Wycombe v Scunthorpe
IT’S almost three years since Cameron Borthwick-Jackson made his debut for his beloved Manchester United but it is at League One Scunthorpe where the 21-year-old is finally getting a run of games.
Since being tipped for stardom by Chris Smalling after a fine display against Liverpool, Borthwick-Jackson has endured miserable spells at Wolves and Leeds after being loaned out by Jose Mourinho.
However, those experiences have not dimmed the determination of the left-back, who grew up just four miles from Old Trafford, to eventually make his mark at his boyhood club.
‘The loan system is tough — it works for some but not for others. It’s a risk. Sometimes it pays off,’ he says.
‘In some cases there needs to be some protection with January call backs — so you have that bit of power.
‘But you are going out to fight for a place. It should not be given to you. You need to be on top of your game, competition is good.’ Things looked bright when Borthwick-Jackson made his United debut under Louis Van Gaal, playing ten league games in 2015-16.
‘It showed the manager had faith in me and I managed to be in there week in, week out. Van Gaal liked youth,’ he says.
‘However Jose Mourinho said “I rate you but go out and get games”.’
That hardly worked under Walter Zenga at Wolves, despite being man of the match in his first game. Next week he watched from the stands. ‘I thought what’s going on here? It was a good opportunity to get games at a good club. You can see Wolves are flying now. It was very strange,’ he admits.
‘The manager liked to change up eight or nine players every game.
‘That was his downfall in a way because he did not last very long there.’
The Italian was gone by November and new manager Paul Lambert did not fancy his loanee. ‘I was young and he had to make a difference fairly quickly,’ recalls Borthwick-Jackson.
‘He had his team. I don’t think I was his kind of player.’ Next stop was Leeds where, despite the historic enmity between the two Uniteds on either side of the Pennines, the young defender received a standing ovation in his first league game. ‘That was interesting! It felt good, it’s not something you expect as a Mancunian going over that way,’ he says.
A fat lot of good it did him — he never played in the league again for Leeds and made just six appearances.
‘If I wasn’t going to play, there was no point in me being there. I might as well be at home, happy, and get my confidence back,’ he recalls.
Another six months went by before he signed for Scunthorpe this summer after meeting Iron boss Nick Daws.
‘It felt different straight away. The boss explained what his plans were for this season and how he wanted to play,’ he says.
And yet Daws was sacked four games into this season. At least his Glanford Park replacement Stuart McCall has kept faith with Borthwick-Jackson.
‘It was just a case of making good first impressions again,’ he says.
‘That’s all you can do — work as hard as you can, keep your head down and play football.’
Despite reportedly earning around £10,000 a week at United, the defender has had no issues settling in, saying: ‘I don’t think there is any difference between me and the other players. We’re all here for the same reasons — hopefully at the end of the season we’re up there for promotion.’
Despite his stop-start career, CBJ — who is contracted to United until 2020 — does not think he is in the shop window. ‘I don’t feel that’s the plan. I simply need to gain experience to play as many games as I can put myself in a better position,’ he adds.
‘United are in touch all the time. I get phone calls two or three times a week — probably even more. They watch me in games and training sometimes.’
■ 2 — Goals in eight first-half minutes for Borthwick-Jackson in the Iron’s recent 5-3 win over Charlton, his only senior career goals so far
■ 6 — points separate Scunthorpe from the play-off spots having enjoyed an upturn in fortunes since Stuart McCall became manager in August