After bringing his goal tally for the season to 25 with a clinical finish in Tuesday night’s 3-0 win at Cowdenbeath, Clyde striker David Goodwillie admitted that he still harbours hopes of returning to a higher level of football. It is patently clear to anyone who has seen the Bully Wee this season that the former Dundee United, Blackburn Rovers, Aberdeen, Ross County and Plymouth Argyle forward is too good to be playing in Scotland’s fourth tier.
If it was down to football credentials alone, the 29-year-old, who once cost Blackburn the guts of £3 million a few months before scoring for Scotland against then-world champions Spain in 2011, would feature prominently on the radar of every Scottish Championship manager and indeed probably a good few in the Premiership as they weigh up their summer recruitment. “Of course I’ve got aspirations of going back up a level,” Goodwillie said after his latest strike in an impressive season. “If you ask any footballer, they’ll say they want to play at the highest level they can so I’m not going to say I don’t want to play at a higher level.”
Recognising that there is a significant reason that he is currently operating well beneath his level, Goodwillie added the caveat: “I need to be respectful to Clyde though because they believed in me and gave me a chance, and I’ll always be thankful for that.”
Goodwillie is well aware that Clyde took a significant hit to their reputation when they decided to give him a platform to continue playing football just three months after he and former Dundee United team-mate David Robertson had been judged by a civil court to have raped Denise Clair, of Livingston, following a night out in West Lothian in January 2011. Goodwillie was a United player at the time and was able to continue his career for a further six years as the Crown Office decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute him. Goodwillie’s status altered significantly 14 months ago, however, when Ms Clair successfully brought a civil action against him and Robertson. At the Court of Session in Edinburgh, judge Lord Armstrong ruled the two footballers had raped her and ordered them to pay £100,000 in damages. Goodwillie immediately left Plymouth in January and a subsequent appeal against the ruling was dismissed in November.
In between times, Goodwillie had controversially returned to football when Clyde signed him last April, initially on a short-term contract. The Cumbernauld club were widely condemned but incoming chairman Norrie Innes said at the time they were “seeking to help someone when others want to punish him”. He added: “I have helped people in need in the past and it can be testing and challenging, especially when they – sometimes – let you and themselves down, but I will not change. If the opportunity arises to do so then we should all embrace this approach.”
In a purely football context at least, Goodwillie has certainly justified Clyde’s faith, with his goals, including 13 in his last 13 games, playing a major part in elevating Danny Lennon’s team into the League 2 play-off zone after their early-season struggles at the foot of the table under previous manager Jim Chapman. The Clyde fans bounded out of Central Park on Tuesday night singing Goodwillie’s name with gusto.
“The way the fans and the chairman have been with me, it means a lot to me,” said the striker, who insists scoring regularly in League 2 has brought him as much satisfaction as any of his exploits at a higher level. “The fans have taken to me and taken me in when they might not have, so I’m really thankful for that. I appreciate it every single time I step on the pitch for them.”
Goodwillie’s regaining of this status so soon after such a character-damning verdict went against him offers a reminder that in professional football, ultimately, goals – not morals – pay the bills. While that scenario may be sickening for many – not least Ms Clair, who spoke out publicly in December to criticise Clyde’s stance – the gradual quietening of those opposed to the contentious move over the past 12 months offers Goodwillie hope that there will be another club further up the ladder similarly willing to take a short-term savaging in return for a striker with a season-enhancing batch of goals in his boots.