Bothroyd for England?

England’s past and, arguably, their future can both be found in the second tier in the shape of Bristol City’s David James and Ipswich Town’s prodigious striker Connor Wickham. But should Fabio Capello also look to the Championship for the present? Adam Bate of the rather magnificent Ghost Goal has a name to put forward.

“When you’re looking around for a centre-forward for England … He is certainly worth a look at. If you’re looking for someone who, around the box, has a great touch, great pace and can go past people then it might just be the boost the big man needs.”

These are the words of Dave Jones, Cardiff manager and upstanding Englishman, on the international prospects of his forward Jay Bothroyd.

There is unlikely to be a Bothroyd bandwagon starting any time soon. His club’s fans are Welsh for starters. But there’s a bigger problem facing the striker. You see, he plays his football in the Championship. Cue shudders of disgust, men eyeing him suspiciously, a woman averting her child’s eyes from his shadowy form and the elderly crossing the street rather than bid good day. Yes, when it comes to credibility street, it’s an unfortunate affliction being a Championship footballer.

The chasm between the haves and the have-nots is standard football writing fare. The gulf, we are assured, is huge. These truths are drilled in to us at an early age. Many a doe-eyed youngster plonked in front of a television screen must have looked into their father’s eyes and heard the solemn words – “you can’t get away with that at this level”.

And yet, whilst true on a club by club basis, the inflexibility this implies of individual players does not stand up to close scrutiny. Of England’s 2010 World Cup squad the vast majority had at one time or another played the professional game below Premiership level.

Indeed, 16 of England’s 23 man squad have played lower league football. John Terry showed his bravery at Huddersfield. Ashley Cole flaunted his cash at Crystal Palace. And Frank Lampard did, well, whatever it is that Frank Lampard would do in Swansea.

You may point out that this was just part of the growth process of a footballer. The three men above were only there on loan. Their key development occurred elsewhere within the bosom of the biggest clubs in the land.

Maybe so, but what if it had not been so? It is said that Ashley Cole nearly moved to Palace permanently, while Steve Bruce claims that he had a bid accepted for John Terry when Huddersfield manager. It was Terry himself that refused to accept the deal.

In contrast, Jay Bothroyd was not thrown out the door at Arsenal for purely footballing reasons. In fact, it was he who threw his shirt at his coach, Don Howe, in a fit of pique. Liam Brady was even prompted to comment that “although Jay Bothroyd is a highly promising young talent, we will not tolerate this behaviour.”

It is not so easy, therefore, to pigeon-hole players. Would John Terry have risen through the ranks from Huddersfield? Possibly so. It is also possible that he would have found it a long and arduous process to rise back to the level that matched his abilities.

Of course, it may be too late for Bothroyd. It could be that a decade spent travelling along a different path has produced an unbridgeable gap between the achievable and the achieved.

However, there remain examples within the England set-up that suggest Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka were England’s centre-backs for the European Championship qualifier in Switzerland. But when they were approaching their 24th birthdays, both players were playing in the second tier of English football. Are we to assume it was a late blossoming that saw these men kick on after spending their early twenties outside the Premiership? It could certainly be argued to the contrary…

Lescott and Jagielka won the 2006 player of the year awards for their Championship clubs, Wolves and Sheffield United respectively. The following year, now both in the Premiership, they were again earning plaudits. Lescott adjusted seamlessly to win Everton’s players’ player of the year before following up with both fans’ and players’ awards in 2008. Jagielka, meanwhile, was Sheffield United’s player of the year for the third year in succession in 2007, before also moving on to Everton where he has

Maybe they did improve in line with the increasing challenges placed in front of them. Or maybe there is a truth that dare not speak – maybe they were always good enough but the opportunity did not present itself until their mid-twenties. Perhaps there are others of their ilk, lurking outside the realms of the Premiership…

Perhaps the time has come for Jay Bothroyd to finally prove his point.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

9 Comments

  1. Byronchenko
    October 28, 2010

    I think the key difference is that Lescott/Jagielka had proved themselves as more than capable Championship players, both on upward trajectory with a feeling of inevitability that they would prove worthy of PL football.

