DEAN Bowditch made his Brighton and Hove Albion debut against his current employers MK Dons.
It was just over 10 years ago – in November 2006 – when he came on as a second half substitute for Tommy Fraser as Brighton beat the football franchise outfit 4-1 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Bowditch, who after a promising start had struggled to gain a regular place at Ipswich Town, joined Dean Wilkins’ League One Seagulls on loan on the recommendation of two former Albion players.
Darren Currie and Dan Harding, who were Portman Road teammates at the time, convinced Bowditch it would be a good move to make.
“They told me about the club and said it’s a really nice place to be as well, and that I would really enjoy it, so that’s what made my decision,” he told the Argus.
Wilkins was clearly chuffed to capture the Ipswich youngster and told the Argus: “He’s been involved in ten Championship games this season, albeit coming off the bench sometimes, so it is a really good signing for us.
“Dean’s got good awareness and ability on the ball. He’s lively and he’s just under six foot. We are bringing in somebody who is very talented who maybe at some stage has lost his way a bit at Ipswich.”
Bowditch, who was only 20 then, also came off the bench in the following Saturday’s league game at Bradford City and netted the winner as Albion secured a third successive win on the road 3-2.
I was at Valley Parade that afternoon and remember Bowditch’s instant impact, laying the ball out wide to Alex Revell (another who went on to play for MK Dons) and then getting onto the end of Revell’s cross to steer the ball past the erratic City goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
Cue scenes of jubilation in the away end – and the astonishing sight of an over-zealous steward removing injured goalkeeper Wayne Henderson, who’d been standing with the fans, for the exuberance of his celebration!
It looked like the start of something good for Bowditch but sadly that was to be the only goal he scored for the Albion!
A teenage sensation when he made his Ipswich debut at 16 against fierce rivals Norwich City in 2003, he represented England’s under 16, 17 and 18 teams playing alongside the likes of Aaron Lennon and James Milner.
Over two seasons between 2004 and 2006 he played 46 games at Championship level but, by his own admission, he didn’t deal with it well when manager Joe Royle left him out of the side.
When Jim Magilton took over, he gave Bowditch some starts at the beginning of the 2006-07 season but with the side losing he was dropped and then used mainly as a substitute.
Before arriving at the ‘Theatre of Trees’, he had already been to Burnley and Wycombe Wanderers on loan, neither of which worked out well.
But on arrival at Brighton, he sounded upbeat about the temporary move. Interviews he gave to the Argus hinted at lots of promise (‘Bowditch vows to help Albion reach the play-offs’ was the headline on one piece) and he told Andy Naylor: “They don’t deserve to be in this league, they deserve to be in the league above…the amount of quality and desire in the team is fantastic…it’s not a very nice league and they need to be back up there playing against some really good teams.”
But he was hampered by a niggling groin injury and actually only managed one start in addition to a couple of substitute appearances.
The following season he went out on loan again and his appearance tally got into double figures with Northampton Town. Wilkins then brought him back to Brighton for a second loan spell early in February 2008. He played five times but failed to get on the scoresheet.
The following season he was loaned to Brentford where he scored twice in nine appearances. When finally released by Ipswich in 2009, he joined Yeovil Town and at Huish Park he started to get into the groove. He managed to string some games together and, by the end of his first season, was the club’s top goalscorer.
Indeed his scoring rate for Yeovil was one every three games (25 in 75 appearances) but at the end of his second season in the West Country he declined the offer of a new contract and moved to MK Dons.
Now in his sixth season with them, he’s enjoyed the most prolific spell of his career, netting 48 goals in 218 appearances.
- Argus headlines covering Dean Bowditch’s initial brief loan spell with the Albion.