Jay Bothroyd: The talented striker who should’ve reached the top

Scott Salter

I remember reading Match magazine when I was a child and reading a feature on Jay Bothroyd – the then Charlton Athletic striker. In it, he was sat on a fancy car, with gold chains around his neck, talking about his admiration of rappers and musicians. I remember laughing and thinking what an idiot this guy was; little did I know he would make a big impact at the club I support – Cardiff City – years later.

At Charlton, Bothroyd was already playing for the fifth club of his career. The former Arsenal youth player had failed to truly settle anywhere, despite showing immense potential. It was clear that the future England striker had an attitude problem and was sold by Arsenal before making a professional appearance after throwing his shirt at a youth team coach following his substitution.

As the years unfolded, it became a theme throughout Jay Bothroyd’s career. He always had immense potential, but his failure to settle anywhere proved a constant stumbling block; that was until he joined one club.

England trailed 2-1 to France in a 2010 friendly at Wembley thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena, when history was made. Jay Bothroyd replaced fellow debutant Andy Carroll to become the first player in Cardiff City’s 111-year history to play international football for England. It was a special moment for Bothroyd, who also became the first player outside the top flight to play for England since David Nugent in 2007.

On a personal level, Jay Bothroyd is still one of the most talented players I have come across in my many years supporting Cardiff City. On his day, he was unplayable. The skill he possessed for such a big man was really unbelievable, but his work ethic and attitude was very often lacking.

The striker had played for Arsenal, Coventry, Perugia, Blackburn, Charlton, Wolves and Stoke before heading to South Wales. With his career constantly on the move, Bothroyd had struggled to reach the heights of his potential. Issues began to arise every time the striker threatened to show any sort of form. As a result, upon joining the Bluebirds he had scored just 34 goals in 9 seasons.

Despite this, it always seemed as though Bothroyd just needed the right club, the right manager and the right set of fans. The potential was there, even Arsene Wenger stated in 2010 that Bothroyd was his biggest regret, but Bothroyd needed the right circumstances to prove his worth.

“Bothroyd is one of my regrets because he left Arsenal too early. But I also feel it is important that a guy makes a good career for himself, rather than possibly being stuck in the reserves at a club like ours.”

– Arsene Wenger, 2010

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At Cardiff, Bothroyd joined a side dreaming of the Premier League. Dave Jones, the former Wolves manager, had assembled a strong side that was desperate to achieve a first-time ever promotion to the Premier League. The club had just lost Aaron Ramsey, Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, amongst others. The pressure of replacing them fell to the soon-to-be England striker’s shoulders, alongside Ross McCormack and Michael Chopra.

In his first season, Bothroyd scored 12 goals, his then-highest league total ever, whilst Chopra scored 9 and McCormack 23. It was the club’s final season at their beloved Ninian Park ground, but they narrowly missed out on the play-offs by goals scored to Preston North End.
The following season saw Bothroyd impress further, with 13 goals in all competitions. Cardiff made the playoffs, where they beat Leicester on penalties to progress to the final. In the final, Bothroyd hobbled off early on after an injury and, with that, Cardiff’s heads and faith dropped. They lost 3-2 to Blackpool.

Many of the club’s fans were convinced that after the club’s playoff loss, that Bothroyd would be off. It appeared as though he had lost interest and his professionalism faded. Yet, it was the following season – 2010-11 – in which Bothroyd really came to life. After finally finding a home, Bothroyd built upon his successful first two seasons and helped the club mount another promotion push. Dave Jones had assembled arguably the club’s best ever squad, with the team containing fan favourites such as David Marshall, Chris Burke, Mark Hudson, Kevin McNaughton, Michael Chopra and Craig Bellamy.

Jay Bothroyd lit up that season; scoring 20 goals in all competitions, his best ever return. He was the club’s highest scorer and fired them to another 4th place finish and a playoff appearance. After a 0-0 away draw in the first leg against Reading, it was a disaster for Cardiff when they lost 3-0 at home in the second leg. That was their season; the season the club was destined to finally achieve promotion and they had blown it.

For Bothroyd, though, it was an undoubted success. He received a call-up for the English national side in the November and made his only ever international appearance in the match against France.

The success had turned his head, though and, with Cardiff’s failed promotion bid, left the club. He joined Premier League side QPR, but failed to hit the heights he achieved in South Wales and was soon shipped out after two seasons. It’s an undoubted shame that he left Cardiff; he was finally settled, had found his feet and was realising his potential.

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Upon leaving QPR, Bothroyd went to Asia, via a short loan with Sheffield Wednesday, and is now playing in the Japanese first division. At Júbilo Iwata, the former England striker achieved his best ever scoring return; 20 goals in the Japanese Second Division. A further 14 goals in the top level in 2016 meant that Bothroyd had once again found his form, but it is an undoubted shame that we never saw more of Jay Bothroyd’s talents.

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