Recently in “Take Two” we saw Harry Baker come off the bench to score a crucial goal for the Terras away at Salisbury to help us win promotion.
Harry’s exploits in the “super-sub” role undoubtedly helped us win promotion last season. In this article Duncan Gardner looks back at the career of other scoring substitutes and establishes who is arguably Weymouth’s best-ever player in that role.
What is a “super-sub?”
It’s certainly an overused phrase, often incorrectly associated with a player who comes off the bench to score “that” key goal in “that big game”, even if he hadn’t scored in the previous dozen appearances! In reality, a “super-sub” is a forward player who frequents the bench almost as much as starting but can score regularly when called upon. And therein lies the problem. Under these criteria, it’s no surprise such a player is a rarity as a substitute good enough to score regularly would normally be starting games. After all, surely no one wants to be the perennial sub, even if the accolades can be more intense if it works out…
Imagine the scene…the team is tiring, desperately trying to find the key to unlock the opposition defensive line, searching for that crucial goal for the relegation six-pointer, the cup-saving score or in that championship race…the gaffer sends you on at last and you score and save the day! You are the magician, the hero and the manager is labelled a genius in bringing you on! But how often do subs get that chance and take it when it is provided?
A rare breed
Scoring substitutes are a rare breed, a fact backed up by the WFC records. In the last 30 seasons of competitive games, 139 goals were scored off the bench from a total of over 2,558, only 5.4%. This is logical as on average a sub only comes on for around 20% of the game and even with fresh legs the odds that one their teammates will score instead of them is far higher.
And how often do subs even get that chance? You don’t have to go far back in time for opportunities for substitutes being restricted. Three substitutions have been allowed since 1994. Two sets of fresh legs were the maximum from 1987 and substitutes were not allowed at all before 1966. But if we are to find the true “super-subs” at Weymouth we will need to tighten a net of around 200 players even further, finding those unique men who scored with regularity and were generally absent from the starting eleven.
If we look at the frequency of scoring first, only a handful of names have notched more than a couple from the bench….
On four goals each, we have Abdulai Baggie, Steve Claridge, David Laws and the recently departed Brett Williams, all of whom can be dismissed as “super-subs” due to their high number of starts.
Next is Sam Jordan who bagged an impressive five strikes in only 17 showings off the bench when he played half a season for us in 2016/17.
Two Terras legends from the late 70’s/early 80’s then follow on six goals each but Derek Courtney and Tommy Paterson but again they were regulars who profited from substitute appearances in lesser cup games or when coming back from injuries.
Finally, we have two names at the top of the pile with seven sub-goals apiece, Harry Baker, who achieved the feat in 53 appearances from the bench and lastly, the feature of this following piece, Mark Ford, who has the same tally in ten fewer games. However, that is only half the story and Duncan spoke to Mark recently about his time at the club and his scoring exploits…
It was February 2012, two years after the financial crisis that had eventually resulted in Weymouth’s relegation from Conference South. The current season was well past the half-way point, cash flow and morale was low but the risk of another relegation battle was increasingly high. Manager Brendon King had to bring in reinforcements but could not afford a big name so looked local and found Mark, a young lad who had plundered 34 goals in less than 20 games that term for county league Blandford…
“I’d had many calls and clubs interested at that time but when Brendon and Nigel [Biddlecombe, WFC chairman] came in for me, I just felt the move was right!”
The signing was announced in the Dorset Echo the next day with the fabulous headline “Ford fiesta for Terras”, the first of many Ford based puns by the paper over the next couple of years. However with free-scoring Warren Byerley supported by Ben Joyce and Matt Groves, fans wondered if Mark would be a bench-warmer…
“I remember Brendon just saying to try to make an impact”
Mark was actually employed from the start six times during the end of that season, scoring a hat-trick in one game against Cirencester but it was his eight appearances from the bench that lived long in the memory, as he notched four goals from these cameo appearances including a most vital strike…
“It was the last home game of the season and we needed a win to keep us up. We went behind just after the break but I managed to win a penalty to put us level then scored one of the most important goals in my career to keep us up!”
Ford zooms off from the start
At the start of the next campaign, Ford’s heroics appeared to be unrewarded as he found himself one again restricted to a substitute role until another astonishing run as a scoring sub finally secured a good spell in the starting XI for the former Blandford flyer. He never looked back in the 2012/13 season, fulfilling his promise to fill the “massive boots” left by the departure of star striker Byerley.
“I learned so much from Matt Groves that season. Ben Joyce and Yetts [Stewart Yetton] were great too and Scott Walker showed me a few “old man” tricks. There were a few jokers though, especially Ben Gerring and Stephen Reed.”
In February, Mark was quoted as saying there was “no reason they could not target the playoffs” but a disastrous end to the campaign followed and the team only picked up three points out of a possible 21 to finish a disappointing ninth. However, Ford was rewarded for his personal endeavours with a new two-year contract. Mark started 31 times that season, only coming on as a sub on four occasions, scoring 21 goals in total, only five of those strikes not in the league or national cups.
Ford breaks down
Those halcyon days never quite retuned in the 2013/14 campaign, Mark having to compete for a place upfront with the talismanic Stewart Yetton. December of that year saw a change of management at the Bob Lucas Stadium, goalkeeper Jason Matthews taking the reins from Brendon King but Mark had barely a month to adjust to life under a new manager before disaster struck in January 2014 with a triple break in his foot in a game against Corby.
“That was my first ever injury and a stupid 50/50 tackle and I got the worst of it!”
He returned three months later and played in the last seven games of the campaign, all from the bench, but could not reignite that magic touch from the dugout that was the hallmark of his first few months at the club.
“It took me a long time to get over that injury, not just physically but also mentally”
He played 39 times though that season bagging 12 goals, ironically all from starts, although only three came in prestige games in the league, FA Cup or Trophy.
End of the road for Ford
Ford returned after the summer break but only played twice for the first team in the August, the third league game of the 2013/14 season proving to be his last in a Terras first-team game, a drab 0-2 reverse away at St. Neots. For the next few weeks, Mark turned out of the reserves, scoring five in six games followed by a brace in an U21 game but then, at the start of October, it was announced he would be joining Cirencester Town on loan. That winter, despite a clear desire to break back into the first team, it was only more loan spells that were offered before he finally left the club in January 2016 to join up with his former manager King at Wimborne Town, his departure announced to the press by reserve team coach Bradley Asagba.
“Of course I wish I’d stayed longer but that’s football. When I went to Wimborne I helped them stay up in another relegation battle which was a brilliant time and I was really enjoying my football again”
The long petering-out of his time at the Terras was in stark contrast to his explosive start at the Bob Lucas but Ford can be proud that he made his mark and although he may not want to be remembered as a “super-sub” it was certainly that initial and unbelievably prolific goal-poaching from the bench that propelled a memorable couple of years in his career.
As mentioned before, Mark shares the record for most goals by a Weymouth substitute but all of his seven strikes came in his first 17 appearances off the bench, a feat that no one else at the club has ever come close to matching!
Mark ended his Weymouth career with figures of 43 goals in 102 league and cup appearances for the first team with 58% starts, finishing 10th in the list of top WFC goal scorers of the last 30 seasons…not bad for a “super-sub”.
Mark is now back at his boyhood club Blandford United and he also now has a career to focus on with the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service.
“Its great to see Weymouth rising and rising and after my game on a Saturday I always look for their result first. Take care all the #Terras fans and hope to see you very soon!”
Thanks to Duncan for this article. Duncan produces some brilliant statistics on The Terras and you can follow him on Twitter