Those we have loved – 1
In the first of a regular series, we look at some of the former Blues now playing in the professional game.
Where else would you start than with Dwight Gayle? If you wrote this story in a comic, you’d be accused of being a fantasist, but the speedy little striker who’d been playing for Stansted in the two preceding seasons to his year at (what was then) Woodside Park is now an established Premier League striker.
Having joined Crystal Palace from Peterborough just 14 months after his final appearance (and hat-trick) for the Blues, he hit the national headlines as his two goals helped the Eagles come back from 3-0 down against Liverpool to snatch a point and effectively end the Reds’ chances of the League title. He scored another brace in the final game of last season against Fulham at Craven Cottage and took his tally to four in three games against Liverpool with the equaliser and spur his side on to a 3-1 victory. After a spell out injured, recent appearances have come off the bench, but a hat-trick against Swindon Town in the League Cup have helped him stay top of the Palace scoring charts with six goals in 13 games.
He never liked being called Dwight’s replacement, but Kyle Vassell certainly filled Gayle’s boots during the early stages of last season before moving emulating him by moving on to Peterborough United last year.
Vassell’s chances have been limited since joining the Posh 13 month ago, with three of his 14 appearances coming off the bench. Five goals in that time isn’t a bad return though, and arguably his most important strike was his debut goal which helped Borough reach Wembley with a 2-2 draw against Swindon Town in the JPT southern final. Unfortunately he didn’t make the squad for the final. His most recent appearance in the Peterborough first team came in te 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Colchester as he came on in the closing minutes as the visitors threw everything forward, but the last two league games have seen him getting splinters on the Posh bench.
While the 2011/12 season saw Gayle steal most of the headlines for the Blues, he wasn’t the only player who made an impact while on a year-long loan at the club. Tottenham goalkeeper Jordan Archer was a key part of the team which Rod Stringer led to tenth place in Conference North despite inheriting a shambles from Ian Walker, and at the end of the season he moved on to Wycombe Wanderers for a year before continuing his life as a loan-ranger with a move to Northampton Town this season. He has vied with Matt Duke for a place in the Cobblers starting line-up, making 16 appearances to Duke’s 12 but after being sent off in the 68th minute of the 2-0 loss at Southend (both goals coming after he’d seen red) he has failed to regain his place in the team.
But back to strikers, and although he’s now probably in the twilight of his career Steve Morison is still seeing action in the Championship with Leeds United. Morison spent all of last season on loan at Millwall, scoring five goals in 20 appearances, he returned to Leeds. Morison missed the opening games of the season through injury, making his first league appearance for Leeds in over a year as a substitute against Huddersfield Town on 20th September. On 25 October, Morison was named in Leeds’ starting 11 for the first time in 18 months for the game against Wolves, replacing the suspended Souleymane Doukara, and although his other four appearances have come as a sub without netting, he does appear to be part of the plans at Eland Road again.
Next time: Tom Champion, Danny Green, Jack Midson and Harlee Deen.