COLUMN: The big debate around big Tom Denton and why Chesterfield haven’t yet seen the best of him
Chesterfield fans are as divided on the merits of Tom Denton as the internet is when it comes to his height.
Soccerbase and Soccerway list him as 6ft 6ins, Wikipedia reckons he’s 6ft 7ins and Transfermarkt say 6ft 4ins.
The man himself once said he was more like 6ft 5ins, but when he’s just won his 14th header of an afternoon you can forgive opponents for thinking him closer to 7ft.
Denton’s height is both a blessing and a curse.
It allows him to core goals and help out his defence.
It also attracts unfair criticism.
News that the big man has turned down a pair of loan moves hasn’t gone down particularly well with some.
It’s perfectly fair to say they haven’t seen the best of him and he’s probably not what you’d call a ‘John Sheridan type’ player.
It should also be noted that Chesterfield haven’t played to Denton’s strengths and, whether or not he fits the bill for a starting role in a team playing quick, passing football – he is an effective option who allows a change of tack.
One of the main reasons Denton appears to come in for stick is that, although he wins headers, they often fail to further an attack.
When I spent a season watching Denton and Leon Mettam plundering 80 (eighty) goals between them, I saw a striker whose flick-ons more often than not found a strike partner or a midfield runner.
Worksop Town worked out a way to ensure someone got on the end of the header, because they apparently understood where it was going to go, or Denton understood where the runner was going to be.
That hasn’t happened at the Proact since his arrival, but is that simply Denton’s fault?
Chesterfield, perhaps through the panic that seems to set in whenever any pressure is put on the ball, have used Denton as an escape route, a lazy way out.
If in doubt, lump it to the big lump to win the header.
This is not where Denton can be at his most effective.
The ball played into his feet, or his chest, is a much better ball, because he’s quite adept at holding it and finding a team-mate – like he did with Shaw and Louis Dodds on Saturday.
This allows play to be kept in the final third and attacks can be built around it.
Some of his best work in recent seasons has come from passes – not punts.
To date, Chesterfield haven’t spent any significant portion of games, that I’ve seen, trying to do this.
Marc-Antoine Fortune might, on the face of it, be seen as a more natural fit for the Sheridan way, but can anyone say his control or hold-up play has been vastly superior to Denton’s?
Consider too, the goals.
Denton has 10 and yes, only two were in the league, but before you decry the level of opposition he’s scored most of his goals against, two more came at Football League hopefuls Fylde in the FA Cup.
Some of the flak he’s taken has a faint whiff of footballing snobbery – there was even a tweet criticising his winner against Bedford for being ‘clumsy.’
The league return hasn’t been good enough, but nor has the service he’s had.
This club hasn’t got anyone capable of consistently crossing the ball well.
If they had, he’d have scored more goals. See his hat-trick at Billericay for proof.
As for his motives for turning down moves, most of the speculation ignores one possibility – perhaps he actually wants to be a Spireite?