Nick Rushton Makes The Step Up

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c)

With strikers picking up injuries and Andy Bishop having only the briefest of loan spells with us, questions are naturally being asked of our strength in depth up front. Although on paper we’ve lots of attacking options, because we play with three genuine strikers, it’s a necessity that there are plenty of them for Andy Morrell to choose from. The fact that neither he nor Brett Ormerod are spring chickens any more merely emphasises the value of having a number of striking options.

Which leads me to the League of Wales and its value to us. We naturally farm promising youngsters out to its clubs: it’s an ideal opportunity to give them first team experience, responsibility and a chance to play against men, not boys. Nick Rushton has just spent two years in the League of Wales, and there has been a clear progression for him, from his season at Airbus where he clearly showed signs of quality, to 2011-12 at Newtown where he hit eighteen goals in thirty four starts, some of them stunners, and stood out as one of the LoW’s outstanding players despite the fact that his side finished bottom of the table.

Now I’m a fan of the League of Wales. I really enjoy the coverage Sgorio offers and never miss the highlights. They leave me with two abiding impressions. The first is that it’s an entertaining league: the teams tend to go at each other rather than play it cagily, and as a result a goalless draw seems to be a rarity. The other thing that sticks out like a sore thumb, and it pains me to say this but I must, is that the standard isn’t exactly La Liga.

This isn’t really a contentious statement: after all, this isn’t a league with terrific resources and professional players aren’t necessarily the norm. The Welsh clubs’ results in Europe show that although they serve up excellent entertainment, such goalfests aren’t good preparation for stepping up to the preliminary stages of European football.

The fact that our youth team, forced to play in the Welsh Cup as we were in Brentford on the FA Cup on the same day, were unlucky to lose to a strong League of Wales side like Airbus last season, losing to a highly contentious extra time goal having led late on, also suggests that there’s a gulf between the Welsh league and the Conference.

So what are we to make of Nick Rushton’s schooling at Newtown? After all, we farmed Obi Anoruo out to Newtown, but his development stalled and he ended up being released. That doesn’t mean a move to the League of Wales led to him stagnating: there are many possible reasons for his decline and Newtown wasn’t his only loan spell as he spent time with Vauxhall Motors too. However, it has to be said that it’s tricky to judge a player on his efforts at that level.

Rushton is shaping up well, and was singled out for praise earlier in the season by Billy Barr. Hopefully he’s bucked the trend and returned ready to make an impact.

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