FEATURE: Jobi McAnuff – I’ve heard good things about Stevenage and I want to make things happen next season

Jobi McAnuff. Picture: Layth Yousif.

Jobi McAnuff. Picture: Layth Yousif. - Credit: Archant

Of all the signings Darren Sarll has made this pre-season perhaps his most astute was to bring a vastly experienced former Premier League international into the fold.

Joel Joshua Frederick Melvin McAnuff, know to all as Jobi, is pleased to be a Boro player, putting pen to paper for the The Lamex outfit earlier this month – after former club Leyton Orient decided against renewing his two year deal which expired in May.

The former Wimbledon, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Watford and Reading player was praised by boss Sarll after getting vital game time under his belt in the 1-0 win over Championship contenders Brighton and Hove Albion yesterday – as his new team look set for a far better season than last year’s flirtation with relegation from League Two.

The Comet met him earlier in the week to find out a little more about him.

A figure of slim build so slight you might miss him walks confidently towards our meeting. He looks you squarely in the eye and offers and firm handshake. This is a man who means business. A footballer, who, denied his lifeblood of playing every week for the East London team through what many have described as ‘politics’, comes to the North Herts club hungry to extend his career. And determined to enjoy as much game time as he can.

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McAnuff is an experienced professional, who not only played for Reading during their Premier League stint in 2012/13 at world-renowned footballing cathedrals such as Old Trafford, Anfied and The Emirates – but is also someone who proudly represents Jamaica, his father’s country of birth – including having played in South America’s prestigious Copa America.

This is a man who knows football. And who knows what he wants to achieve in the coming season.

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The 34-year-old – who looks like he could pass for ten years younger – says: “I’m delighted to get the move done now.

“I’ve heard good things about the club, the environment and the positivity about the place – which has already been confirmed during my short time here.

“Last season was really up and down for me. It started badly from a politics point of view but once I got back in the team I had a decent little run and really enjoyed my time under Ian Hendon and then Kevin Nolan.”

For someone with more than 400 league appearances under his belt his quiet but genuine enthusiasm shines through. Although predominantly a winger he has also competed in the hustle and bustle of central midfield.

Explaining what Boro fans can expect of him next term he explains: “From a football point of view I’m the type of player who wants to make things happen, who wants to get forward and contribute in terms of creating chances and in scoring goals.

“For me now it’s just about getting ready for that first game in three weeks, getting my head down and cracking on.”

Manager Darren Sarll, speaking after his team’s eye-catching victory over Premier League hopefuls Brighton yesterday, did not disguise his satisfaction at having McAnuff on board - and the fact he gained important game time in sweltering conditions.

He said: “I thought Jobi was excellent.

“For someone who’s had so few minutes and playing time his psychical work for us against Brighton was excellent.

“I thought Jobi was able to diagnose and construct something from situations where maybe a younger player would be less composed and may get wrong.

“I’m very pleased to have him on board.”

McAnuff, whose most recent experience of Stevenage was playing in a 5-1 defeat for Orient reserves early last season reflects on his career, with one ‘crazy’ game sticking out in the memory – Reading 5, Arsenal 7 (aet), in the fourth round of the 2012/13 League Cup.

A wry smile enters his face before musing: “Yes, it was an incredible game to be involved with. We went 4-0 up against quite a strong Arsenal team, but they pulled one back just before half-time, and despite it being 5-5 at one stage they eventually beat us 7-5.

“I suppose it’s something to say you’ve appeared in one of the most amazing games in football history ever, but I’d have much rather it had been a quiet game if we had beaten Arsenal!”

Sarll’s treatment of McAnuff is of a boss who wants to make his new arrival comfortable and confident in his new surroundings – a far cry from the way the North London born wideman appeared to have been treated at his former club.

Despite suffering the ignominy of being pulled from Orient’s official team photo this time last season he kept his counsel and dignity as a number of sources last season confirmed at times the club were less than desperate to keep him.

But that’s all in the past now.

Veteran McAnuff, whose attitude has never been in question, is just happy to be at Stevenage and do as well as he can. Passionate Sarll agrees, explaining the rationale behind bringing McAnuff to Stevenage when analysing the disappointment of last season.

“I always felt last year we couldn’t play as early as I’d like to our front two – but we got away with it because we had some outstanding football players in midfield like Michael Tongue and Charlie Lee so we were able to paper over the cracks a little bit.

“But this year I want us to add a little more to our attacking play – and Jobi offers us that extra bit of creativity,” before adding, “It’s like having another Michael Tonge – but higher up the pitch.”

Knowing the huge respect Sarll has for Tonge – and vice versa – that is high praise indeed for McAnuff.

And with a manager such as Sarll backing you, the diminutive but steely McAnuff won’t want to disappoint anyone – meaning the forthcoming season could well be a vintage one for McAnuff, his team, and the club.

As Stevenage under Sarll appear to mean business once again after the travails of last season, no-one would begrudge a little success for Jobi Anuff either.

It’s the least he deserves.

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