Thursday 6 March ~
With exactly one substitute appearance and one goal for England, David Nugent is in exalted company. The only other two players with a comparable record are Paul Goddard and Francis Jeffers. At the moment, Nugent seems unlikely to build upon his feat – a career that rose rapidly is now moving in the opposite direction, at a very similar speed. His self-regard remains undimmed, however, and the recent failure of a loan move to Ipswich drew an angry but enjoyably frank response from Jim Magilton.
According to Ipswich the move fell through after they didn't hear back from the player for over two weeks. This led Magilton to state publicly that the least he deserved was a phone call and that: “If he would rather stay where he is or go and play for another club he can sod off.” It's not the first time Nugent has exhausted the patience of a prospective manager. Before his pre-season move to Portsmouth, he went on holiday, leaving Roy Keane waiting for an answer on a move to Sunderland. When the deadline for a decision passed with no reply the offer was withdrawn. Nugent then publicly attacked Keane's transfer etiquette and perceived impatience. Keane's response, as confused about Nugent's behaviour as Jim Magilton, was: “I don’t know why he was disappointed. I made him a cup of tea.” Portsmouth's bench was left as Nugent's only option. Things have gone very wrong since then, however. Within weeks of signing for Portsmouth rumours began of a possible move to Derby and Harry Redknapp admitted that the striker could leave, having started only two games. Nugent is still waiting for a Premier League goal, having been primarily played in the cups where has scored three times. But he now finds himself out of favour and behind a long and increasingly stable list of strikers at Portsmouth.
At one point, not that long ago, David Nugent was very highly rated and for good reason, as can be seen in a 40-yard run and finish in Preston's FA Cup victory over Crystal Palace on January 27, 2007. His England goal was a 90th-minute goal-line tap-in stolen from Jermain Defoe but it did prompt Jamie Redknapp, of all people, to describe Nugent as “goal machine”. The statistics don't bear this out – 25 goals in 75 Championship appearances is hardly prolific – but his influence on Preston was huge and the club has suffered since his departure.
Nugent is clearly a very talented footballer but, according to those who have dealt with him, his behaviour leaves much to be desired. Players have to be judged on attitude as well as talent. Whether Nugent's outlook is due to very high self-regard or simply believing everything his agent tells him, he is only damaging himself. Whatever his future holds – it clearly won't involve Ipswich and seems to be limited at Portsmouth – he must now be seen as a risky acquisition. If you can get him to pick up the phone. Ed Upright