in Geneva to Spanish parents, had led a career that had never really taken off by the time he arrived at Granada by way of Udine. Switching between first and second tier Spanish outfits, he never really made a big splash at the top table – five goals in a relegation-bound Levante team in 2007/08, no goals in fifteen games spread across three seasons for Malaga. His record in the second division, however, was much better. 48 goals in 100 games for Atlético Malagueño, Malaga’s B team, 20 in 71 for Xerez, and ten by Christmas for the now-relegated Levante. It was after the latter season in 2009 that he suffered the fractured fibula that kept him out of action for the remainder of the season. The injury was not enough to put off Racing Santander, a La Liga team before their relegation last year, who signed him to a four year contract for around £2 million. In the end, he failed to see out even one of those years as in that January, by which time Geijo had only amassed 8 starts – producing two goals, he was bought for a similar figure by Udinese.
The coach at the time was Gianni De Biasi, now the Head Coach of Albania, who was the same man that had presided over Levante’s relegation season. Why Udinese, at the time a mid-table Serie A side, wanted a player who had never truly cut the mustard at the top level of Spanish football is unclear, but the intention was perhaps uncovered when a few months later Geijo was winging his way to Southern Spain.
It is not inconceivable that the signing of Geijo was completed entirely for the use of the newly-promoted Rojiblancos. After all, the manager knew him well, knew his qualities, and most importantly, knew what he could do in Granada’s league. If this was the case, the signing paid off hugely. In his first season on loan at the club, Geijo was the fourth top scorer in the league with 24 goals, including a four goal haul against Barcelona B, as Granada ‘pulled a Watford’ and were promoted to La Liga at the first time of asking. Yet again, however, he didn’t quite make the step up, making ten starts in an injury hit year last season. With Granada pushing on, Antonio Floro Flores and Gabriel Torje singing on for the year from Udinese, there was no place for Geijo to extend his stay for a third year, and so here he is.
Of course, it’s hard to compare the Liga Adelante with our own Championship, just as it’s hard to compare the Premier League with La Liga, but having scored consistently well at this level, a level that none of the other two incoming main strikers have yet excelled at, there is cause for optimism. He hasn’t had any kind of pre-season, and is arriving late into the squad, so will undoubtedly need time to settle, but once he has, he could well be the missing piece of the puzzle.
That is, if he can displace Joe Garner…
Disagree with anything I say? Feel free to leave a comment below…