'I hated football at one point' - Chantry boy Bonne's journey back to Ipswich
- Credit: PA/ITFC
Ipswich Town have signed Macauley Bonne on a season-long loan from QPR. STUART WATSON takes a look at the striker's career to this point.
Macauley Bonne admits his career has gone full circle by joining Ipswich Town.
The 25-year-old was born in Ipswich, attended Chantry High School and was at the club’s academy between the ages of eight and 14.
Upon joining the Blues on a season-long loan from QPR, he said: “Being a local boy, I’ve never stopped supporting the club. Even to this day, I’m still a big Town fan.
“I always look at the scores, how the players and how the team are getting on. To have the opportunity to come and play for the club - I’m buzzing. Also for my family and everyone around who knows me, it’s going to be a big thing.
“It’s going to give me that extra 15-20 per cent on matchdays and in training, knowing that it’s the team I support. It just feels right to be here.”
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DECENT ON DEBUT
Morecambe beware... Bonne loves a debut goal.
He netted on his home debut for Colchester United – on his 18th birthday – to secure a 1-0 win against Peterborough.
He netted on his FA Cup debut, in a 3-2 home defeat to Sheffield United.
He netted twice on his EFL Trophy debut, those goals coming in a 3-2 loss at Northampton (Dominic Calvert-Lewin on the scoresheet for the hosts that day).
He netted on his Lincoln City debut (a winner at Tranmere).
He netted on his full Charlton debut (a winner at home to Leeds).
And he netted on his QPR debut (a last-minute equaliser at Sheffield Wednesday).
After his release by Ipswich, Bonne had a brief spell at Norwich before joining Colchester United’s academy.
He made his debut at the age of 17 in October 2013, coming on as an 86th minute substitute for David Wright in a 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury. Four days later came that aforementioned goal-scoring home debut.
He finished that breakthrough campaign with three goals from three starts and 12 sub appearances. In among that first taste of senior action, he helped the club's Under-18s to a league title and cup double.
COL U JOURNEY
New boss Tony Humes told Bonne that he must ‘be patient and wait his turn’ during 2014/15.
First Freddie Sears (who moved to Ipswich in January) and then Chris Porter kept the young striker out the side.
The following season, Bonne scored nine goals – four of them in a 6-2 win at Wealdstone in the FA Cup – as Colchester were relegated to League Two during a chaotic campaign that saw them under six different managers.
His 16 starts and 21 sub appearances earned him a two-year deal.
Bonne had brief loan spells at National League clubs Lincoln City and Woking during the following season.
He returned to Colchester and scored against Leyton Orient towards the end of the season. That summer, Orient, relegated out of the Football League, paid out an undisclosed fee to sign him.
Bonne left the U’s having scored 15 goals in 25 starts and 59 sub appearances over four seasons.
This is when things really started to hot up for Bonne.
He scored 22 goals as Orient finished 13th in National League, then netted 23 goals as they won the title and promotion back to the Football League.
It made him the first O’s striker since the legendary Tommy Johnston (1950/60s) to hit the 20-goal mark in two consecutive campaigns.
After Bonne’s reached that milestone in January 2019, in a 3-0 win against Maidstone United, boss Justin Edinburgh enthused: “Macauley is maturing rapidly. It was all about the touch which gave him the chance to score our second goal. Others would have taken it first-time.
“He should have scored earlier, but he never hides away from getting himself on the next one. I remember a game last season and he missed a couple and it affected him for a period, but this shows where he is mentally, physically and tactically now as a player.
“He has come a long way, but there is still more to come.”
Edinburgh died of a heart attack that summer. Bonne told talkSPORT: "He made me love football again. I hated playing football at one point. With Orient, he made me fall in love with the game again and made me the player I am today.
“I have the utmost respect for him and I still get emotional talking about it."
MOVING ON UP
Charlton Athletic had looked at signing Bonne that January as they pushed for League One promotion. Eventually they got the deal done during the off-season, paying £200k.
Boss Lee Bowyer talked about him being a ‘project’ signing and there was talk that he may be loaned out straight away.
