A Millwall boy born just down the road in Lewisham, John Marquis was always seemingly on the cusp of the breakthrough at The Den, in a frustrating stop-start career with his boyhood club. Progressing through the club’s academy, Marquis featured for the senior side in the league 52 times before his eventual departure from SE16, with just five league goals and a handful of impressive loan stints to his name. A proven marksman during the majority of those spells at lower levels, Marquis had been set for his opportunity to really nail down a first team shirt following Millwall’s relegation to League One. But a bit-part role in the final year of his contract was the final nail in the coffin, with Marquis recognising pastures new were needed to recognise his full potential.
Marquis had suiters at League One level but decided to take the plunge to drop down to League Two for the project at recently demoted Doncaster Rovers. The Yorkshire club was in the infancy of its tenure at the 15,231 capacity Keepmoat Stadium, a state-of-the-art stadium with excellent facilities. After the relegation the club was lying far below its limitations and was in desperate need of a reset to try and reach their aspirations of clawing their way back to the Championship. They needed a talisman, a marksman to spearhead their challenge to return. John Marquis would turn out to be just the man.
The prospect of being the main man must have been of colossal appeal to Marquis, keen to make up for lost time playing second fiddle for the majority of his career. Fast forward a year and Marquis wasted no time at all, finishing the season as League Two player of the year and the league’s top scorer as Doncaster bounced back with promotion to the third tier at the first time of asking. His impact in South Yorkshire will have been no surprise to Darren Ferguson, the man responsible for enticing him to uproot and head north.
The name of Fergie Jr is perhaps synonymous with that of Peterborough United, so much so in-fact, that at the time of writing he is back at the club for his third spell as manager. Ferguson built a free-flowing, dangerous attacking team to win the title at London Road, and in Marquis he spotted the goals that would be needed to sustain a promotion challenge in his new position. He was adamant Marquis was his man, and in turn, speaking after promotion, Marquis spoke glowingly of Ferguson’s faith and knowledge of him as a player. It’s clear that the faith and admiration shown from Ferguson was mutually reciprocated from Marquis.
Marquis stated that under Ferguson at Rovers, he ‘developed more as a player in 10 months than 4 years at Millwall’. It’s a statement which perfectly portrays the modest rise of Marquis, with his junior years in Lewisham a distant memory. Gone is the wide-eyed boy from Bermondsey, in his place a young man who has grown into his previously gangly six-foot frame, using his physicality to impose himself on battle-hardened defenders. He has developed into a leader both verbally and physically on the pitch, with his consistent goal-scoring elevating him to acclaim from the stands. An astute finisher with the eye for a spectacular, Marquis has evolved into a fantastic all-round striker during his tenure in Yorkshire, proving that early promise first seen with the Lions was simply waiting for a prolonged opportunity. His stunning strike ratio of 0.45% per game boasts an impressive 60 goals in all competitions across 132 appearances in the red and white of Doncaster, meaning Marquis on average almost converts with a goal every other game. Although he has developed into a sterling all-round player, it’s his goals which make him so invaluable to Rovers.
Since earning promotion Marquis has handled the step-up in class with ease, perhaps helped in-part to exposure at the level in previous loan stints. In Rovers first season after earning promotion, Marquis was an essential figure missing just a solitary league fixture and netting 14 league goals as Doncaster ended up in the moderate safety of 15th position. Under the guidance of new boss Grant McCann, Marquis & Rovers have excelled this term with an expansive, attacking game leaving them currently flirting with the play-off places.
The current campaign has allowed Marquis the opportunity to further cement his reputation as an established marksman at this level, with a productive season so far. Rovers currently have the third most prolific attacking return in the division, and Marquis’ excellent personal contribution have proved to be the cornerstone once again. He has already exceeded last year’s total goal tally, currently sitting on 16 league goals, a return which is almost a third of the team’s total accruement of goals. Strong early season form saw Rovers surge towards the automatic promotion race, but the emergence of giants such as Portsmouth and Sunderland and the staying powers of plucky Luton Town have seen McCann’s men fade slightly to the outside of the pack.
For Rovers to maintain their promotion push, the goals and influence of Marquis spearheading the line will be invaluable, as they currently have the second poorest defensive record inside the top ten, placing the emphasis on their forwards to out-shoot the opposition. The goals return for Marquis was stronger in the second half of last season, with 7 goals from the final 16 games providing the catalyst for Doncaster to push on for survival, after a large barren run through the winter months. After keeping a consistent scoring run for most of the season, Marquis will be keen to ensure that a fruitful second half of the season can become a recurring habit to ensure Rovers have a prosperous conclusion to their promotion challenge in May.
The establishment of Marquis as a lethal goal-scorer in the third tier has been a steady but consistent rise over the past couple of seasons. Should he fire the goals to steer Doncaster to the Championship, he should be confident of handling the step up after learning his trade the hard way through multiple loans at lower levels. A 20 goal a season striker is on the wish list of every club in the land, and Doncaster will be expecting vultures to circle if they remain in League One. The division’s top scorer last season, Jack Marriott, was rewarded with a multi-million-pound transfer to Derby County whilst the man in third position that season in the scoring charts, Will Grigg has just sealed an extraordinary four-million-pound move to Sunderland. Although Grigg has dropped a division back down to League One, the market for established goal-scorers in the Football League is an established one, and Marquis’ current tally is bettered only by James Collins of Luton Town.
At 26, Marquis is the perfect age for the step-up to the Championship after some character-building in the lower leagues, and this fact won’t be lost on many clubs enticed by his lavish returns this term. His impact in Yorkshire for the previous couple of years has been astronomical, he is just six goals shy of James Coppinger’s tally to become the highest scoring Rovers player of the modern era and is reciprocated with tenacious backing and adulation from the stands. With a young family now in tow and playing some of the most industrious football of his career, those uncertain days in Bermondsey seem a lifetime away for John Marquis who has certainly found a home away from home.
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