Pega Estrela – Two Years Of Ruben

BOM DIA / BOA NOITE (depending on which part of the world you read this)!

Since we began our announcement of Ruben Rodrigues by wishing supporters a good morning in Portuguese, I felt it was fitting to greet you all in the same fashion. Now, I am definitely not fluent in the old Portuguese, but I know my fair share. Who am I kidding, thank you very much Google Translate.

Two years of Ruben Rodrigues, and what a joyous two years he has given us. As we laid our heads to rest on the 6th of August 2020, we did not expect to wake up the following morning to an overseas recruit who has turned out to be a huge success for us, did we? But that is what we got, and two years on I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and re-visit the moments of jubilation the boy has delivered us.

But, before all of his successes in our colours, life at Meadow Lane did not begin so swimmingly for our maestro as I am sure you can all remember. It was rumoured that likewise the departed Elisha Sam, Rodrigues shared the same attitude issues during Neal Ardley’s reign as manager which saw the pairing removed from the first-team squad. At the time, it felt a huge shame I know, almost felt as if he was all but certain to depart but then fortunately returned to the matchday sixteen. Ultimately, this is where you now must give a heap of credit to Ian Burchnall as it goes without saying that his biggest success as Head Coach here was unlocking and displaying the full potential of our number 20. Crazy I know, how one man can go from virtually worthless to now irreplaceable but what a fantastic turn of events, and a turn of events we are all most certainly grateful for.

Now then, first stop on the trip down memory lane is that comeback against Chesterfield in November 2020.

We can all admit, when Tom Denton nodded the ball home, we thought that was the match-winner. Who wouldn’t, Chesterfield is no easy place to go and with a game where the stakes were as high as what they were, who would have predicted for us to score two injury time goals to win us the game? Not me, yet that was exactly what we did. But, who sparked that comeback? That’s correct, Ruben Rodrigues. A hit and hope, almost desperate free kick into the penalty area to salvage a point was headered home by the boy and we can all admit, we jumped off our sofas celebrating. Who would have ever thought a player who is magnificent with the ball at his feet is just as good with the ball at his head? Then again, I do not think there is anything Ruben cannot do so maybe it is a case of we should have known. Two minutes beyond the header, former talisman Kyle Wootton won us the game. Now, I wonder who got the assist? Ruben. Pretends to be shocked I know, but what an incredible curled cross into the penalty area. You could say a striker’s dream but ultimately, what striker at this level would not dream of playing ahead of the best player in the division. After a sudden return to the squad a few weeks prior to this game, this moment was when we all realised that maybe this boy is quite special and you know what Notts fans, we were not wrong.

Next stop, that wonder strike against Dagenham and Redbridge.

Crazy game, you remember? Sam Slocombe being sent off and Manuel Neuer replacing him. Manuel Neuer? I meant Michael Doyle but watching on from home, it looked as if it may as well have been. The pressure was on us, given we had our former veteran-like midfielder between our sticks, and you just felt, a bit of magic from one of the nine outfield players could really settle our nerves. Who stepped up? That man again, Ruben. Arguably one of if not his greatest strike in our colours so far. Icy, snowy conditions, no options ahead of him, thirty yards from goal, BANG! Top corner of the goal ahead of the Family Stand rippled but as I said previously, is there anything the boy cannot do? No. What made this goal even more memorable was the celebration that followed it. With the ground being full of snow, a better day would have been more suitable for the acrobatics, yet a front-flip Diversity would be jealous of followed and you cannot say you was not impressed.

Next stop, Sutton United at Meadow Lane back in May 2021.

Does this game really need any introduction? I do not think so. Lets begin firstly by speaking about the stakes of this game. The Vanarama National League season was reaching its conclusion and the top seven was constantly changing, with a list of the big clubs trying to confirm their home play-off game. We at this time had just begun to hit good form but then faced a visit from the league leaders and eventual champions. Our Portuguese maestro opened the scoring courtesy of a sublime, driven finish from the edge of the box in which darted into the bottom corner. Then, the visitors netted twice, and we all felt at that point that the mission was too big to complete. This at the time was obviously behind-closed-doors, thank you COVID-19 pandemic, and the players had no packed-out Meadow Lane stadium to urge them on for an equaliser. Eventually, it turned out that the squad, despite being reduced to ten men, had the belief stored within them regardless and squared the game at 2-2. Then, you all know what happened next. Penalty, Notts County. Who stepped up? Yes, our number 20, our big game player and that feels like an understatement. What did he go on and do? Slot the ball home for our winner. Stories in careers normally write themselves as long as the players put the work in, and there is no denying an unbelievable amount of hard work was put in to turn the boy’s fortunes this season. Simply and utterly incredible.

Play-Off time. Lets talk about that assist for Mark Ellis’ winner, shall we?

What an incredible occasion it was. Fans were back, for the second and final time of the season and you felt the passion in every single chant sang to spur our team on. It really was a good day to be a Notts fan, wasn’t it? The sun was out, Meadow Lane was full to the maximum it could be and most importantly we won. Do you remember how we did it though? Of course you can, what Notts fan can forget that moment. A game that had everything a local derby needs. Plenty of goals, near-miss opportunities, players getting into heated situations but essentially, Notts County leaving victorious. I likewise you all remember Ruben placing the ball ahead of the Derek Pavis stand with his hands placed on his hips and it almost felt that the noise in the stadium dropped with everyone left stunned in anticipation. The ball he delivered was inch perfect, I likewise you all was up on my feet begging the ball to be met and Mark Ellis answered all our prayers by thundering the ball

home. to this day, I have not heard the Lane as loud as it was when that ball hit the back of the net. Yet, with another year guaranteed of Ruben Rodrigues, I am sure that noise can be beaten.

