Chris Sumpter blog: Have Scunthorpe United been represented by one of the best strikers in League One this season - Leon Clarke, of Coventry City
IN AN almost poetic finale to eight months of individual brilliance, Leon Clarke's season of scoring has drawn to a close at the place where it all started.
The 77th minute header that earned Coventry City a 2-1 victory at Glanford Park last weekend will be the striker's final goal of a comely campaign.
The Sky Blues announced this week that Clarke, 28, will undergo surgery on an ankle problem that he has been struggling with for a couple of weeks.
Such treatment will end his season, a week after he downed the Iron. Typical. Facing a Clarke-less Coventry is a much more appealing prospect for opposition teams.
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It's hard to see his absence not ending his club's season too, especially given their chances of sneaking into the top six, put politely, were already pretty slim.
Such was Clarke's contribution during that laudable three-month loan stint with the Iron prior to Christmas, his return to Glanford Park seemed to overshadow that of a club legend, who for five years had been one of Scunthorpe's biggest characters as as well as influences - Joe Murphy.
His header against United ensured he was also still being talked about after the game.
It's been said that there was an air of inevitability about a Clarke goal last weekend.
I can't argue with that. Not though because he was coming up against a former club. Simply because he's proved himself to be as big a threat as you'll find at this level.
I worked out a telling stat in advance of his return trip to Glanford Park - Clarke had scored against 13 of the 19 different League One clubs he's come up against this season, be that with the Iron or the Sky Blues.
Now of course that is 14 in 20 and he has 21 goals in all competitions.
At first glance it's difficult to really pinpoint why Clarke has been such a revelation - particularly when you attempt to compare him to the sorts of strikers Scunthorpe have had in the not too distant past.
Three of whom who've been sold-on for seven figure sums, something that could never happen to Clarke, even he had have been United's to sell.
He doesn't bring much of an all round game to a team, indeed, for long spells he doesn't actually appear to be in a game.
But there-in lies his biggest asset. When a chance comes his way, no matter what has gone before, he more often than not puts it away.
Clarke is a chancer, too. He gets himself into good positions, but gambles on what the opposing centre half might not do rather than trying to beat him at his own game.
Just ask David Mirfin, who let him off the leash just once last weekend - and paid the ultimate price.
For all his undoubted talent, how many times were the Iron frustrated by a Gary Hooper miss, particularly when through one-on-one? Rarely did Clarke squander a chance in claret and blue.
As well as being a good player, Clarke is also a good person, free of the reported attitude problem that seems to have stifled the early part of his career.
It is not a theory I particularly buy into, but his decision to resist celebrating after scoring at Glanford Park showed respect in an almost apologetic fashion so as to not to offend the fans who used to chant his name.
Clarke has scored his 21 goals in just 31 games - and has failed to notch in just 12 games (which to add some perspective, is the same amount as Scunthorpe), a ratio his new Sky Blues boss Steven Pressley says is 'incredible'
It was interesting to hear Brian Laws refer to Clarke as 'one of the best strikers in the division' during his post-match press conference last week.
That wasn't something that had crossed my mind until then, but on reflection I've not seen any better.
In terms of his finishing - and the way he can generate thumping power from the simplest flick of a boot - he's also as good as any that have earned the Iron big bucks.
Coventry say surgery now will ensure Clarke's 'long-term fitness' and he is certain to be ready for the start of next season
Hopefully the Iron are around to welcome him back again to Glanford Park, even though, as Sky Blues fans took great delight in reminding their Scunthorpe counterparts on Saturday, 'he scores when he wants'.
Had he not done so with those 11 goals in 15 games between September and December, the Iron would already be dead and buried.