MACAULEY Bonne is out to prove his stellar football season with Leyton Orient was no fluke — and has set his sights on playing in the English Championship (equivalent of Division One).
BY CHRIS DUNLAVY
The Non-League Paper
“Macca”, (22) joined the O’s from Colchester United last summer and struck 25 times to finish as the club’s stop scorer.
The striker also won his first cap for Zimbabwe and came third in the race for the National League golden boot.
But despite interest from a smattering of EFL (English Football League) clubs, Bonne wants to stay at Brisbane Road and ensure the clamour for his services reaches fever-pitch next summer.
“I don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” says Bonne, who came through the ranks at Ipswich. “The best players in the world don’t score 20 goals then have a season off.
They do it again and again for 10, 15 years. Last season was just the start for me.
“There’s been interest. I’ve had the odd phone call. To be honest, though, I put that stuff to the back of my mind. If something comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Moving now isn’t the be-all and end-all.
“My focus is here. I’m grateful to be where I am now, and I’m fortunate to be playing first-team football at a big club.
“Like I say, it’s all about consistency. If clubs see you do it for a year, they’re like ‘Well, he could be good but it’s still a risk’. You might get one or two interested. But if I can carry on scoring for the next 6-12 months, that one or two turns into five or ten.”
For many players, dropping into the National League is an act of desperation. Bonne — who had a year left on his Colchester contract — says moving to Orient was all part of a career blueprint.
“I’ve got a plan, and coming here was part of that,” insists the forward, who made his debut for the U’s at 17 and subsequently scored seven goals in 75 games.
“I needed a change of scenery. Playing for Colchester was becoming more like a habit just going through the motions. I realised I had to get out of my comfort zone and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
“I had two managers last season, Steve Davis and then Justin Edinburgh. Both of them believed in me. Both of them let me play my own game, which wasn’t the case at Colchester.
“A lot of the time, I played on the wings. That’s not me. Yeah, I’ve got a few tricks. But I can’t do it for 90 minutes. I see myself as an old school centre-forward — knock it, head it, take the beatings and score a few goals.
“And even when I went four to five games without scoring, the gaffer still played me. He knew that I’d run and graft, that I’d create chances and get in the mixer. That’s the difference.
“People talk about dropping a league, but football is football. You’re still doing the same thing they’re doing in the Premier League, just for a bit less money. And if you do it well, people notice.
“Right now, I’m a National League player. But my plan has always been to work my way back up and, one day, grace the Championship.”
That isn’t Bonne’s only lofty ambition. Born in Ipswich to Zimbabwean parents, he made a long-awaited debut for the Warriors against Lesotho in November and is now targeting a place at the African Cup of Nations (ACN) next summer.
“It was a proud moment for my family,” he says. “Me and my younger brother are the only members of our family who were born here. Everybody is from Zimbabwe.
“They left in 1991. My sister was disabled and has some quite serious medical needs.
The facilities over there were nowhere near good enough, so that was the reason.
“I hadn’t been back to Zimbabwe since I was 10, so going out there was a great experience. The atmosphere, the way they treat you — it’s out of this world. It’s something I love doing and I can’t wait to get back out there again.
“I’ve actually got an ACN qualifying game in September and to play in that tournament would be unreal. If you can’t play in a World Cup, then that is the big one really.
“Just look at the people who’ve played there over the years. Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba. Now you’ve got Sadio Mane, Mo Salah. It would be amazing.”
First, however, there is the small matter of getting Orient back into the Football League — and negotiating a blockbuster opening day clash at bookies’ favourites Salford.
“They are the team who everyone is looking forward to playing,” says Bonne. “And for us, it’s a great fixture to start with.
“Justin knows the league. He’s been promoted and has ambitions to do it again.
Everybody here is on that same wavelength. We’re all looking to challenge at the top. So if we can go to Salford and get a win, that will put a real marker down for the season.”