The Curious Case of Trevor Benjamin

There are some players blessed with wonderful technique. The ability to drop a shoulder and leave defenders in their wake, the guile to turn on a sixpence and pick out a defence splitting pass, the craft to cross a ball in manner which only Andy Gray would describe as saying ‘go on son, head me in.’

Sadly, Trevor Benjamin is not one of those players. Tall, lumbering, yet powerful, Benjamin is your archetypal ‘elbows out’ back-to-goal forward. The most imaginative comparison that comes to mind is that he is a player akin to Emile Heskey. However, with less quality. Far less quality. Seemingly, Benjamin is a man for whom that age old English cliché of ‘he’ll do a job for you’ seems not to apply. 27 clubs in his professional career to date tells its own story. 24 since 2002 further exacerbates this story. Add to this his feat of scoring fewer than three league goals at 25 out of his 27 league clubs, and we begin our exploration into the tale of a journeyman.

Having played for eight non-league clubs in the last two seasons, it seems Benjamin has finally decided to settle down, securing a verbal agreement as player-manager for Morpeth Town. For those of you that don’t know, Morpeth Town play five leagues below the Conference. He now faces sides such as the Whitehaven Amateurs who boast facilities including a full size 3rd generation Astroturf pitch, a car park, a mini soccer pitch and showers (the last two both available upon request). Crowds at these games often never exceed the 50 spectator mark and aged 31, Benjamin has fallen far from grace. Once an England U21 international, with bags of raw potential, that commanded a million pound transfer fee, the question that pops to mind is: Where did it all go wrong?

Beginning his professional career aged only sixteen at Cambridge United, Benjamin frightened defenses with his raw physicality, producing a useful return of 46 goals in 146 games. Thereafter, with a handful of clubs chasing his signature, he was viewed as talented enough for Peter Taylor to splash out £1.3 million for his services (ironically as a replacement for the departing Heskey to Liverpool). An England U21 appearance soon followed, playing in the same side as future England captain John Terry, and it seemed that the powerful Benjamin would go far in the game.

Expectations of the Premiership beckoned, however. Benjamin became somewhat of a cult figure at Leicester. Despite working vociferously hard, he offered far too little to justify his price tag and became better known for his celebrations on the rare occasions he scored. He returned only 11 goals in five years at Leicester and when he first left to go on loan, he had no idea that he was on a slippery slope which would lead to 24 clubs in eight years (amongst which were Norwich). Arriving at the Canaries, Benjamin remarked, “I’ve enjoyed playing in the Premiership because that’s where everyone wants to be but at the moment it’s not going for me.” Indeed it wasn’t.

He went on: “This is a fantastic opportunity for me to start playing regular football again, score a few goals and show everyone exactly what I’m capable of, I’m only here for a month but once that period comes to a close, I would like to think that I will have attracted the attention of a number of clubs – including Norwich – and maybe even Leicester, who haven’t said that my career at Filbert Street is over.”

Unfortunately his career at Filbert Street was over. When leaving he further remarked, “I was signed by Peter Taylor as a raw player from the lower leagues with bags of potential, and was hoping that over a period of time, he would shape me into an established Premier League striker.” Sadly for him and perhaps all of us this did not happen.

On his descent into the lower reaches of the Football League, Benjamin did enjoy the highlight of his career with an impressive spell at promotion chasing Hereford. Benjamin again became a fan favourite and enjoyed his most profilic goal scoring return with 10 goals. However, his form soon suffered and he was released at the end of the season. The next few years do not make for interesting reading. 2008 – Five clubs. 2009 – Four clubs. 2010 – Four clubs. Benjamin hit rock bottom when judged as not good enough by Non League Bedlington Terriers in the Northern League Division One and it was here that he made the move to Morpeth Town.

So why has he suffered so many problems? To put it simply, Trevor Benjamin is not a player you purchase if you want to play total football. You purchase Trevor Benjamin if you want to play skittles with defenders.

In a recent interview, Benjamin stated “You have upward turning points in your career and you have downward turning points. I’m not too fussed if people want to mark me down as a journeyman. It’s not how I see myself but I can’t stop others marking me that way. This is a profession, a job and all footballers seek work. You hope you do a good job and that you earn money.”

Benjamin blames an eye infection, a result from a contact lens in contaminated water, for his career downturn which saw him released from the then newly promoted Hereford. He says it’s still not one-hundred per cent yet and with a loss in fitness, his descent from glory soon became a plummet.

Now Benjamin, as manager, calls the shots at his new home Morpeth. One small upside to his tale as a journeyman is the sheer volume of managers he has encountered. From this experience, could we see Benjamin live out his top flight dreams as a manager? Who knows. When asked where he thinks he would be in two years, he vacantly puffed out his cheeks. Only time will tell.

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