The Monday Profile: John-Joe O’Toole

Posted by on Mar 7, 2011 in The Monday Profile | 2 Comments

Cast your mind back to the 2008-9 season and you’ll remember one of that campaign’s most precocious Championship talents. John-Joe O’Toole, an Irishman by way of Harrow – the borough, not the school – netted seven goals from 22 games – a fine return from midfield, especially for a 20 year old. Indeed, two years earlier, he had delighted Athlone’s Lissywoolen Stadium with a ninety third minute winner as the Republic beat Bulgaria at Under-21 level. This was a midfielder to watch.

Reading extracts from esteemed Watford blog BHaPPY from those years reveals the emergence of a burgeoning capability. Likened to Tim Cahill in his ability to burst into the penalty box, the mop topped midfielder seemed ideally suited to Aidy Boothroyd’s little nonsense style. I saw him in that fateful game against Reading in September 2008, his trademark surge and goal overshadowed by Stuart Attwell’s negligence. If at the time, Watford fans suspected he brought goals and little else, he was still young and still energetic; even if that energy was, according to Matt Rowson, often “randomly distributed”.

So it was a surprise to see him out of the team in January 2009 before temporarily moving on to Sheffield United. The Blades were chasing promotion at the time and O’Toole performed admirably in the run-in; his manager another proponent of the lofted ball of course – it was an upwardly mobile move, but he missed the denouement, a 1-0 loss to Burnley at Wembley.

Back at Watford, he had missed the cultural shift instigated by Brendan Rodgers and if that individual had since departed acrimoniously for Reading, the kid still found himself out of favour. Still, the next move was a surprising one – dropping a division to Colchester, initially on loan and to prosper under his old gaffer; the Essex side over performing in almost reaching the play offs.

But the excursion was to be cruelly interrupted in a match against Charlton – O’Toole damaging his cruciate ligament in the April of 2010. Shorn of a potentially key performer, the U’s have subsequently still enjoyed a good 2010-11 although they have seven points to make up if they are to rise into the play offs from their current position of eighth.

March 1 saw the return of the tousled terrier – “like a member of an Indie band”, Boothroyd once claimed – although hopefully not one akin to a star of the Pigeon Detectives or the Cribs. A cameo appearance as a substitute saw Colchester through to a 1-0 win at a currently abject Bristol Rovers, a turnaround result after some inconsistent displays from the team of late. On Saturday, the Irishman wasn’t risked as Southampton tyro Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain plundered a first in a comfortable 2-0 win, but he has pronounced himself content to be back – his verve might help John Ward’s side challenge again.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.


  1. tbbsportsjournalism
    March 7, 2011

    An accurate summary of John-Joe's Watford career. He contributed little but goals and energy, which some would say isn't enough at Championship level.

    I however, always felt that given time and placed alongside an experienced head he would go on to become a good player. Obviously Brendan Rodgers (better placed than myself to judge) didn't see that in him and moved him on. A shame.

  2. unitedite
    March 8, 2011

    I would agree with the synopsis. I was quite pleased when he signed for the Blades, more on the back of seeing him popping up on the Championship every Sunday morning scoring for Watford the previous day.

    I hadn't really seen him play and was surprised at Watford letting him move out on loan. However, with Watford's production line of academy talent maybe I shouldn't have been.

    What we got was a lot of energy and effort but he added nothing to a midfield which had plenty of that anyway. I think he scored one goal with the Blades (I haven't checked) and it was a scrambled goal from a yard out.

    Maybe League 1 will prove to be his level.


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