Barnet at The Hive. Opening day of last season.

A 5-0 win on the opening day, it’s like we had do that before. Oh, we did, and then went on to be crowned champions the same season. Lets hope 3-0 wins on the opening day has the same look and we will be in for an incredible season. Anyway, getting carried away by the instant impact of Luke Williams is not going to help this segment. What is going to help this segment however is speaking about the individual brilliance of a certain Ruben Rodrigues and how such brilliance created a fantastic day out. I feel people forget that this game was goalless at half-time, which ultimately makes the score line even better. However, as the second half began, it was THAT darted header back across goal from Ruben that opened the scoring. The first time was evidently so nice, he went on to do it twice. I remember the sighs that spread across the away end when the corner went to the edge of the box as everyone, including myself, felt it was a chance wasted. How we were so wrong as who was awaiting on the edge of the box? You guessed it. As per usual, Ruben was in the right place at the right time to complete his brace. The beauty of this was the fact that all interest was rejected in the previous summer and all the claims of a one season wonder were put in the nearest bin inside five minutes. This day was significant as it began a very luxurious season of returns for the boy, one we all enjoyed very, very much.

FC Halifax Town, half-way line goal ring any bells?

Look, we do not need to speak on the eventuality of the night and how it concluded because we all know about the capitulation and need no reminding. But, it would have been horribly rude of myself to go on without mentioning this goal. A goal out of nothing really, but Ruben endlessly demonstrates he only needs half a yard or half a second to create a memorable moment. I remember the ball being cleared and the away end urging the backline to step up and relieve themselves of pressure when suddenly a foot race between Town’s keeper and Ruben begun. The player our boy is, with the desire and ability he has in his abundance, we all felt there was only ever going to be one winner to the race, and we were spot on. Would anyone like some salt with that chip? Well, the only thing Ruben added to his was as good as a gallon of water due to the rainy conditions at The Shay that night. But wow, what a goal it was, but as always with the player we all know he is, the goal really felt like it was a standard procedure rather than a hit-and-hope. Incredible.

90+3: GOALLLL! Grimsby Town 0-1 Notts County.

The moment of the season last time out, a moment you really just had to be there to understand the true jubilation in that away end. At the time, Grimsby Town were league leaders and likewise every game we play against them, this one was as close as you could ever imagine. However, the winner felt priceless and a good serve of karma due to the

incident that saw a Notts player discriminated by a Mariners supporter. Regardless, I remember the tired surge of the fantastic Matty Palmer as he was being screamed on by the travelling 1,200 from Nottingham. The shot turned cross was spilled and to our relief, into the path of our Portuguese sensation and you know what happened next. Noise that could have been heard in the middle of Victoria Centre arrived as the net bulged and the players swarmed our goal scorer and match-winner. A so-near 0-0 draw that turned out to be the perfect away day, courtesy of Ruben Rodrigues. Big game player really does feel like a severe understatement at this point, doesn’t it? I agree.

Not one, not two, but three goals away at Southend United.

His best performance in a Notts shirt and it goes without saying. This game, we really needed a result. This was off the back of the period that saw us have several games cancelled due to whatever reasons were made up to prevent opposition facing us. But I get it, who would have wanted to face that team? A team that saw off Wrexham despite being far from full-strength courtesy of illnesses. The first goal of the game was a splendid volley from the edge of the penalty area that took the pressure off us significantly as Southend United definitely started the stronger of the two sides. The second and third came in front of our travelling faithful, a superb finish across the box and another delightful chip. A day of significance for our boy as he secured his first professional hattrick and a day of even more significance for the supporters in the away end, as Ruben blew a kiss in our directions celebrating his second and we can all admit we fell in love just that little bit more that day. Or at least I can, and I did not even think I physically could even more but there is that saying in life that you learn something new every day and evidently that was proven right yet again.

Not a bad collection of highlights in our colours, are they?

This past Saturday, his name sounded from the KOP after the full-time whistle, and it was visible how much it meant to the boy. There has obviously been interest rejected but why would you want to give up being a heavy fan-favourite at an already big club to go and play elsewhere where the same love is no guarantee? Exactly.

Whilst we only have a year left to enjoy him, because lets face it he will move on at the end of this season, lets make the most of it. Do not become angry because we did not cash in because ultimately you have to be honest and admit keeping him is our best shot at promotion this season. Our owners clearly are no strangers to a high pile of money waiting to invest in transfers and did not feel they had to sell Rodrigues thankfully and it will be telling this season as we all feel we have a better chance of winning the game when he is present as that is what you do expect from players of his calibre.

Anyway, enough of my confession of love for the boy. What a fantastic player and what is even better than that? He is still a magpie.

*Article provided by K-Ci Rennicks (Notts County Correspondent).

*Main image @Official_NCFC Ruben Rodrigues has spent two marvellous years at Meadow Lane.

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