Layth Yousif doffs his cap to a goal-bagging centurion.
They will be awarding Hitchin Town’s player of the year tonight.
A player who has faced numerous setbacks in his career, to score his hundredth goal for the club in the last minute of the season, must be amongst the front runners to be given the trophy.
On the last day of the season John Frendo’s scored a hat-trick at Bedford. His third goal eight minutes from the end of a difficult year for the Canaries saw them win the game 4-1, to move into a comfortable mid-table position.
It also saw him reach the fabled ton in all competitions for the club.
“I just went bonkers when I scored”, a modest Frendo told me this afternoon. “All the lads were pleased and bundled me when the goal went in”.
Life hasn’t always been as sweet for John.
As a youngster he trained with Arsenal before the then Head of Youth Football, Gunners legend Liam Brady released him. “I was devastated”, said John.
Undeterred he kept playing. Barnet eventually offered him a YTS place. “The end of that season they fell out of the league and withdrew their offer”, recalled the centre-forward. “I just couldn’t believe my timing”.
Bad luck was beginning to be a common occurrence. During a spell at Stevenage he was due to make his debut as a 17 year old in a cup tie away to Boston. But the game was cancelled due to heavy rain.
To Isthmian League Harlow he went on loan destined never to have played a first team game for the Hertfordshire club, now in League One.
“I’ll always remember the physicality of that league. These big old lumps kicking seven bells out of me. It was an experience”, recalls John with a rueful smile. “But playing regularly was good for me”.
Ware, spotted him soon after and were willing to pay a fee for him. £30 to be exact.
“It wasn’t a set of tracksuits like Tony Cascarino, it was less than that”, John laughed.
A televised FA Cup First Round game between Ware and Kidderminster in 2007 was his biggest match to date. “The atmosphere was incredible, and to be on TV was an experience I’ll never forget”. Unfortunately there was no giant killing as Ware lost to the Carpetmen 2-0.
Aware that football is a precarious business John did “the knowledge”. The black cab drivers exam that requires you to be able to navigate over 10,000 streets in London before you are allowed to drive the city’s world famous Taxi. The Enfield born forward recalled his test. “The examiner threw a box of pencils on the table to put me off. If you’ve played in front of football fans then you’d hope little things like that wouldn’t disturb you”. Needless to say he passed with flying colours.
Success on the pitch finally followed. Signed from Ware by Charlie Williams for Hitchin Town soon after the Harriers cup game, Frendo has been a prolific non-league score for the North Herts side for three years now.
Williams, who has just left Hitchin cannot speak highly enough of Frendo. “Technically his ability is second to none at this level. The boy has a fantastic character, and what he has done will forever be remembered by Hitchin supporters. He deserves all the plaudits he gets”.
Interestingly, Frendo says his favourite season was Top Field’s promotion year of 2010.
He hit 28 in 42 games that year compared to this season in which he has netted an incredible 44 in 48 league and cup games, helping him to reach his century of goals. For such a prolific scorer, such team spirit is admirable and deserves to be rewarded.
Being presented with Hitchin Town’s player of the Year trophy tonight would be a start.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29