Player profile: Ciaran Toner

Cod Almighty | Article

by Baz Rockliff

6 August 2007

With three months of last season to go, Grimsby Town looked like becoming yet another former club on Ciaran Toner's CV. To me, for his first year and a bit with the Mariners, Toner always looked the most technically gifted footballer at the club. However, when we were up against it, he was found wanting, while the Bollands and Whittles of this world were out fighting.

The recently turned 26-year-old from Craigavon had spent his time at Town in and out of the first XI and, when in it, frequently swapping between his favoured central midfield role and the left wing. After Graham Rodger was sacked and replaced by Alan Buckley, it was unclear to how the new boss would react to a player like Toner, talented yet infuriatingly inconsistent. He started Buckley's first match at Northampton but his only appearance in the next 11 games was as a half-time substitute at home to Torquay. Players like Gary Harkins, Ricky Ravenhill and Anthony Pulis were preferred in the centre while Nick Hegarty and latterly Nicky Rizzo (remember him?) were used on the left.

With Rizzo picking up a debut injury and Hegarty not impressing, Ciaran returned on a Monday night, live on TV at the Bescot. He did enough to keep his place for the next two games: Darlington, where he reminded Martin Paterson that he was the number one penalty taker, before missing; and the infamous 4-1 return meeting at Torquay.

And this is where we came in. Three months of the season left, and a massive relegation battle against Boston, away at York Street. Toner started on the left in a 4-5-1 and scored in a 6-0 victory. In the seven games after that, Toner produced four more goals, including winners against soon-to-be-promoted Bristol Rovers and Swindon, and a goal of the season contender at home to Bury. Rumours of a move to Notts County came and went before Toner agreed a new two-year deal in April.

If the Ciaran Toner that earned the new contract is the same Ciaran Toner that starts next season, we could be in for an exciting year. Buckley, and the fans, demand it.