It took us a while to see the best of Andrew Surman. A typical “undisclosed” fee paid for his summer transfer from Wolves where he’d spent a season not quite making a big impression in the Premier League. My first clear impression of him was in the pre-season game against Everton, where he’d scored the equaliser after we’d kindly allowed them a two-goal head start. I could already hear the murmurings of those around me predictably criticising him as lightweight – there are those who can only see big, beefy and bothersome players as the way out of the Championship and Surman relies on finesse, guile and a left foot that is so educated it must have a PhD.
Although he featured in those summer games, injury near the start of the season meant that he had to spend a long period recuperating. Nearly three months out meant that his job was done (reliably, as usual) by the King of Spain (when he wasn’t filling in at left back) and the initial excitement felt by many supporters had subsided. Despite a couple of games in November, most of us had sort of forgotten he was there by Christmas.
But as we started the now standard post-Christmas acceleration in form and performance, Surman eventually came back into our consciousness: a few substitute appearances in February and then back into the team for Barnsley away. From then on he didn’t look back. He only had one poor game that I recall badly, at Swansea when he was taken off at half time. I say badly because my memories of that game are a little shaky given the extended pub-crawl we’d been on in anticipation of the game, but nevertheless I distinctly remember saying something expressing disappointment. Apart from this aberration he has made himself indispensable in the midfield diamond. He has a sublime touch and an awareness of play around him that is usually way ahead of the opposition and occasionally his own team. Examples? There was one moment against Coventry where he controlled and laid the ball off in one calm movement of his left foot that was pure beauty. And then there was his role in the (last minute, of course) winner at home to Reading, the goal at Ipswich, his dead ball delivery that was a constantly reliable threat … I could go on.
I’d say he is one of my favourite players to watch; there is always the chance of seeing him do something special of which very few players are capable. Young but mature, he takes responsibility and is willing to seek the ball in unexpected areas of the pitch. As with a lot of the squad, he improved as the season progressed. He was even a bit spiky at Portsmouth, maybe getting rid of some leftover resentment from his Southampton days. And was it he in the jester hat pantsing Crofts, as he was interviewed on the pitch at Fratton Park?
What about a second stab at the Premier League? I think he’s a must for next season; I’d love to see him continue to grow into the team. There are, obviously, some reservations: can he stay uninjured? He’s not very fast. What can Lambert get out of him that Wolves couldn’t or wouldn’t? I don’t know, obviously, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
by Andrew Blanchflower