With a daily influx of fixtures and the ringing of fake crowd noise forever in our ears, football fan fatigue reached its peak through the first few months of this year, at least from a personal perspective, and I found myself searching for ways to restore my enthusiasm in the sport that started to become exhausting to keep up with.
The typical appreciation for late drama, a hard-fought 1-0 away win or delightful passing play was quickly drained by close-ups of indifferent cardboard cutouts. Having clung onto a commentator’s rousing reaction or a pundit’s pitiless monologue to feel any emotion towards the sixth Premier League game of the week being played on a Thursday at 6 pm, it would take something extraordinary to reignite my footballing fervour.
Of course, it was easy to revert to the usual culprits at the top of the aesthetically stimulating table – Erling Haaland’s power, Adama Traore’s pace and anything Lionel Messi does among others – but it was the supernatural trait of one man in particular which unearthed a gold mine of glorious moments to delve into, and as it transpires, an exceptionally good player to match.
Like many that followed in the turn of the year, the evening of January 9th 2021 saw Messi and Haaland shine with two goals apiece to help their team secure victories against Granada and RB Leipzig respectively, but it was on this night that Ipswich Town’s Portman Road played host to a similarly outstanding occurrence that I became equally accustomed to from then on.
Sixty-seven into the game in question, then Ipswich midfielder Andre Dozzell had every right to stand off Swindon Town’s Scott Twine, who had just received a pass from left-back Dominic Thompson in the left channel, ten yards from the centre circle. However, a quick touch into space was enough to set Twine, who unleashed a shot that took the trajectory of a penny floater fired from four yards out rather than forty, arcing perfectly into the far corner.
The combined height, dip and swerve prompted Ipswich ‘keeper David Cornell into a full-length dive, though he was left sprawling haplessly like a cricket player jumping to catch a ball that was slogged into the stand, and after several minutes spent gawping at an outrageous goal, it came to my attention that this was by no means an anomaly.
Since the start of the 2020/21 campaign, Twine has scored 15 league goals from outside the penalty area for Newport County, Swindon and now MK Dons. Across Europe’s top five leagues and the EFL, he is the only player to have reached double figures, with Messi (9) coming closest. Last season, he scored the most outside of the area goals in League Two (5), despite playing just 19 times.
After moving to MK Dons in the summer, Twine has already scored six long-range goals, which includes two of three goals he netted in a 3-3 draw against Fleetwood Town. The 22-year-old is quickly becoming renowned for his freakish consistency from distance, but the best part of it? The panic that this shooting ability has instilled in opposition defenders allows the other breathtaking elements of his game to flourish.
The manner in which MK Dons’ chief creative spark floats in front of the opposition backline, waiting for a pass through the lines before immediately accelerating an attack with a zipped pass into a forward or a direct carry that draws defenders out bears a lot of resemblance to Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United.
This ambitious, optimistic aura he possesses on the pitch is infectious, and the combined urgency and sharp wit Twine plays with at all times raises the level of the entire team, who thrive off his movement and orchestration of attacks without the ball along with his awareness and incisiveness on it.
No matter where his team have possession, Twine always expects to receive the ball, and whether it finds his feet or not, he continues to take in everything around him and communicate with teammates to create a cohesive attacking phase before the opposition have set up to shut them out.
On top of that, the all-seeing presence the playmaker obtains is also useful when conducting a press and working tirelessly and intelligently in possession to accommodate space for those around him. This subsequently allows him to be influential in the number 10 role or across the front two in a 3-4-1-2 setup.
Despite boasting three more than capable attacking options in Max Watters, Mo Eisa and Troy Parrott, Twine has scored more goals from outside the box than any of his teammates have managed altogether. No wonder he is given the licence to launch multiple long-range rockets at goal every game, let the lad do whatever he wants.
It is, however, worth mentioning that the way Liam Manning has deployed this MK Dons team plays perfectly into Twine’s skill set. The midfield maestro has completed 18 opposition half passes per 90 this season, making him one of four Dons players in the league’s top 20 for that stat which showcases their constant territorial control that has carried on from Russell Martin’s tenure at the club.
High intensity, high quality, high volume of Twine finding possession in dangerous areas. It’s a match made in heaven – for the time being, at least. Whilst the ranging comparisons to Bruno Fernandes might seem trivial at current, the rate at which Twine is eclipsing the quality of every league he plays in strongly suggests he is capable of reaching the top level by the time he hits his prime, if not earlier.
Six goals and seven assists in 19 League Two matches whilst out on loan at Newport gave him a path into the first team at Swindon, where he managed to score seven and assist three in half a season despite playing for a team that went on to be relegated from League One. Not to mention he had a similar impact at sixth tier side Chippenham Town as recent as the start of 2020.
In the space of fewer than two years, Twine has refined his overall game from featuring sporadically in the Swindon team in-between lower level loan spells to a point where, at just 22, he is clearly of Championship quality, and it seems almost inevitable that his spectacular ascent will continue for some time.
Unlike his astonishing shooting technique, of which I implore everyone reading this to go and experience first-hand, Twine’s form doesn’t look like dipping any time soon.
By: Brad Jones / @bradjonessport
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Pete Norton – Getty Images