JODY BEVAN is a number cruncher by day but for months the only figure on his mind has been 250.
The 35-year-old warhorse can now rest easy as he scored his 250th senior* goal in Cirencester Town’s 2-2 draw with Fleet Town on Saturday. Ironically, the striker made his Southern League debut against the same side in October, 1996.
“I was so taken up by the moment that I forgot to do the goal celebration I had prepared and I was the grumpiest player in the team after the game because it was so disappointing that we did not go on and get all three points after my equaliser,” he said.
“But myself and some of the other Gloucester-based lads went out for a few beers in the evening.”
Bevan’s admirers, and Town boss Brian Hughes has long been one of them, would never describe the veteran hitman as elegant or stylish – but he does the toughest job in football, banging in the goals season after season, all 17 of them. And he has fought his way back from two career-threatening injuries.
To see his unwavering enthusiasm for the game in a Town shirt this season is a great tribute to the man, whose first goal – in fact it was a brace – came for Cinderford Town against Buckingham Town 17 years ago.
“I came off the bench and scored two in a 7-0 victory,” recalled Bevan, who works as a credit controller in the insurance services industry.
He was delighted in hindsight that the crucial equalising goal meant something on Saturday, and not just in his mental scrapbook. And he was chuffed it came for Cirencester and for Hughes.
“I have always had an affinity with Ciren,” said the big No.9. “My grandparents always lived in the town and Hughesie and I go back a long way. He first knew me as an 18-year-old when he was manager at Trowbridge.”
That Bevan is playing at all is remarkable having been advised to quit in 2006.
“At the age of 27, after 10 years in the game, I had finally been given the chance to play for my home town club Gloucester City, the team I had watched as a kid and for whom I played as a youth in the nineties.
“But on my 28th birthday, I broke my left leg and tore my ACL in an FA Trophy game for them at Tiverton.
“The surgeon said he had to remove all the cartilage in my knee and he advised that I should pack it in, but that was never an option – although it was a year before I was back playing again.
“Then just before I rejoined Ciren (second spell) in 2009 I had surgery to repair a double hernia that had troubled me for the second half of the 2008/09 season while at Cinderford. The 2009/10 season was the one we gained promotion in amazing circumstances. We had finished just fifth in the league but we came through two epic play-off matches, finally seeing off Bridgwater 4-3 in extra time. In our first season in the Southern Premier we finished mid-table and I surprised myself by scoring 24 goals.
“But in the first home league game of the following season, I tore the ACL in my right knee. Being on the sidelines that season broke me. The team really struggled and it quickly became apparent that we were going to be in a relegation battle.
“I did not require surgery that time just rehab and I had a crazy notion that I could help the lads stave off relegation. I came back far too early and it was not to be.
“Then, last season, I was offered the role as a player-coach with Shortwood. I had a fantastic year but it was frustrating not playing much and coaching does not come naturally to me.”
When he was released by Shortwood, it was again Hughes who resurrected Bevan’s career and gave him the chance to score the landmark goal he so craved in his third spell at Ciren.
“It was looking more and more likely that I would not get another chance in the Southern League and then Hughesie gave me an olive branch and we agreed to take it one game at a time.
“I worked very hard on my fitness and I surprised myself in pre-season.
“I thought I can still do this, I can still have an impact, and I still love the game.
“We knew we had a decent bunch of players at the start of the campaign but now we are near the top of the table our expectations are changing.
“No one comes to Cirencester for a payday and the team spirit is excellent.
“We gained promotion with 78 points last time and we are already on 53 so we have the opportunity to have a real go this season.”
*Bevan has scored at least another 15 goals at Hellenic level but has only kept a tally in the Southern League or for Southern League teams playing in cup games.