    Bothroyd has had a decent start, no doubt, but still has the poor attitude, note his challenge and reaction from Monday night.

    http://www.thescratchingshed.com/2010/10/jay-bothroyd-laughs-off-horror-tackle-on-becchio/

    Considering how long Kevin Davies waited for the England call (are Chamionship players vilified more than those who play for unfashionable clubs?) Bothroyd shouldn’t hold his breath.

    Reply
  2. Mirko Bolesan
    October 28, 2010

    They talk about there being a huge gulf between the Premier League and the Championship yet Eddie Johnson has actually played for Fulham this season.

    Johnson is remembered extremely fondly by Cardiff fans for being the most inept player to play for the club during our time in the Championship. His first touch was awful and his second touch was worse. The fact he’s anywhere near a top flight club’s team is incredible.

    I remember making the point to friends during the World Cup how ridiculous it was that England had Emile Heskey up front when Jay Bothroyd was only a phone call away. I’m sure many could accuse me of bias but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Bothroyd is better than many other options England have.

    To give an indication of how important I rate him, if Cardiff had to do without a player for the rest of the season Bellamy or Bothroyd then I would do without Bellamy.

    Reply
  3. Joel
    October 28, 2010

    Very good article. Spot on about there being players in the Championship that are more than capable of stepping up into the Premier League.

    Players are signed from League One and below for Championship clubs where the difference in quality is easy enough to see but teams in Division Two have been picking out players from divisions below for season upon season now and a good percentage adjust well. Perhaps because of their individual talent but also because of the improved quality around them. Something that was highlight in the World Cup when our ‘stars’ failed to perform without the foreigners around them to (possibly) make them look a lot better than what they actually are.

    As for Championship players making the step up to the Premier League, Roger Johnson is shining example. Personally think he should be in or around the England squad but is unfancied because he is at Birmingham and has only had one solid season in the Premier League. That’s one more season than what Rio has had recently.

    Just my take. Good article.

    Reply
  4. Mirko Bolesan
    October 28, 2010

    And if you’re looking at ex-Cardiff City Birmingham City players you can add Cameron Jerome to that list. Not many Englishmen scored more goals than Jerome last season (I think just Rooney, Bent, Defoe, Lampard and Agbonlahor), yet he’s never had a sniff of an England callup – despite still being young, 23/24?

    Reply
  5. theseventytwo
    October 29, 2010

    Fair points Joel, interesting point that perhaps the best English players in the Championship are more noticeable because there are far few talented foreigners to aid their cause?

    It’s a discussion that, fittingly, reminds me of Steve Bull in an England shirt. This article also brought back memories of Ashley Cole being at Palace. I never saw him play for them but remember reading lots of praise at the time.

    My opinion of Bothroyd has altered enormously since the summer before last. Since then, he’s been absolutely unplayable almost every time I’ve seen him (probably double figures in total).

    It’s his elegance that really stands out at Championship level. He’s clearly added consistency to his game but it’s still that first touch and the way he glides across the pitch that sets him apart from your average target man.

    A lot of people are putting forward Andy Carroll at the moment but I’d put Bothroyd ahead of him every time. I suppose being 28 doesn’t help him but it would be interesting to see how he fared in the Premier League. Looks like he’ll get the chance next year at this rate.

    Thanks again for the article Adam, really well-written and thought-provoking,

    Reply
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    October 29, 2010

    […] Bothroyd for England? – This thought from The Seventy Two has crossed my mind this season too […]

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  7. Lanterne Rouge
    October 29, 2010

    Good points all round and I agree that Bothroyd has to come into the frame. Not so sure about Cameron Jerome as I think he misses too many chances – but Roger Johnson is a good shout.

    Reply
    • theseventytwo
      October 29, 2010

      I made a rare trip to a Premier League tie last season and saw one of the most thoroughly entertaining 0-0’s I’ve ever seen between Birmingham and Chelsea at St Andrew’s. It was noticeable how well Jerome and Johnson both fared in their physical battles against Terry and Drogba respectively.

      Peter Whittingham is another who should be close to a place in the squad at least, but perhaps not the team, in my opinion.

      Reply
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    October 29, 2010

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