FOR Nathan Tyson, taking home the match-ball on Sunday night was a nice memento, but not the ultimate souvenir from the 2014-15 season.
The Doncaster Rovers forward scored his first hat-trick in eight-and-a-half years in his side’s 5-2 derby victory over Scunthorpe United, the perfect way to sign off a campaign for any footballer.
Yet amid the deep sense of satisfaction at his scoring feat and an early birthday present – he turned 33 on Monday – Tyson was minded to rewind the clock to 12 months ago.
This time last year, the Reading-born frontman could not buy a goal. He represented three different clubs, Notts County, Fleetwood Town and Blackpool, but didn’t trouble the scorers once in 2013-14.
It was therefore a small wonder he began to question himself, all this coming after the previous season when he started out at Derby before being farmed out to Millwall in an injury-hit 2012-13.
But 14 goals this campaign represents a major turnaround for Tyson, who has triggered a clause to stay on at Rovers and he is entitled to look ahead to next term with justifiable confidence.
That would not have been the case this time last year.
Tyson said: “To be fair, it’s been a comeback season for me.
“The last two or three seasons have been horrific for myself with injuries at Derby and going out on loan to Millwall and signing for Blackpool.
“Things didn’t work out.
“I went a season without scoring a goal as a striker being played out of position. There were so many factors.
“You look at yourself and think: ‘Are you mentally right?” as I did when I hung up my boots at the end of last season.
“This was the comeback season I needed and hopefully I can now look forward to next season.”
Tyson was taken off late on in Sunday’s win over the Iron, although after missing out by one goal on his seasonal target of 15, he was still a little miffed.
But the standing ovation he was afforded by home supporters was a nice end to an uplifting campaign all the same for the striker, who coolly netted two penalties to follow up his poacher’s goal in the first half.
He added: “I am bit furious with the gaffer for bringing me off! One more (goal) would have done, but beggars can’t be choosers.
“But I am just grateful for Harry (Forrester), who did fantastic to win the two penalties and it is good I have gone the whole season without missing one.
“I have gone my whole career without missing a penalty, so I am very chuffed.”
Tyson’s contribution helped Rovers get back into the good books of supporters after a dismal run of two wins from 12 outings in the final two months of the campaign, when their season petered out badly.
From play-off possibles, Rovers descended to mid-table obscurity, with Tyson at least glad to provide a touch of solace for fans heading into the summer.
Tyson said: “We owed that win to the fans who travelled to Notts County where we didn’t turn up at all.
“The last two away games were tough. At MK Dons, we got a schooling in how to play football.
“It’s a shame as at one stage, we were in the play-off places and didn’t move forward. But we were too inconsistent.
“We have massively underachieved. Although you can still end up like Yeovil and the important thing is that’s not happened.”