Did we get rid of Scott Boden too soon?
I know this is a provocative question. Perhaps even a stupid question. After all, Boden is a striker who managed a grand total of three goals for us last season in a side which failed to add attacking potency to an extraordinary defence. Common sense demanded that we dismantled the attacking portion of the side last Summer, and a centre forward who scored his first goal in January is the obvious first candidate to leave.
The poor guy can’t even make the excuse that these poor goal scoring statistics are down to absence. He missed only one game last season through injury or suspension.
So why am I wondering if we should revise our opinion of a player who, on the face of it, was clearly a failure? Well, his efforts for Gateshead this season, 11 league goals in 27 starts, have shown he has more goals in him than last season suggested, for a start.
Secondly, I wonder if we’d have got more out of him if we’d utilised him in a slightly different way. He arrived during pre-season seriously short of match fitness, but when he was pushed up to play on the last defender he looked highly promising in the pre-season friendlies.
A superb goal at Stafford Rangers illustrated the point beautifully: in what was clearly a manoeuvre taken straight from the training ground, he made a run between the centre backs for James Jennings, who hit a perfect long ball into his path with enough backspin to sit up invitingly in front of him. As the keeper advanced, Bodin pulled off a sublime finish, lifting the ball into the net in a style only a natural goal scorer can manage.
I know I shouldn’t place too much importance on goals in friendlies – if they meant anything then Wes Baynes, who often peppered pre-season with crazy free kicks from distance, would have at least one Champions League winners’ medal to show for his stint at Real Madrid! However, Bodin certainly showed the instincts of a player with goals in him, despite not being up to speed yet. So what went wrong?
Our pre-season plans were disrupted when Chris Holroyd pulled up lame 33 minutes into the campaign. He’d started the match in a front two with Bodin, but suddenly Bodin found himself playing alongside Ntumba Massanka and Alex Reid, two strikers who needed to be the furthest man forwards. That meant Bodin settled into the second striker role, toiling away in an attempt to operate as a bridge between a deep, uncreative midfield and a striker who lacked a cutting edge. The result was that, although you could see he had the vision and ability to bring players into the game, he was fighting against heavy odds.
Other circumstances played against him. Our third match of the season, at Dover, was an awful affair as we were smothered by the home side’s man-to-man marking. However, Bodin was presented with two close range chances in the opening minutes, and missed them both. There was a perceptible dip in confidence in his play after that: I can’t help wondering whether, if he’d taken one or both of those opportunities, he’d have found the bounce in his step and kicked on from there.
But enough excuse-making: why would I wonder whether, despite his struggles last season, he’d have been able to serve us well this season? While his ability to pose a threat on goal was limited, his link play was impressive. Talking to players last season, there was a clear sense of respect for Bodin’s intelligence, technique and ability to read the game. Perhaps he’d have fitted in better this season, linking with similar experienced heads like Stuart Beavon and Luke Summerfield, and making the ball stick up front in a higher position?