The moment that saved my career

Revival: Strike ace Neil Mellor has fought back from a career lowpoint to play the best football of his career with Wednesday.
Revival: Strike ace Neil Mellor has fought back from a career lowpoint to play the best football of his career with Wednesday.
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NEIL Mellor is the current star of Hillsborough - but it has not always been that way.

NEIL Mellor is the current star of Hillsborough - but it has not always been that way.

The man who is now collecting awards and believes he is hitting the best form of his career admits that there was a time when he had to take stock about where he was heading.

He came to Hillsborough confident of a promotion challenge, with experience of top-flight football at Liverpool, and the Championship play-offs with Preston, but he began to think, when he found himself on the bench for a League One game at Yeovil in October.

Looking back on his career, he explains: “There have

been times when I’ve been stuck in a comfort zone. and was kind of almost letting my career slip by.

“That time when I was on the bench at Yeovil ... I thought to myself ‘this isn’t right, I’m on the bench in League One’.

“I had a good look at myself and refocused on what I wanted to achieve in my career.

“Scoring 20 con

sistently is one of the things, and realising my potential, and going on to play in the Championship and score goals there as well.

“I’ve played in the Champions League, the Premier League and the Championship play-offs. Being sat on the bench in League One is a real kick up the bum. I thought ‘if you’re not careful, that’s going to happen more often’.

“It was up to me to try to get myself going and refocus on my career. I feel that I’ve done that,”

Even after Yeovil it was not all plain sailing for the loan ace, but he has made a remarkable renaissance in April, scoring six goals, reaching 20 for the season, winning the club’s and Owls Foundation Player of the Year awards, and challenging for the Football League’s League One Player of the Month title.

He is proud of such accolades, and sounds a bit miffed that he did not win the league award for November: “I scored two hat-tricks. I kind of wondered what

you needed to do to win that award. Johnny Jackson, the Charlton midfield player. won it. I think he scored two penalties and beat me!”

With confidence at a high, he says: “I know what I am capable of, but it’s time for me to fulfil that potential. I’m 28. I’m coming into the peak of my career.

“I feel I’m playing the best football I’ve ever played, and I know I’ll score goals.”

Whether those goals in future will come for Wednesday, his club Preston, or someone else, no-one yet knows.

Mellor says there have been no discussions with the Owls on a new deal, and the ball is in Preston’s court because he is under contract to them for a further year.

He also admits that other clubs could be interested in view of his scoring exploits.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says, having repeatedly made it plain that his ideal would be stay at Hillsborough.

Firstly, there is a job to be done against Exeter at Hillsborough tomorrow. Mellor played only as a sub when the Owls crashed 5-1 at Plainmoor in December.

“It would be good to win five on the bounce at home,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get a bumper crowd, and it could give everybody a big lift for next season.”

Author Andy Cooper will be in the Owls shop at 1pm tomorrow at a launch of his biography on the late, great Eric Taylor, the club’s former secretary and manager who was known as ‘Mr Sheffield Wednesday’.