Kenny Jackett has backed Leon Clarke to go and prove a point in the Sky Bet Championship next season.
The Wolverhampton-born striker has found it difficult to nail down a starting place since returning to the club in January, initially due to injury and then the form of Nouha Dicko as Jackett went with a formation including one centre forward.
But the Head Coach is confident that Clarke will have a part to play next season and possesses qualities that will be needed amongst his forward options in the second tier.
“Leon has got a lot to prove and a lot to prove coming here, which is still in front of him because he hasn’t had the opportunities,” said Jackett.
“I explained all that to him and he has seen the process in terms of the formation we used.
“He’d like to play but he can see the benefits of playing 4-3-3 because of how good it’s been for us and also the form of Dicko was very good and very potent.
“Leon hasn’t had a run of games to do that, in the main since he’s been fit, he’s been substitute.
“The transition from him coming was he got a heel/ankle injury and then from on I played 4-3-3.
“There were one or two games where I dabbled playing two up front but it never looked the same and very quickly I reverted to what was being successful for us.
“And my preferred centre forward on the majority of occasions was Nouha Dicko.
“So it left Leon there – through no fault of his own – playing a role of substitute.
“He understood that and generally while you’re going very well and it looks like you’re heading up a level, players out of the team are generally happier.
“We didn’t have too many – he was only one step from the side but generally with successful sides and winning teams, people out of the team don’t complain.
“It’s when you’re at the bottom and losing on a regular basis that the people out of the team get very restless.”
Jackett is also mindful that he will need a strong group of strikers with different qualities next season.
“Centre forward is a position where you have to be very careful that you don’t get caught out with none around,” he said.
“I’d think in any formation, the one place you need to be top heavy is centre forwards.
“That’s very important because in other areas you can cover and play people out of position, and, certainly while the window is still open, you can get loans.
“But centre forward is a different market so if you’re going to have one too many, it should be centre forwards.
“If you have players out on loan such as Jake Cassidy, who are out playing at your standards on a regular basis should you get injuries while you’re going for promotion then should you get injuries, that position is very important.
“It gave us all and particularly myself in the second half of the season knowing we had good centre forwards as substitutes and vying for places because injuries can change the whole situation and there are many other positions where people can do very good jobs and be variable but it’s very hard to suddenly put a midfielder, a full-back or a winger in a centre forward position and still get a winning equation.
“So it’s an area we have to be very careful over.
“When you talk about having enough strikers you do need to have a big centre forward at some stage in the course of the season.
“Whether you start him or he’s coming off the bench, whether he’s just in the squad and you have to change the formation along the way, having a big centre forward around is something you do need.
“And someone like Leon with a goalscoring pedigree, I’m certainly hoping his best few years are ahead of him and he has a point to prove going into this division, like many of my players.”Strik