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The Highs And (Mainly) Lows Of Ben May

Friday 23rd March 2012
The adjective ‘prolific' is one word that has never been associated to Stevenage striker Ben May. The 28-year old, currently on loan at League Two Barnet, has seemingly struggled at every club he has had the pleasure of playing for.

Starting his career in youth academies at Southampton, Fulham and Millwall, it was at the Lions where he made his first senior appearance in 2002. During seven years at the New Den, the striker had sporadic spells in the first team mixed with unsuccessful loans at Colchester United and Brentford.

January 2007 was a time to forget as May, who was stuck in the reserves at Millwall at the time, and good friend Glen Johnson were caught shoplifting bathroom appliances from a B&Q store in Dartford, Kent. The incident being a matter of confusion was simply irrelevant as both culprits will always have the incident hanging over the both of them.

Football-wise May was coming to the end of his career at the New Den. The striker joined Scunthorpe United for a two-month loan spell where he impressed then Iron manager Nigel Adkins, despite not scoring in his five games for the club. May scored 19 goals in 95 appearances for Millwall, which no one would describe as prolific. But the 6'1" forward was seen as a provider rather than a goalscorer by Millwall supporters and Adkins, who signed the striker for an ‘undisclosed fee' in January 2008.

His time at Glanford Park was riddled by an ankle injury but even when he was fit, he was again struggling to find the net. After a disastrous debut season at Scunthorpe, May was in scintillating form in the club's 2009 pre-season friendlies scoring seven goals in three games, five of which came in one half of Scunthorpe's 12-0 victory over Brigg Town.

Despite this, May's luck ran out again. He fell out of favour with Adkins, who preferred the strike partnership of Paul Hayes and Gary Hooper. Four games into the new season, May had made zero appearances, and then once again injured his ankle which put him out for a month. Once he returned from the injury, he then injured his other ankle. If May was struggling with confidence from his lack of first team chances at Scunthorpe, then his injury problems must have had him wondering whether he would ever get a decent run in at any club again. His injury plagued season made sure that he made only one appearance and was subsequently released from the club at the end of the season. During his time at Scunthorpe he scored five goals in 51 games.

So May was without a club, had constant injury problems and his reputation was of a low scoring striker. No sane manager would go near him with a barge pole - except for one man. May had impressed during a trial in October 2010 and was later signed by League Two newcomers Stevenage. Before the striker signed on the dotted line, Boro manager Graham Westley infamously asked May “Are you a winner?” Ben's answer ultimately landed him a contract. Westley was impressed with May's attitude saying: “it's fantastic to see a player putting their football before pound notes” after he had signed May on a contract that was largely appearance based due to the player's past troubles with injury.

Despite May needing a back operation due to a non-footballing incident, he had plenty of first team action. The Boro's loyal followers were not happy with May's apparent lack of desire to chase balls down and pressurise defenders, although this was mainly due to his upcoming operation. After the procedure May returned to first team action, making 21 appearances without scoring a goal. It seemed May was back to his old self and Westley had bagged a donkey of a signing.

Boro's final league game of that season was at home to already promoted Bury. Stevenage needed a point from the game to grab the final play-off spot and with 15 minutes to go in an enthralling match, they were 3-2 down. The script was set for May after he came on as a second half sub. A cross from winger Rob Sinclair found May in the box, who prodded home the equaliser and his goal eventually gave Boro that coveted play-off spot.

May was elated – only for his bad luck to come back to haunt him once again. As he celebrated his rare and vital goal, he slid on the ground in jubilation and pulled his hamstring. May went on to miss out on Stevenage's incredible play-off run which saw them defeat Accrington Stanley in both semi-final legs and then Torquay United in the Final at Old Trafford.

May was kept at the club for Boro's maiden campaign in League One, but once again found first team opportunities hard to come by. Stevenage were flying through the early stages of League One, thrashing Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 and collecting wins against the likes of Sheffield United and Charlton Athletic - with May on the sidelines.

When manager Graham Westley left to join Preston North End, May could smell an opportunity as MLS-winning coach Gary Smith joined the Boro. New boss Smith gave May several appearances but he failed to add to his tally of one Stevenage goal.

Earlier this month, he was sent out on loan to Stevenage rivals and struggling League Two side Barnet. The majority of Boro fans were pleased Smith sent May from the club, but they may now wish he was back at the club. At the time of writing this article May has scored twice in three games for the Bees, including a stunning 30-yard volley in the club's 2-2 draw with Dagenham & Redbridge.

Is this the time Ben May finally proves himself as a prolific goalscorer or will his streak of bad luck catch up with him once again? Considering the bad luck he has endured, maybe he is finally due a positive break.
Daniel Barnes

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