Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson has hinted that the club are set to end in their interest in signing Burton Albion striker Liam Boyce.
The Black Cats have been linked with the forward throughout the window, but speaking earlier this week, Parkinson suggested that the addition of Kyle Lafferty this month alongside his current attacking options reduced the need to bring Boyce to the Stadium of Light.
Indeed, with reports now emerging that Scottish Premiership side Hearts have had a bid accepted for Boyce, it looks as though Sunderland’s chances of signing the 28-year-old may soon be gone for good.
So have the League One promotion-chasers made the right decision by seemingly ending their interest in Boyce?
Here, we put the spotlight on the striker’s performances for Burton so far this season, in order to find out.
Having featured in all 25 of Burton’s League One so far this season, Boyce is certainly someone who is highly rated around the Pirelli Stadium, although the stats suggest something of a mixed season for the attacker, which may have come into consideration at Sunderland in recent weeks.
On the positive side, with eight league goals this season, Boyce is not only Burton’s top league goalscorer this season, but also has more league goals than all but one of Sunderland’s current squad this season, with Chris Maguire bettering Boyce’s return – by a narrow margin it should be noted – with nine goals to his name.
Indeed, with Boyce getting 44.3% of his shots on target this season, the attacker clearly knows where the goal is, meaning he ought to be confident in his ability to keep opposition goalkeepers busy on a regular basis.
It isn’t just with his shooting where Boyce looks a threat, with an average of 1.41 shot assists per game highlighting his ability to take chances as well as create them, which shows just how much of an all-round attacking threat he can be at this level.
However, there are other areas of his game that may provide some cause for concern around Boyce’s recent performances.
While his return of eight league goals this season is respectable, the fact that his expected goals tally is almost two more than that does seem to suggest that he has missed some good chances throughout the campaign so far, something Sunderland cannot really afford in the battle for promotion this season.
Add to that the fact that with an offensive duel success rate of just 33.3%, Boyce seems to struggle somewhat to get the better of opposition defenders – thus making it harder for his side to maintain pressure in games – meaning it does appear as though there are still elements of the striker’s in which there is room for improvement.
Consequentially, it appears as though this was always going to be a difficult decision for Sunderland to make given the positives and negatives around Boyce’s performances so far this season, meaning we may not know whether this was the right decision or not, until the end of the season when the Black Cats are either celebrating promotion to the Championship, or facing up to another season in League One.