Instead, he stayed to battle with the likes of Lyle Taylor, Tomer Hemed and Chuks Aneke and Jonathan Leko.
“He’s not the finished article, but he’s improving all the time,” said Bowyer, after Bonne scored against Leeds.
“We have a good base to work from, he can finish, both feet, good in the air.
“It’s the other side of his game we are working on, his movement, being more clever in and outside the box."
Bonne started 17 successive games between the end of September and the end of December, but faded from the picture after that.
Charlton were relegated and Bonne finished his debut campaign at The Valley with 11 goals from 27 starts and seven sub appearances.
At the start of the Covid-delayed 2020/21 campaign, Bonne scored in 3-1 Carabao Cup win at Swindon.
“Macauley Bonne, that was by far the best performance he’s played for us,” enthused Bowyer.
“I’ve criticised Macca in the past but he was outstanding today. A real man’s performance up top on his own.
“Macca’s strike was unreal – chest and volley on the run, I can assure you that ain’t easy."
He added: “People say I was harsh in him last season, but you have got to push people. Part of my thing with Macca is to forget the goals. You see what we did with Lyle (Taylor) – he is now an all-round striker. For Macauley to be that and go to another level he had to improve.
“With his physique he should be stronger and bullying defenders – that’s what Lyle ended up doing.
“Too many times last season Macca was too soft for a lad of his size. Now he is using his physicality much, much better and retaining the ball better for us.”
BIG MONEY MOVE
Two weeks later, Bonne moved to QPR in a £2m deal. Bowyer said it was an offer that Charlton ‘couldn’t turn down’.
Bonne, speaking to the South London Press, reflected: “I probably worded it slightly wrongly about my head being turned when I heard they wanted me – I apologise for that.
"You’ve got to understand where I have come from. A year before I played (and scored) against Leeds I was playing in front of 1,000 fans at Maidenhead on a cold Saturday afternoon.
“At school I’d hear all about QPR because they were a Premier League team. I’ve even got friends who are QPR fans because of their Premier League days.
“Football is a ruthless game and things like this don’t happen to boys like me. I grew up on a council estate in Ipswich. I played for a good club in Colchester but dropped down because I didn’t like football – I rebuilt my career and three years later I’ve been sold for £2million and I’m in the Championship.”
He added: “I feel like I’m miles ahead of when I first joined Charlton. I never expected my progression to happen this rapidly. I don’t think anyone did. I was brought in as a project on a three-year contract.
“I feel like I’ve taken all the information on board straight away that was handed to me by Lee Bowyer and Johnnie Jackson, rather than thinking ‘I’ll improve on that in the next few weeks’.
“I won’t lie – I only played that much because we had injuries. The first two, three or four matches I wasn’t up to scratch in the Championship. I was doing what had helped me before – running in behind and scoring goals.
"I should’ve scored more goals – that’s what kills me. I got 11 and I could’ve finished on 15. But if I had taken all of them then I’d be in the Premier League. That’s why I’m not the finished article.
“I’ve got so much to improve on but I’ve also got so much time.”
Bonne was restricted to nine starts and 26 sub appearances last season as QPR finished ninth. His three goals all came away from Loftus Road.
At the end of the campaign, R’s assistant boss John Eustace said: “Macca’s attitude is different class. He played for the 23s in the week, he scored a great goal, and that sums him up really. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get on that pitch.
“Obviously, the form of (Lyndon) Dykes and (Charlie) Austin has been excellent, we’ve also played a (number) 10 up there in Chrissy Willock or Ilias (Chair), so it has been a frustrating time for him.
“This year will be a really good learning curve for him and hopefully we will see the best of him next season.”
He added: “Macca, last season, that was his first taste of the Championship. He’s been in non-league, he’s played in League Two, League One, and it’s a gradual step up for him.
“He’s come into a group, into a team, that maybe he’s not used to playing a certain way, but you know, for me he’s developed nicely off the pitch.
“Hopefully, we’ll see a real, good Macauley Bonne next season.”