Rarely a day goes by recently where we aren’t talking about the exploits of midfielder Jon Mellish, and manager Chris Beech was once again fielding questions about what has been a fantastic emergence at his weekly press conference.
“He’s a great lad, north-east lad, and he’s very hard working,” he said. “He did over 17 kilometres on Sunday, that’s ridiculous, and he smashes in his penalty. He’s just a great lad who’s doing very well and appreciates what I’ve tried to do, and what we’ve done together.
“Because of that now, we’re both in better positions for it. I’ve got a stronger goalscoring midfielder - we scored three goals over the whole of last season from midfield and there were massive debates over who should stay or go.
“It was obvious to me that it needed to change, and we’ve got that change and he’s doing very well, and so are the other players supporting him and those who are training hard to get in this team.
“Jon Mellish deserves the accolades for what he’s done. To score 10 goals in 10 games and none of them be penalties or free-kicks, that’s very good.”
“What we have to remember is that as a centre-half I was going to release him,” he added. “I just saw traits that I thought he could adhere to playing further up the pitch.
“I played for Hartlepool when I was a lot younger and I saw Paul Baker, who scouts for Newcastle, at a game and I was talking to him about Jon. He said he used to play left wing as a young boy. He can get about the pitch, loves getting the ball back, and he has a rocket of a left-foot shot.
“I thought I don’t want a dribbling centre-half who keeps giving the ball to the opposition, leaving a big gap behind him, I can’t do this. He’s either got to go or change. I tried him in a reserve game at Kendal and he did really well.
“Since then I’ve stuck with that thought. I’ve done it with other players at clubs and I have no doubt I’ll do it with future ones. I think it’s surprising Jon as to how well he’s doing. It definitely feels good, at times you’re often pushed into these positions.
“We’re doing well, but it’s an example of how we have to try and find an answer rather than buy an answer. Sometimes you have to be a bit more innovative. I’m massive on the game doesn’t change, a lot of things come out of meetings and courses, but ultimately you’ve got to protect something, gain something and there’s bits in the middle.
“You’ve got to try and find an answer somehow. I needed more midfield capability and he’s given us that. Long may it continue. Sometimes you have to find that answer rather than buy it, and we have to keep it as long as possible.”
“The thing we all now is that he could actually have scored more goals than he’s already got,” he commented. “And the team in general could score more goals too.
“I think we’re one of the top stats for last third entries and shots. They’re not all on target but that’s probably one of the problems. We have to refine that, and get a bit more with less opportunity.
“That’s what the top players can do. When you see Premier League players playing, they can be dominated for a good 60 to 70 minutes, but it takes a second to score and they do that at that point, that’s why they play higher.
“We’re a young team and our boys are ambitious, so we’ll see where some of them can get to.
“Jon is the one being talked about at the moment and he does deserve that. He comes from a good family, he enjoys working hard and he’s disappointed when he’s not at his best, which is a good sign.
“This is a brand-new sort of situation for him and a lot of our players. I think he’s just got to enjoy the journey, definitely not change, because his biggest attribute is the fact he’s raw. It’s like going back in time.
“You talk to a player now, when you’re trying to recruit a midfield player, immediately they throw out a number – I’m a 4, I’m an 8, I’m a 10 – I don’t do this, but I do that. I can do that but don’t do this.
“Well, you don’t have those conversations with Jon. It’s about playing, about running harder than your opponent, winning headers and tackles, getting on the ball, because he can pass and can definitely shoot with both feet, and head, so he’s got great attributes with his size, physicality, to be simple but very effective. That’s his biggest attribute.
“Who knows if others are watching him, and that’s why I spoke to David Holdsworth to make sure that before we did this, we should try and secure Jon’s future, so we did. He signed a contract prior to this getting off the ground.
“That’s great foresight and business really. I’m thankful of the support of the club doing that especially in the current circumstance, which was definitely the right thing to do. If major clubs come along, and things like that, then at least we’re placed to deal with it.
“Hopefully that won’t be the case and he’ll continue to develop with us, because he likes it here. It’s the type of club and environment where other can step up and who what they’re about as well.
“Joe Riley’s playing midfield, he’s never played there since 13 or 14. He’s doing really well. His rocket shot goes in on Sunday and he might get on the goal trail, he’s been getting close every game.”