In signing former England international striker Jay Bothroyd, Júbilo Iwata of the Japanese J. League 2 may have increased their chances of gaining promotion to the country’s top tier in what will be their second season away from it.
The English forward who began his career with Arsenal has been without a team since leaving the Thai side Muangthong United arrives in the Land of the Rising Sun on a free transfer and has already linked up with his new team-mates for pre-season training.
After spells with Coventry City, Perugia in Italy, Cardiff City, Charlton Athletic and Queens Park Rangers to name a few, the much travelled striker joins a team who have a real chance of promotion this season after narrowly missing out during the last campaign.
The three-time Japanese Champions were relegated to J. League 2 at the end of a disastrous 2013 campaign when they finished in 17th place – 14 points from safety. The 2014 season was the club’s first year outside of the top division since the J. League was established in the early 1990s.
The club who have traditionally been one of the more successful Japanese sides almost made an instant return to the J. League, however they were beaten in the promotion play-offs by Montedio Yamagata via a cruel injury time winner.
Montedio were the surprise package in winning the play-offs and gained promotion to the top tier after finishing the season in sixth place.
Bothroyd who won a solitary England cap under Fabio Capello in 2010, has been brought in to replace former Japanese international Ryoichi Maeda who had been the main focal point of the team’s attack for the past 14 years after his recent transfer to FC Tokyo.
They are big boots to fill as the prolific striker bagged 154 goals in 363 league games during his career in with the Shizuoka Prefecture outfit.
If Bothroyd can adapt quickly to his new surroundings and remain fit throughout the season, I think Júbilo have themselves a striker who could easily net 20 goals in a league that they are expected to do well in.
At 6 foot 3 inches with a powerful frame, he will be an excellent focal point for the team and I assume will be a valuable asset in terms of holding the ball up and relieving pressure on what was a shaky defence last season.
The team face Giravanz Kitakyushu in their first game of the season on the 8 March 2015. It will be an interesting test for Bothroyd and his new team-mates as their opponent finished just one place behind in fifth place last year.
Only time will tell if this is a good piece of business or not, but it will certainly be an interesting season in Japan’s second tier.