If you were your country’s top scorer with a healthy 35 goals in 73 appearances, chances are you’d be an established top league player in most countries in Europe. Add to that record a career that has seen you start out at Manchester United and take in spells at Leeds United, Sunderland and Fulham, you’d expect a pretty good record. Yet, if that player was David Healy, you’d be scratching your head.
Here’s a man who scored a hat trick against Spain in September 2006. In fact, during qualifying matches for the 2008 European Championships, Healy bagged an incredible 13 goals in 12 games, making him the top scorer in qualifying for the tournament. Yet in the last 18 months he’s scored just 2 Premier League goals in 20 matches and his time at Sunderland has seen him struggle to maintain a place in the starting line up.
His time under Roy Keane never really took off and when Keane walked out after spending the best part of £100 million to make a team worse, his replacement, Ricky Sbragia preferred pragmatism to striking options and played with only Kenwyne Jones up front. As he’s just turned 30, is it too late for him to force himself into Steve Bruce’s plans? With Darren Bent joining over the summer, Healy has yet to play any Premiership football so far this season.
Healy has almost had the reversal of some players careers, in that he is so prolific at international level, but so inconsistent at domestic level. How is it that someone can score 35 goals against sides such as Sweden, Spain and Denmark, yet struggle to score more than 15 goals in a league season? He’s managed that feat only once, in 2003-04 when he was at Preston and currently has scored a total of 90 goals in English domestic football.
He’s the only player to score a hat trick twice for Northern Ireland; even George Best never managed that, but only scored one in league football. I doubt I can remember a striker with such a strange record in the modern era. When he joined Fulham in 2007, it was supposedly the move that would finally see Healy establish himself as a top flight striker but he only scored 4 Premier League goals for the Cottagers. He hit two in his first two league appearances, so then hit 2 in another 28 games.
How is it possible? I don’t understand it at all. When you look at someone who was the complete opposite, Ian Wright, who was so prolific at league level but only scored 9 goals for England in 31 games. Or even Andrew Cole, with just one international goal to his name in 15 games but 289 throughout his domestic career.
Healy has the talent, his international record cannot be a continual series of flukes spread over a series of years. If anything, the early part of his international career could be written off, as Northern Ireland struggled to win any game for nearly16 matches and two years between 2002 and 2004. His international career is currently going through a similar spell, with only 1 goal in his last 12 appearances. No doubt a hangover from his domestic struggles but Healy is an international footballing enigma.
The question is can he finally find the right relationship with Steve Bruce at Sunderland to finally ignite the touch paper under his career? Northern Ireland’s fans will be hoping he can find his form as soon as possible.Unfortunately they need him to be in form right now, but the next match could see him end his bad run and if he ever needed to do it, now is the time.
Wednesday night sees them entertain the group leaders Slovakia and a win will put Northern Ireland top of the group and just one game away from a return to the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and wouldn’t that be a phenomenal achievement.