BILLY’S BOOTS

How Bris­tol Rovers striker Billy Bodin is flour­ish­ing once again...

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Ross Law­son

HAT-TRICKS don’t come much sweeter than a first in pro­fes­sional foot­ball, but for Bris­tol Rovers’ Billy Bodin it marked the com­ple­tion of a dream he once feared im­pos­si­ble.

De­spite a promis­ing first sea­son with Rovers last term – which saw him quickly be­come a Memo­rial Sta­dium fan­favourite – the 24-year-old has had plenty of rough along­side the smooth in his ca­reer so far.

Highly re­garded as a young­ster, Bodin ap­peared in League One for Swin­don Town aged just 18, with spells at Torquay and Northamp­ton also fol­low­ing.

But nine months of knee lig­a­ment dam­age in March 2014 scup­pered the for­ward’s pro­gres­sion, play­ing just four games for Northamp­ton two sea­sons ago, be­fore head­ing to Rovers in the sum­mer of 2015 – an op­por­tu­nity he has taken with both hands.

Hat-trick

And a Box­ing Day hat-trick against Coven­try City com­pleted the jour­ney for Bodin – with the former Wales Un­der-21 in­ter­na­tional keen to credit his dad Paul, him­self an ex-pro­fes­sional foot­baller, for the suc­cess.

“I did well when I was younger and since then I’ve kept try­ing to build up first­team ap­pear­ances, but when you’re out for the best part of a year then you take so many steps back­wards,” ex­plained Bodin.

“I went to Northamp­ton, but kept pick­ing up lit­tle nig­gles so it’s been very stop-start. Thank­fully I had a good year last sea­son and hope­fully I can keep that go­ing.

“All you can do is stay pos­i­tive – a cru­ci­ate is one of the worst in­juries you can get and ev­ery­one knows how long it takes, not only to get back play­ing but to get to your best.

“Dad was there to give me ad­vice, found me things to do, and if it wasn’t for him then there’s a strong chance I might not have been play­ing now.”

Even Bodin’s maiden sea­son for the Gas took a while to get go­ing but he re­sponded with two goals in his first three starts af­ter bat­tling his way into a side re­turn­ing to the Foot­ball League fol­low­ing one sea­son in the Na­tional League.

More than 40 ap­pear­ances and 13 goals later, Bodin had helped Rovers to the dizzy heights of League One, scor­ing four goals in the fi­nal three games as au­to­matic pro­mo­tion was se­cured on goal dif­fer­ence.

And in man­ager Dar­rell Clarke – who crossed 1,000 days in charge over Christ­mas – the 24-year-old has a boss help­ing him to de­liver his best. “I wasn’t in the team much at the start of last sea­son, but I be­gan to get a few chances, got a few goals and as­sists along the way and pushed on,” said Bodin. “The fans liked me as soon as I started scor­ing and it was great to have them on-side. “I’ve had a cou­ple of nig­gles and been ill so it’s not been the great­est start this year, but I’ve got some full games un­der my belt and hope­fully the only way can be up from here.

“The gaffer likes to change his team and the for­ma­tions, but it seems we may stick to 4-42 which suits me.”

Cheer

The hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Coven­try pro­vided some fes­tive cheer for Bodin, his tre­ble be­ing com­pleted in just 30 sec­ond-half min­utes in what was his first start for two months.

That in­cluded an 83rd­minute penalty handed to him by reg­u­lar-taker Matty Tay­lor, with the match ball his prize for a ma­raud­ing 50-yard run that saw him earn the spot­kick.

Bodin con­tin­ued: “It was a great feel­ing. I’ve got a fair few hat-tricks in the re­serves but it’s very spe­cial in the first team, a mo­ment I’m go­ing to re­mem­ber for a long time.

“Fair play to Matty, it was nice of him to let me have the penalty and I hadn’t taken one for a while – luck­ily the game was pretty much all wrapped up by then!”

PIC­TURE: JMP

TRE­BLE-SHOOTER: Billy Bodin, left, cel­e­brates against Coven­try with Ol­lie Clarke and, in­set, his dad Paul in Wales colours

GES­TURE: Matty Tay­lor

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