Can knee-jerk signing Danny Ings help fire us to Premier League survival?

Injured on his debut but averages a goal every three games. Will Danny Ings prove to be a bargain signing?

Danny Ings (WHU) at the West Ham United v Chelsea EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on February 11, 2023.

Hovering near the relegation zone, short of goals with the January transfer window closing in? It’s obviously time to reach for the panic button. I can’t help thinking that signing Danny Ings from Aston Villa is a knee jerk reaction.

That’s not to say he isn’t a very good player; the rumour mill might suggest we’ve been on the verge of signing him for the last 10 years. A full England International who has averaged a goal every three games are highly respectable figures.

But how will Ings fit in the seemingly limited gameplan of David Moyes? It’s difficult to see him playing upfront with Michail Antonio. Moyes is wedded to the idea of a lone striker, so it would either be Ings or Antonio. Despite his cult status, Antonio was rumoured last month to be on his way out with Wolves and Everton showing interest.

Quietly grumbling about his lack of game time is symptomatic of an unsettled squad. If Antonio leaves Ings will be under pressure to deliver, especially with Scamacca veering from injury to indifference. Ings was born in Winchester and raised in the village of Netley on the outskirts of Southampton, and having signed for his local club, they released him as a schoolboy citing his slight build.  

It was Eddie Howe who spotted Ings playing for his father’s team Itchen Tyro in the Southampton and District League. Bournemouth took a punt and gave him his league debut against Northampton Town in 2009. A two year stint with the Cherries included a loan to non-league Dorchester Town playing the likes of Ebbsfleet.

It was a perfect introduction to the game; in total contrast to the cosseted kids who cruise through the academy system. Playing against Northampton and Ebbsfleet is the modern equivalent to sweeping the terraces and cleaning the boots of first team players.  

It’s a vital apprenticeship that too few players get in the modern game. Ings helped Bournemouth to the League One Play-off semi-finals but the Championship would soon come knocking. It was Eddie Howe who signed him for a second time as manager of Burnley in 2011.

He later overcame a serious knee injury to emerge as Burnley’s top scorer in 2013/14 with 22 goals. It helped the Clarets gain promotion to the Premier League and raise his own profile. This season also marked his international debut for England U21s.

He was capped in home and away fixtures against San Marino and scored two goals in a 9-0 victory. His first season in the Premier League yielded 11 goals in 36 appearances; and paved the way for a much anticipated transfer to Liverpool in June 2015.

Ings was signed alongside Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke. With Daniel Sturridge already at the club, he would be fighting to stay off the bench.  But received a massive boost when he was called-up for the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Ings won his first full England cap as a second half substitute in the 3-0 win over Lithuania.

Jurgen Klopp was appointed manager of Liverpool in October 2015 when Brendon Rodgers fell victim to a ‘new direction’. Klopp’s first training session with the players was three days after Ings’ England debut.

In what can only be described as gut wrenchingly bad luck, Ings suffered another knee injury that ruled him out for the season. Klopp always claimed he rated Ings as a player but the facts suggested otherwise. Sadio Mane was signed in 2016 and Mo Salah joined the following season to form a potent strike force.  

Ings was sitting on the mother of all losers. In three seasons he scored three goals in 14 Premier League appearances. Runners-up medals in the Champions League and EFL Cup finals seem scant reward for a player of Ings’ potential.

A move to Southampton in 2018 provided fresh impetus to a stalled career. Three seasons at St Mary’s produced 41 goals in 91 league appearances. In 2019/20 he became only the third Saints player to score 20 or more goals in a Premier League season.

Ings also won an England recall five years after his debut, appearing as a substitute against Iceland. In 2021 he moved to Aston Villa for a reported fee of £25 million but never found favour with new manager Unai Emery.

Danny Ings has faced the Hammers on 11 occasions and never once scored. Some may draw harsh conclusions from this fact, but it’s important to appreciate the full trajectory of his career.

From those early days in the Southampton and District League, Ings has overcome a number of setbacks.  I’m not wholly convinced he’s the answer but this is just the type of character we need. A fee of £12 million plus £3 million if relegation is avoided sounds like an absolute bargain, doesn’t it?

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