Following the Saxons this season has been a lot of fun. They've had some great wins and a few heartbreaking losses. But the one thing that has most delighted me has been the play of striker John Marsden. Marsden, a Liverpool native, trained with Wigan before signing - as a 16-year-old - with Celtic in 2009. Prior to turning professional, he had scored 91 goals in just more than 4 years in Wigan's youth system. To be entirely honest, I have no idea exactly what goal inflation in such a young league, but ~20 goals/year has to be good at any level.
After he arrived at Celtic, I'm having trouble finding what happened. The CelticTalk and TalkCeltic boards were both pretty active when he signed and for a short bit thereafter. Fans were very excited to see what one poster called (seemingly in earnest) "the next Wayne Rooney." He was sent out on a year-long loan to the Hamilton Academicals (side note: really?) And then... he fell off the map. He signed for Rochdale FC (in League Two), and by August of 2011 was making his debut for Aberystwyth Town FC of the Welsh Premier League.
But now he's with the Saxons, and seems to be making the most of his time. I'm hard-pressed to tell exactly what sort of prestige a spot in Stockport comes with. They're in the 9th level of the English pyramid, sure. That's not exactly the place to go if one wants to be discovered. But they're managed by Peter Withe, who has been a very vocal supporter of his team. One can imagine that a few good words from Withe could be the ticket for a player to make a move into a larger club's system. And, to be entirely honest, I'm not sure what Marsden is even looking for. He's not quite 20, and he's barely removed from being an up-and-coming prospect for a regular Champions League contender.
The whole reason for the rambling about Marsden is that he's become a scoring machine thus far in the Saxon's NWCFL season. In the team's 2-0 win against Bacup Borough, Marsden scored his 8th and 9th goals of the season (by my tally). He's averaging almost a goal a match, and he has become the club's number one threat. Gomez Dali looked as if he would be the Saxon's premier scorer after banging home a hat-trick in his debut with the team, but injury problems have slowed him a bit and Marsden has taken the bull by the horns.
More than anyone else, Marsden has grabbed my attention this year. I'm not entirely sure how everything works at this level, but I can't shake the feeling that Stockport is a stopping point for the still-young striker. I can't imagine that no one is watching. And if someone is, he's shown enough of a scoring instinct to take a flyer on. I can't imagine he'd be expensive, and he certainly couldn't hurt depth for a larger team.
But then again, maybe there's something I don't know. Maybe Marsden has some giant flaw in his game. I doubt that, though. The writer of the Stockport official recaps is brutally honest in what he says, and he's been nothing but effusive in his praise. Players who have a knack for finding the back of the net are one of the most coveted assets in all of football, even if they have other problems. Team's are willing to put up with a lot if it means goals. I don't know if he'll ever make it big - it may be too late for that - but I think Marsden is going to make an impact at some club that's higher up than Stockport.
I've been known to prematurely jump on a young-player bandwagon before and this is total speculation, but why not have some fun with it?
If you're hankering for some Saxon action, their next match is at Alsager Town later today (1945 GMT), and they've got a Saturday match at home against Norton United (1500 GMT). To follow along, you can't do much better than the Saxon's official twitter account.