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EFL Player in Focus: Colby Bishop in fine form for Accrington Stanley

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While some Bishops can only move diagonally, Colby’s career is on very much an upwardly vertical trajectory.

After a great start to life at Accrington Stanley, Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) studies his performances in East Lancashire.

Flying the flag

Life in League One is a constant challenge for Accrington Stanley.

The inflation of costs at the top of the game and the knock-on effect lower down means the yearly increase in costs for Stanley is disproportionate with any increase in income.

The Reds have therefore had to shop on a limited budget and find gems in obscure places – luckily, they are no strangers to those challenges.

They have a manager and assistant in John Coleman and Jimmy Bell respectively who are renowned for their ability to both find gems in unexpected places and coach them to perform at a standard beyond their prior level.

Four of Accy’s nine permanent additions this summer played at least two divisions below last season and Colby Bishop, who starred for sixth-tier Leamington, is among those flying the flag for non-league talent.

Kee’s absence

In normal circumstances, John Coleman might look to gradually integrate Bishop into the side with substitute appearances.

That was the case with speedster Offrande Zanzala during the title-winning season.

The then-Derby loanee was unlucky that the form of Kayden Jackson, the striker closest to his mould, was in sensational form throughout the campaign and was therefore very unlikely to be dropped, almost regardless of how good Zanzala might have looked.

This year, Stanley have not started the season with two proven strikers due to the unfortunate circumstances regarding Billy Kee, who has been unavailable in the first two months, owing to a personal issue.

While that matter is of course very sad from a human perspective, it has also handed Bishop more of an opportunity to prove himself at this level due to regular game time.

Technical play

Usually, one of the main advantages to signing a non-league striker is that they will bring searing pace, brute physicality and/or fierce determination.

Sometimes clubs can be wary of signing a technical forward from non-league because, if he has natural ability, logic would suggest there may be something wrong with his attitude – otherwise, why was the player not able to stay in the EFL?

Bishop though, has challenged that logic by becoming an instant hit since signing for Stanley.

He links play well and can pick some key passes in behind while strike-partner Dion Charles, signed from Southport, does more of the hassling and harrying to pressurize defences.

Poaching instincts

When Stanley get into the final third, Bishop tends to almost distance himself from the approach play, which is often led in wide positions by Jordan Clark.

He tries to sense goalscoring opportunities and move to the front or back-post for a simple finish, which is how he has scored all four of his goals.

He has mustered 21 shots, which is the eighth-most out of all the front-men in League One, with 15 coming inside the penalty area.

Only five strikers this season have scored more goals than his four, while only three of them scored more goals than his three in open play.

Bishop is also one of just five third-tier strikers who have scored right-footer, left-footer and a header so far this season.

In fact, Coleman said, before August’s 2-1 win over MK Dons, “Obviously it’s nice to win games in style but I’d certainly take one off Colby Bishop’s backside if it was the one goal to win the game.”

Ironically, Bishop then scored the winner in that match with the bottom of his stomach – that shows, if nothing else, that his manager’s belief in his adaptability in the penalty box is well-placed.