Macauley Bonne: Town is not a closed book... I've got unfinished business

Macauley Bonne celebrates after scoring to level the game at 2-2.

QPR striker Macauley Bonne says he has 'unfinished business' with hometown club Ipswich Town following last season's loan spell. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

Macauley Bonne exhales deeply as he pulls up onto the drive of his house in Ipswich. 

He’s just spent his commute back from West London baring his soul down the hands free speaker. 

“Some people at QPR might read this and not be happy, but I’d ask them to put themselves in my shoes,” he says in summary. 

“Who wouldn’t want to play for and be loved by their hometown club?  

“I think honesty is the best policy. I just want people to know my story. Ipswich Town is more than a football club to me. I’m not embarrassed to say that."

So here it is. Bonne’s story. The story of his season-of-two-halves loan spell at Ipswich Town and the reality of his current situation as he heads into the final year of his contract at QPR.

We start with memories of him stepping off the bench to score a debut goal and rescue a 2-2 draw with Morecambe on a sun-soaked day at Portman Road last August. 

Macauley Bonne celebrates after scoring to level the game at 2-2.

Macauley Bonne celebrates his dramatic debut equaliser against Morecambe. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

“You’ve got to remember that I grew up on a council estate in Chantry being able to hear the roar of that crowd at Portman Road,” he says. 

“As a kid I told myself that one day it would be me they would be cheering for. 

“I’d done pre-season, I was thinking ‘am I going to play?’ and then Paul Cook said I was going to be on the bench for the first game. I was disappointed not to start, but the fact I was there was enough for me. 

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“I remember sitting there thinking ‘if I get on I’ll get a chance’. I think it was my first touch of the ball. To be honest with you, I actually think it was offside! I had a little glimpse across and when I saw the flag stay down I was so emotional. 

“I remember getting home that night and thinking ‘everything I’ve ever wanted in football has just happened’. 

“It hit me that I was doing what I love for the club I am in love with. It was like a fairy tale.” 

The Roy of the Rovers tale soon gathered pace. Bonne atoned for a horror miss at Cheltenham with a thumping finish against MK Dons on Suffolk soil four days later. 

“The day after that miss I apologised on Instagram and said that I’d score the next chance I got - well the next chance came and I f*****g buried it!” he laughs.  

“I don’t even know what I was thinking. Normally I would have gone for a more subtle finish, but the first touch was good and then I just decided to hit it as hard as I could

“James Pullen (Town’s kit man) had been telling me all week he was going to give me a big hug when I scored. I’ve got a lot of respect for that guy. That’s why I ran over to him to celebrate.” 

Macauley Bonne matched a home game from the stands when injured last season. 

Macauley Bonne matched a home game from the stands when injured last season. - Credit: Macauley Bonne

A sore hamstring prevented Bonne playing the following weekend against AFC Wimbledon. 

“The club invited me to sit in the directors’ box that day and I said ‘no, no... I’m going to sit with the fans’,” he says.  

“I put on my shirt with name and number on the back, just like I had as kid, and I watched the game with the fans as a fan.” 

Two weeks later it was Bonne’s thumping header that sealed a 1-0 win at Lincoln. Finally, Cook’s new-look team had got their first victory of the campaign at the ninth attempt. 

Macauley Bonne gives Town the lead.

Macauley Bonne heads home Ipswich Town's winner at Lincoln last weekend - his fifth goal of the season. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

The following weekend, Bonne-mania went up another notch in a home game against Sheffield Wednesday that will always be remembered for a bizarre late leveller that went viral

“Lee Evans got injured the day before but it didn’t even cross my mind that I could be captain as a loan player,” he recalls.  

“I assumed it would be a defender like Cameron Burgess or George Edmundson. 

“James Pullen was walking around with the armband in the dressing room saying ‘I think it will be you today’ and I’m going ‘nah, you’ve got to be joking!’  

“Then he goes away, comes back and casually slides it on my arm. I just thought he was having a laugh. Then five minutes later Paul Cook comes in for the team meeting and goes ‘Macca, you deserve it, go out and lead us’. I was in shock. 

“I decided not to tell my friends and family so they could enjoy it was a surprise. I remember walking out the tunnel, looking up into the stands and seeing my good mate Lee Barber just mouth at me ‘you’re captain!’ 

