By Nathan Bees
I saw someone pose the question: ‘should we make a move for Nathan Ellington?’ on the official forum earlier this week. The striker was let go by Crewe Alexandra after Steve Davis decided not to offer him a contract following an extended trial.
The Duke has since linked up with non-league Southport but it didn’t stop a debate taking place as to whether it would have been a good idea to sign him.
The unwritten rule in football, generally, is that you should ‘never go back’ - and that applies to both players and managers. History would suggest that this is a piece of advice that those inside the game should respect and listen to.
It’s very rare for anybody to return to a former club and have the same impact that they had first time round.
In management terms, Gerry Francis is one example that we can all remember. In a blaze of glory he came back to Rovers for a second spell in charge in 2001 and was looking to guide us out of Division 3 (as it was known then) at the first attempt.
Initially a hero due to his past exploits as both a player and a manager he left 6 months later with his team flailing perilously at the very bottom of the Football League. They were very, very dark days.
Having said that, there are of course some exceptions to the rule.
Continuing the manager theme our very own John Ward came back to the club in late 2012, 16 years after departing, and managed to drive away the very real threat of relegation.
Bottom upon deciding to return to the club, Ward managed to inspire a dramatic turnaround in form that even offered us faint hope of reaching the play-offs towards the end of the campaign.
This season hasn’t begun with the bang we all hoped for as Ward has had no choice but to change his squad due to injury and rely on untested youngsters.
It’s still early enough in the season for us to move up the league table and with performances like the one at Mansfield Town produced on a consistent basis we will begin to win matches.
You would be hard pushed, however, to think of a player who returned to the club where he made his name and then went on to enjoy the same success again.
There will be some youth players who have gone back to their boyhood clubs as senior professionals and performed well but nobody who has proven themselves in a previous spell.
We all remember the Nathan Ellington of a decade ago, the man who flourished in a very poor team. He scored one of 3 Gas hat-tricks in the space of a month against Premier League Derby County in the FA Cup Third Round in 2002, before joining Wigan Athletic for £1.2 million just a few months later.
That Nathan Ellington was a superb footballer, a modern day Rovers great. The reality is that was a long time ago and things have changed.
The young, energetic striker we all know and love is now 32 and without a league goal since scoring for Preston North End in 2011.
He has had failed spells at Watford, Derby, Ipswich Town and Scunthorpe United since 2007 and that doesn’t smack of a player who is at the top of his game - or in any sort of form whatsoever. That’s not a player we should be spending our money on.
If Ellington had never been a Rovers player we wouldn’t be having a discussion about bringing him to the Mem, so why should we just because he has played for us?
I fear that as a fanbase we’re obsessed with bringing old players back and most of the time it’s completely unnecessary. As much as I loved watching the Duke of yesteryear banging in the goals I don’t think he’s a player we should be taking a chance on now. He would be living off his past reputation.
Our two new recruits, Manchester City winger Alex Henshall and Birmingham City defender Will Packwood, are the type of players I’m happy to see us sign at this stage of the season.
Highly rated by their parent clubs, both players will be hungry for first team football and desperate to prove themselves. They are at the very beginning of their careers and will want Rovers to be the place where it all gets going for them - fingers crossed it can be.
I can understand the sentiment behind wanting to bring Ellington back to the club this week, and it may well have put an extra few hundred on the gate for tomorrow’s match, but he’s a player from the past. We need to be looking to the future and towards a new generation of players who can make a difference for us.
We have several exciting prospects coming into the first team and have added two more for at least the next month. What’s to say at least one of them won’t go on to have a similar impact to the one Ellington had when he first burst on to the scene?
Let’s see, shall we? Bring on Wycombe!