Dean hoping to complete full circle

DERBY days always throw up something special and Dean Bowditch's debut at Carrow Road marked an epic victory but also heralded mixed fortunes for club and player.

By Derek Davis

DERBY days always throw up something special and Dean Bowditch's debut at Carrow Road marked an epic victory but also heralded mixed fortunes for club and player. Four years on and Derek Davis caught up with the player whose fortunes have turned full circle

IT is one of the iconic derby images.

Joe Royle tousling Dean Bowditch's hair as they share a joke on the Carrow Road touchline before the 17-year-old made his Blues debut replacing Darren Ambrose.

A minute later he played a part in Fabian Wilnis's goal as Town went ahead and Darren Bent made doubly sure of victory with a late finish.

Bowditch and Bent were the epitome of the youth culture at Portman Road and a bright future. But while Darren went on to play for England and in the Premiership, Dean has endured some devastating lows.

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Now 21, Bowditch has not played a senior game since coming off after 66 minutes at Oldham while playing on loan for Brighton with a groin strain - almost 11 months ago.

The injury was worse than first thought and Bowditch needed lengthy treatment in Denmark, which resulted in surgery.

It has been a dark place for the forward who had already lost his way somewhat as confidence and form dipped.

Bowditch said: “This past year has been the worst of my life injury wise. Ask any footballer what the worst thing for them is and it is being out injured and unfortunately the injury I had has kept me out for a long, long time. But I'm back now feeling fitter without any pain so I'm feeling good.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs since that day. It has been hard, frustrating but there have been some real highs, too.”

During the highs Bowditch scored a hat-trick against Watford, hit an extra-time winner in the League Cup to beat Kidderminster, and a late winner at Coventry before setting off on England Under-19s duty. He also played in the play-offs against West Ham.

Now he is determined to make the most of every opportunity once again and has adopted a mature, and positive outlook to his work.

Bowditch said: “It is not just enjoying the games I play in but every day in training.

“When you have been sitting in the training room or in the gym and you watch the lads playing football it absolutely breaks your heart. So when you can start training and playing then you absolutely cherish every single day.”

Five goals in four reserve team outings have helped restore Bowditch's confidence and he joked: “That's more than I have scored in the past couple of years.

“I have been hitting a few goals for the reserves and that is good. The one on Monday was a header, which shows I can score with my head, too. I have been playing better with each game and scoring goals makes me feel good.”

The target now is getting back into the side and it would represent a full circle if he were to be involved on Sunday.

He said: “I would love to come back for the Norwich game. The gaffer has rewarded me by putting me in the squad and it is such a bulky squad at the moment it is hard to even get in that. The lads are doing so well it is difficult but I'm okay with that because I have been coming back from injury.

“I have been getting games and goals under my belt so I'm waiting for that chance to get on the bench and then on the pitch.”

The young Blues player believes Town's free-flowing football will conquer just as they did four years ago when he made his debut.

He said: “This is a great time to play Norwich. I know we have not had the results away from home but that is something we have worked hard on. At home we have played some fantastic football which has been great to watch.

“So we go there on fire while they have not been playing so well so it is a great time to play them and hopefully we can demolish them.”

It could be that boss Jim Magilton is planning a switch in position, as he did so well with Jon Walters, and during Town's 3-0 reserve win over Luton, Bowditch was used as a sitting midfielder - a la Sylvain Legwinski.

Bowditch said: “It was a bit alien for me and maybe the gaffer has put me in there for a reason.

“It shows a bit of versatility and it was something completely different. It is a hard position to play, as you need to be very sharp because you don't have any time on the ball.

“I enjoyed it and before the game was looking forward to it and it was fun sitting in that position. But I was far more comfortable when I went up front.

“It was then I got my chance and was happy to score but if I was asked to play midfield I would be happy to slot in.”

Getting on at Norwich, in any position, would mark an extraordinary return for a player the Town fans still hold in deep esteem, helped by that remarkable debut.