Macauley Bonne voices his opinion of the officials at Portman Road against Sheffield Wednesday

Macauley Bonne took huge pride in captaining Ipswich Town against Sheffield Wednesday. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

“My missus, my mum, my dad, my step dad, my brothers, my uncle – they were all in tears. 

“When I look back at the history of Town captains they are all legends. Luke Chambers is definitely a legend in my eyes for all the years he played. Matty Holland, Jim Magilton... They were my heroes. And now here I was following in their footsteps. 

“I was just thinking ‘don’t let it get to your head, don’t get nervous’. And then obviously what happened at the end happened.” 

With Town 1-0 down and heading into the 89th minute, Bonne gestured for fans in the North Stand to stay quiet as he crept up behind unsuspecting goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell. As soon as the ball was dropped he nipped in like a flash, found Scott Fraser and all of a sudden Conor Chaplin had fired home. 

“Even though I didn’t score the goal it was like I had scored the goal - I celebrated it like I had!” laughs Bonne. 

“And now that picture is up on the side of Portman Road (chosen as a famous North Stand moment to adorn one of the pillars along the back of the stand).  

“That was another massive ‘is this really happening to me?’ moment. 

“I used to ride my bike along the back of that stand as a kid. Now my name and face is up there alongside Bobby Robson. It still gives me goosebumps thinking about that now.” 

In mid-October, Bonne met Maddie, a 13-year-old Town fan with cerebral palsy. That led to him revealing that his disabled older sister Laiken had died in tragic circumstances at the age of 12 and been buried with his 'Bonne 18' Ipswich shirt. 

Town fans could not love him more. Bonne went on to score in a 4-0 win at Portsmouth and also in a 4-1 victory at Wycombe

Macauley Bonne celebrates his second half goal at Adams Park against Wycombe.

Macauley Bonne celebrates scoring in the 4-1 win at Wycombe. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

With 11 goals by early November, it seemed a formality that he would go on and hit the magic 20 mark.  

The front man proclaimed he would be would be ‘angry’ if QPR called him back in January. 

Stay he did. But he also scored just once more. 

A social media post by his fiancée Chloe Walker, in December, provided some personal context. 

“This isn't something we've wanted to share for a while now but it's taken a massive toll on us both this year,” she wrote. 

“Me and Macauley have been trying to conceive for just over a year. We've had three miscarriages and are finally going through all the tests. 

“We apologise for being distant and quiet. This has obviously (affected) us both and is probably showing in our work life and would rather people knew the real reason.”  

Macauley Bonne applauds fans after the game.

Macauley Bonne saw the goals dry up during the second half of his Ipswich Town loan spell. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Bonne brings up the topic on his own volition.

“It was tough - I’m not ashamed to talk about it,” he says. 

“Anyone who has gone through that will know it’s not easy. It was test after test. That takes its toll mentally. 

“But I still had to go out there and try to perform in front of 25,000 people. 

“I’m not making excuses for the dip in form. I apologise for not getting more goals. But I do think if my head was clearer then I would have carried on scoring. 

“Even through all that I never, ever stopped giving 100% for Ipswich Town though.” 

Macauley Bonne poses for photos with Town fans after being subbed at Gillingham.

Macauley Bonne poses for photos with Town fans after being subbed in the 4-0 win at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Cook was sacked and Kieran McKenna was appointed. Bonne scored in the Northern Irishman’s second game in charge, a 4-0 away dismantling of Gillingham

McKenna soon labelled Bonne and a back-from-the-cold James Norwood the 'Bash Brothers’

Bonne started to drop in and out of the side come late January though as McKenna increasingly began to play with just one central striker. He started just three of the last 15 games of the campaign, failing to take a couple of big headed chances at Morecambe.  

“I remember their keeper making so many good saves in that game,” he says. “I caught one volley, from a throw-in, with the sweetest connection I’ve ever had and he just dived into it. He got named Man of the Match afterwards and I was thinking ‘this is just not happening for me’. 

Macauley Bonne holds his head in disbelief after heading wide from point blank range at Morecambe.

Macauley Bonne holds his head after heading wide from point blank range at Morecambe. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

“Even when Kieran McKenna wasn’t playing me I wasn’t sour about it.  

“He explained to me that he had three strikers under contract and he needed to take a look at them to assess what he’s got. He told me straight and I completely respected that.  

“When Pigs (Joe Pigott), Nors (Norwood) and Jacko (Kayden Jackson) got their chance I was buzzing for them. I wanted them to do well because I wanted Ipswich Town to do well. 

