Why Lyndon Dykes is Scotland's difference maker - the late developer turned ultimate No.9
In a Scotland team which is becoming increasingly continental with its technical grace, diminutive midfield schemers and ball-playing centre-backs, the Aussie-born striker is incongruous. A totem pole amongst modern art.
Dykes is different. But different is good. Like the Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Jurrassic World – the first one – or a tub of Magnum double salted caramel with its hard shell. Unconventional maybe, they may well test you, but ultimately, and most importantly, the end result is positive and satisfaction ensured.
The Queens Park Rangers ace should be embraced.
For 85 minutes against the Faroe Islands there was no satisfaction in sight. It was frustrating bordering on torturous. Then Dykes got in the road, as he so often does.
Nathan Patterson swung in a wonderful cross, the towering totem made his move and, just as it appeared the cross was going to be defended, a clearance struck the striker in the breast before beating Teitur Gestsson in the Faroes goal.
Mortal Kombat difference maker
Which other Scotland striker scores that goal? It’s hard to envisage Che Adams or Kevin Nisbet being that much of a nuisance, that much of a presence.
You rewind back to the Saturday prior to the trip to Torshavn. Against Israel, having already missed a penalty, Dykes metamorphosed into Mortal Kombat’s Liu Kang. Sailing through the air with this KO-quality leg, karate kicking the ball into the net.
The Israel match perhaps wasn’t his best, nor was the Faroes but he was the difference maker.
You look around at the squad, players starring for Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Billy Gilmour, Craig Gordon, perhaps the best Scottish goalkeeper of his generation. But it is Dykes who is the talisman.
"If you were to speak to John McGinn, Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, I guarantee you every one of them love Lyndon playing for Scotland,” Livingston boss David Martindale told Scotland on Sunday.
"He’s so down to earth, very humble, he puts the team before himself and now he is getting his just rewards with his goal record.”
Martindale knows Dykes better than most. He signed him from Queen of the South, he coached him, he helped him become the player he is today.
A player who has netted in four consecutive games for the country he qualifies for through both his parents, the 26-year-old becoming the first to do so since Colin Stein in the 1960s.
“If you look at Lyndon, he’s a late developer so to speak,” Martindale explained. “I think his ability to retain information has allowed him to continually improve his game since he moved to Scottish football.
"I knew he had the ability, he’s definitely got the mindset, he’s got the physical capabilities, he’s got the technical capabilities, I’m not really surprised.
"Lyndon is high output, low maintenance. That’s the type of player you are trying to entice to your club.
"I think you can see what Steve Clarke has done with the Scottish team. Most of the boys, from the outside looking in and I know some of them personally, you get a lot of output from them but they are very low maintenance.
"Lyndon’s all about the we, it’s not about the me. Albeit he is the one who has scored the most important goals, Lyndon puts the team before himself and I think you can see that in his style of play.”
It’s a style of play which sets him apart. Some may see him being all arms and legs at times, but he is a striker with a Scottish identity, in his mental, technical, physical and general football traits.
He battles, he harasses, he is selfless, he is a focal point, he has the personality which fans feed off, he is the ultimate target man.
When scouting Dykes for Livingston, Martindale was eager to harness those qualities in a No.9 position having seen him play on the left, the right and as a No.10 facilitating Stephen Dobbie when the veteran forward scored 96 goals across three seasons for the Doonhamers.
And his signing got the seal of approval from Livi’s fiersome back three at the time, Alan Lithgow, Declan Gallagher and Craig Halkett.
"His attributes, back to goal, he was an out-and-out 9,” Martindale said.
"He is an excellent finisher, very good in the air, he’s got a turn of pace, he’s physical and his link up play is second to none. I knew I had an athlete, I knew I had someone who could mix it up and bully centre-halves but also someone who could go in behind.
"When he came into Livingston I was pleasantly surprised with his finishing but his all-round game, what I look for in a No.9, Lyndon had that in abundance. I knew if I played him further up the park the scoring would come. If you look at Dobbie’s goal record a lot of that was attributed to Lyndon, his assists, the centre-halves looking after him and Dobbie had a free role so to speak.”
He added: “Big Lyndon was giving them a torrid time,” Martindale said. “They were dealing with him but big Lyndon was walking about and he was very, very confident with how he held himself on the park against what I would say three top centre-halves at that point in time.
"The three of them came in after the game and said ‘he’s a handful’. In a No.9 that’s what I’m looking for, the centre halves know they are in a game and you can see that when Scotland play."
Could he add to Scotland’s Premier League roster?
Martindale said: "Lyndon’s style of play, is he ready for top, top teams? Probably not at this stage in his career but could he play in a Burnley for example, their style of play.
"For me, he could play at that level all day long.”
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