Featured, Football

JDT vs Perak: Bobby Gonzales, it’s time for redemption

Bobby Gonzales is an enigma.

He was once an undisputed hero in Sarawak. The Crocs clinched the 2013 Premier League title in fashion, remaining unbeaten throughout the season and Bobby was their hero that year. He scored a total of 20 goals that season – something that widely celebrated, considering the scarcity of local strikers who can actually score that amount these days.

But fast forward two years, and Bobby is now almost a forgotten individual. He left Sarawak to join PDRM in 2014, before moving to Perak earlier this year. Little did he know, that things were about to change.

Bobby has barely featured for Perak this season and it was a well-known fact that he wasn’t Datuk M. Karathu’s favourite, either. Coach Karathu has a tendency of opting for players who are workhorses – a trait that he expects within strikers as well. But Bobby is a classic predator within the box and his ability didn’t fit Karathu’s principles.

Photo Credit: Asiana.my
Photo Credit: Asiana.my

Was Karathu ruining his career? As much as some sections of the fans would like to think so, it’s also a fair to assume that a head coach should be allowed to operate with players that he trusts to fit into his philosophy. And up until earlier this month, things were going relatively well for the Seladangs as well. There was no reason to question Coach Karathu.

But there were some who did question him, earlier this year. Karathu responded by fielding Bobby in their home game against PDRM in March, in which they ultimately lost 3-1. Bobby fired blanks throughout the night and was guilty of being wasteful in front of goal.

“People keep talking about him. I hope they saw him play tonight,” Karathu told Sinar Harian right after the match. “I see him in training every day, this is precisely why I don’t field him in matches.”

That game visibly took a toll on his status within the team. It was meant to be a baptism of fire, but he failed miserably. Even if we knew he was capable of much more, it didn’t matter because Karathu had validated his point, and it was now time to move – something they certainly did. Months passed, people began to forget about Bobby. He was occasionally thrown in as a substitute, but there was very little he could do, to steal the thunder from a side that was breaking expectations with a young squad.

Photo Credit: Asiana.my
Photo Credit: Asiana.my

Then again, apparently he could.

After four consecutive defeat, Perak forced Datuk M. Karathu into ‘taking a break’ from his role, handing the job over to Abu Bakar Fadzim. It was a move that was mainly expected to revive Perak’s fortunes in the league (since they slipped from 3rd to 8th on the table), but the change ultimately helped Bobby rediscover his goalscoring boots as well.

He’s now netted two goals in two games – both of them coming against giants of Malaysian football in the form of Terengganu and Pahang. The former was an impressive one as well, considering that Perak were 2-0 down against the run of play, when he fired home to reduce the deficit. You’d have never expected to see him doing this in a Perak shirt. All of a sudden, the Bobby who floundered against PDRM, seemed like a clumsy doppelganger.

But is he back? That’s too early to say. Two goals in two games does sound nice on paper, but bad news is that he’ll need to do much more than that to ‘announce’ his return and potentially regain the trust of the supporters. On the other hand, there’s a good news as well. He could very well achieve 70-80% of that on Wednesday night.

Photo Credit: Johor Southern Tigers
Photo Credit: Johor Southern Tigers

Perak will be visiting Larkin to face title contenders Johor DT in what could arguably be a must-win match for the home side. They are level on points with Pahang at the moment, and with two games left, points and goals are worth as much as they will ever do. But even for the Seladangs, there is value in this match. Beating the reigning champions would soften the impact of their recent struggles, and it would be a nice way to end the season and prepare for the Malaysia Cup transition. That also means, that Bobby is in a unique position to help actualize that.

His form over the last two games means that he will most likely start against the Southern Tigers on Tuesday. He may not be a fan favourite at this point. But if he can extend his form and spur Abu Bakar Fadzim’s men to victory on Wednesday, he’ll be an undisputed villain within the Larkin stadium at the end of the night, for putting a major dent on JDT’s title hopes.

But bear in mind that the Perak fans have always loved villains of their own. Villains that go on to earn a cult status within the club. Bobby, it’s time for you to redeem yourself.

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