“I obviously hoped my chance would come again. I remember coming on at Oxford and giving one of my best performances during that second half of the season. I was a bully, I ruffled feathers. In the 85th minute I charged down their left-back, smashed him right in front of the Town fans and looked up to roar them on. I thought I might get a bit more of a chance after that, but it wasn’t to be. 

“I should really be saying ‘I didn’t like him’ and ‘he’s not for me’ about Kieran McKenna, but I can’t because I improved as a player under him, Martyn Pert and Charlie (Turbull). He was really positive and I learned a lot. 

“And I’m not just saying that because he’s Town manager and I want to play for Town again!” 

Macauley Bonne and new Town manager Kieran McKenna embrace as the player is substituted late in the

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna embraces striker Macauley Bonne. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

So what are the chances of that happening? 

McKenna has already signed front men Freddie Ladapo and Tyreece John-Jules this summer, while Jackson has penned a new deal. James Norwood has departed and it remains to be seen if Pigott follows out the exit door.

“Kieran McKenna called me in for a chat the day after that last game against Charlton,” said Bonne. 

“We sat down at the training ground with a coffee and had a good chat. He said he likes me, sees me as a hybrid forward that can do a bit of everything and that Ipswich Town is not a closed book. 

“We’ve kept in touch.” 

Macauley Bonne kisses the Town badge on his shirt after scoring.

Macauley Bonne kisses the Ipswich Town badge following his debut goal. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

He continues: “I went away to Budapest with my mates at the end of the season and I was debating whether to get a Town tattoo.

“I was very close to getting the Town badge or ‘ITFC’, but all the tattoo shops were shut. 

“I’m telling you, that love is real!  

“I could see the boys looking at me a bit funny when I first started kissing the badge. I get it, I have been at other clubs where players do that and it’s a bit cringey.  

“But very quickly I think they realised it was genuine as I bored them with stories about watching Town play Inter and being there on Bobby Robson Day! 

Macauley Bonne celebrates with fans after taking Town back into the lead with his second goal.

Macauley Bonne says he felt the love of Ipswich Town fans. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

“I felt I had so much respect in the town. I’d go out for lunch or a coffee and people would genuinely want to know how I am rather than just being a fan who wanted a picture. 

“It reminded me that I’m not just a footballer, but actually a person. 

“Feeling that sort of love is something that I always wanted from a club. I found it by coming back to my hometown club.” 

Bonne recently reported back for pre-season training with QPR. The West London club, having just finished 11th in the Championship, now have a new manager in Michael Beale. The highly-rated coach previously worked with Liverpool’s U23s before assisting Steven Gerrard at Rangers and Aston Villa.  

Aston Villa assistant head coach, Michael Beale ahead of the Premier League match at Villa Park, Bir

Michael Beale is the new manager of QPR. - Credit: PA

“I spoke to him on the phone when he was appointed and he said it’s a clean slate for me at QPR,” said Bonne. 

“He’s an honest guy and said I can be honest with him about what I want. 

“I went back for pre-season training last week, we go to Germany next (this) week and they will get a gist of how I am feeling. I think people will know where my head is at. 

“I feel I have got so much unfinished business with Ipswich Town.  

“It could happen this summer, it could happen in January, it could happen next summer when I become a free agent.” 

Asked if he would have a head-versus-heart decision if a good offer from another club comes along in the meantime, Bonne replies: “I’ll be honest with you, that’s happened already.  

“There’s been a loan offer and a buy offer.  

Queens Park Rangers' Macauley Bonne reacts after going down with a injury during the Sky Bet Champio

Macauley Bonne was restricted to just nine starts in his debut season for QPR.

“They sound like really good football options, but it’s not all about the football side of things. I could move miles away from my family and be miserable. I’ve got lots of friends in football who have experienced that. 

“It’s a short career, so I have to assess every single option. Those offers are still in play. 

“I don’t think I have given QPR a good crack yet. It might still work there for me yet. There’s definitely a buzz about the place right now with Michael Beale. 

“I guess I’m in no man’s land right now. I’ve just got to be patient and see what happens.” 

He adds: “If I don’t end up coming back to Ipswich as a player then I’ll be coming back as a fan. Whenever there’s an international break, I’ll be back sitting in the stands with the fans. If Town get to Wembley I’ll be there.”