Journeymen

Football managers are an optimistic bunch.

Given their lack of job security this probably isn’t a big surprise; after all, who but the most positive of individuals could take on a role which is more than likely to end in their untimely sacking?

This hopeful outlook which lurks within most gaffers often surfaces when trying to convince their club’s supporters that they can still avoid relegation despite being bottom of the table with two games left. Or when trying to persuade their chairman to stretch their budget to allow for that extra loan signing that will make all the difference to the squad.

It also tends to come to the fore when purchasing new players, particularly strikers who have been round the block a few times.

Of course, the phenomenon of the journey-man centre-forward isn’t a purely non-league concept, but it does become more prevalent in the lower reaches of the football pyramid, where the saying “more clubs than Jack Nicklaus” can easily be applied to most players.

One of my favourites is Jefferson Louis, or J-Lou to his friends, who has served an astonishing 20 teams at Blue Square Bet Premier level or below since starting his career at Oxford United in 2002. He began this season at Blue Square North outfit Gainsborough Trinity, where his signing was heralded as something of a coup by manager Brian Little.

“I don’t think I have seen anyone like Jefferson in the league,” said Little. “He will give me options too as he can play up front with one partner or in a three and I would like to think he will have a big season for us.”

Four months and two goals later, he was on the move again, back up a level to the Blue Square Bet Premier for a loan spell with Darlington. He has since been back to Gainsborough, before moving on to Hayes and Yeading in January.

Quite what inspires so many managers to take a punt on J-Lou is unclear, given that his best return over a season in terms of goals is a decidedly mediocre 15 from 42 games for Wrexham in 2008/09. One can only assume he benefits from some kind of Emporer’s New Clothes syndrome, whereby teams assume he must be decent because so many of their rivals are interested in him.

Lee McEvilly, who has played for a slightly less impressive 12 clubs (or 15 if you count his three separate spells at Rochdale) is a different kettle of fish. With a goal record of better than one in three spread over 200 professional appearances, the former Northern Ireland international is clearly a player of considerable talent.

Sadly he is also a man of considerable, ahem, girth, and his lack of professionalism usually leads to him being bombed out by his frustrated boss after a few months. After signing for Cambridge from Accrington in 2008, the portly front-man memorably revealed that his mum had brought him a new deep fat fryer to celebrate his move south – the perfect gift for a professional athlete I’m sure you’ll agree.

He left Cambridge that December and – 18 months and five clubs later – is now turning out for Droylsden in the Blue Square Bet North.

Still, both Louis and McEvilly have some way to go to catch ex-Leicester City man Trevor Benjamin, who has played for 27 clubs in total, including 13 in non-league.

Now player/manager at Morpeth Town, it remains to be seen whether his managerial career will be more settled, though Morpeth’s position at the bottom of Northern League Division Two suggests he could be on the move again sooner rather than later.

If he survives until the summer, what odds on a cheeky bid for J-Lou?

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  1. British says:

    It’s interesting that these globetrotters are usually strikers and they all played for teams in lower divisions. I guess Trevor Benjamin’s record will stand for some time.

  2. Captain Mayhem says:

    This country has got it all wrong. The Premier League and Championship sides should be over loading the lower leagues with up and coming talent. The lower league and non-league sides should have an under 25 rule with only 5/6 players over that allowed to be fielded in each team.

    This would stop the s**t hanging around and coming through and mean that these journeymen footballers either have to be good enough to stay around and stay off the chips or start applying for a job at Tesco. This is why this country is so behind, regardless of whether we have a national training centre, nothing beats real life experience, the lower leagues is where it should be at.

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