By Chris Slavin
His path to leading the line for AFC Wimbledon was far from a smooth one with Cody McDonald having swapped a job as a scaffolder for a tilt at professional football.
It's unlikely that there will be anyone on the pitch tomorrow night more grateful than Cody for the opportunity football has provided him with.
"I did a plumbing apprenticeship when I left school, but the company I was with went bust and my Dad was a supervisor at a scaffolding company," recalled Cody. "He said for me to come down for a day and it was more money than I was on at the time, so I was happy to do it. I ended up getting all my scaffolding qualifications.
"I've been out there doing the dirty side of things outside the game. I was getting up at 5 am in the morning as most of the work was in London and that was a bit of a trek for me. Some younger players do not appreciate what they've got. It's an unbelievable job being a footballer and there are players in the game who don't quite appreciate it. Send them out on site and they certainly will get it! They would definitely come back as a different person in my eyes. It didn't do me any harm.
"A lot of people do these kinds of jobs and I respect them for it – I know how hard it is. When I was 15 and I didn't get a scholarship at QPR, I just didn't think it (being a footballer) was going to happen for me. I was just focusing on playing football with my friends and enjoying it. Then Dartford came in for me in 2008 and offered me a bit of money to play. My missus had just had twins and I thought the extra money would be really useful. I felt that I would do it for my family, so I travelled to Dartford every Tuesday and Thursday, plus Saturdays for games."
Cody remembers with great pride the moment he was told that Norwich City wanted to sign him.
"I was enjoying scoring goals for Dartford and then I got a phone call from an agent saying, 'there are a couple of clubs watching you, come and sign with me'. I said, 'if you get me a pro contract, I will come and sign with you'. I was told that Norwich were coming to watch me on the Saturday, but 20 minutes in I took a whack to the knee and I thought my chance was gone. To my surprise, I was told that Bryan Gunn was here and he wanted to sign me. I went up to Norwich for a medical the next day and signed before the transfer window closed on the Monday."
Cody, who played for his local club Witham Town in Essex as a teenager, scored on his debut for Norwich City against Cardiff City and spent three years with the Canaries, before enjoying spells with Gillingham (twice) and Coventry City.
Though he has scored just once so far this season – in the Checkatrade Trophy win at Barnet – he is confident that the goals will come.
"I am not one of those people who is going to say, 'I will score you 20 goals this season'. I am quite a confident person and I set high standards for myself. I would be more worried if I was not getting the chances. I am excited about the season. I know I've not scored loads of goals at the start, but I will do all right. As long as I stay fit, I will score goals."