Fulham recently signed striker Aleksandar Mitrovic for a reported £22m transfer fee from Newcastle. Mitrovic scored 12 goals in 20 games in the 17/18 Championship while on loan at Fulham. The Serbian international wasn’t Fulham’s top goal scorer last season but held an impressive goal-to-game ratio.
Stepping up to the Premier League for Championship goalscorers is always a difficult task. While I doubt anyone would expect a Championship player to replicate their form at a higher level, measuring the gap between second and first tier football interests me.
The table below tracks the top goal scorers for promoted clubs since the start of the Premier League. Each player’s goal to game (GTG) ratio for the season in which they are promoted (Tier 2 - GTG Ratio) is compared to their Premier League goal to game ratio for their first season in the top flight (Tier 1 - GTG Ratio). Some players are excluded as they were transferred out, their contract expired or they incurred a serious injury (e.g. Tommy Moonie, David Speedie, Iwan Roberts and Svetoslav Todorov). For two others I couldn’t get the data from Soccerbase.com (Stan Collymore and Gifton Noel-Williams).
With the exception of Andy Carroll (Newcastle), all of the other promoted top goalscorers saw a decrease in their GTG ratio when promoted. This would be expected, and is probably due to various factors associated with playing at a higher level, some of which may not be solely down to the individual in question (i.e. clubs may bring in new talent that take penalties etc.)
Despite the GTG ratio decline some players still stepped up to the mark in the Premier League – Charlie Austin (QPR), Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace) and, of course, Kevin Phillips (Sunderland) are examples of players with an impressive GTG ratio following promotion. Other scored plenty of goals too in their first season despite having more game time. Examples include Dean Sturridge (Derby), Chris Armstrong (Crystal Palace), Matt Jansen (Blackburn), Michael Ricketts (Bolton), Marlon Harewood (West Ham) and Grant Holt (Norwich).
At the other end of the spectrum, several top goal scorers for promoted clubs have tanked spectacularly in terms of appearances and GTG ratio; Craig Maskell (Swindon) and David Connolly (Sunderland) both failed to score with their promoted club but neither received much of an opportunity. Graham Dorrans (WBA), Abel Taarabt (QPR), and last season Dwight Gayle (Newcastle) and Elias Kachunga (Huddersfield), are examples of goalscorers at a Championship level who appeared plenty of times but didn’t come anywhere close to replicating the goals they scored the previous season.
Perhaps others are victims of their own success. Pierre van Hooijdonk stand outs. The Dutchman has one of the most impressive tier-two records from the list, scoring 34 goals in 46 games when Nottingham Forrest were promoted from the second tier. Upon promotion, van Hooijdonk went on strike due to the on-goings at the club and only agreed to return in November. He didn’t play as much and scored just 7 times. Forrest duly finished bottom.
One final case is noteworthy; that of Marcus Stewart (Sunderland). In the 2004-2005 Championship season, Stewart fired the Black Cats to promotion scoring 17 goals in 46 appearances. The story goes however that at 33, Stewart decided he was too old to play Premier League football, and instead opted to join Bristol City.
While the GTG ratio’s are dispersed, on average, promoted top goalscorers are scoring one goal in just over every two games at a tier-two level. Once promoted to the Premier League, the average falls to one goal in just over every four games. Eyeballing the data, there doesn’t seem to be any trend. It’s not as if GTG ratio’s for these players are following any pattern over time.
With this in mind, it will be interesting to keep an eye on Mitrovic this season and all the top goalscorers for all promoted clubs. Expect Diogo Jota (Wolves), Junior Hoilett (Cardiff) and Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham) to face a tough season.