AFC Telford's Jon Royle has won over critics – Gavin Cowan
AFC Telford United midfielder Jon Royle has come into his own after fans’ doubts over whether he should have stayed, boss Gavin Cowan believes.
Welshman Royle is the Bucks’ longest-serving current player, having joined them in September 2016.
The 24-year-old failed to nail down a regular starting spot under Rob Smith and Rob Edwards but Cowan, who has previously likened him to a non-league Steven Gerrard, decided to give him another season to impress and feels he has now silenced the doubters.
Royle excellently marshaled the midfield in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Alfreton and the Telford chief said: “He’s been like that for the last three games.
“I think people were almost expecting me to release him, maybe, at the end of the season.
“He’s been here, he was one of them that looks like he’s got everything but doesn’t ever deliver.
“I had a good conversation with him about that, being very honest and transparent.
“I just feel like if he can concentrate on his own job, which we’ve got him doing, given him clear instructions and objectives of how to go about his business, I don’t think that there’s many better than him.”
Royle has played 13 times in National League North this campaign – just six less than the whole of last term.
Cowan feels his upturn in performances is down to better decision-making and application.
“Jon has shown that over the last three games,” he added.
“He’s making good decisions, he’s breaking up play, he’s pressing a lot higher up the pitch.
“I’m really pleased with him at the moment.
“But he’s got to continue that as well.”
Royle initially joined the Bucks on loan from Southport, with the deal being made permanent a few months later.
His first two seasons were largely spent fighting against the drop but they are currently eighth – outside the play-offs on goal difference, 16 games in – and on a three-match unbeaten run.
He has made a total of 46 league appearances for Telford and scored once – that goal coming in a 2-1 loss at Harrogate Town on December 3, 2016.
Royle rose through the ranks at Wrexham and has also played for Colwyn Bay and Hednesford Town.