Neal Goldsmith on Stu Retiring

Dateline: 5th January 2003 v Melton Reserves, at Farlingaye High School

Stu was through. Of that there was no doubt. He was clean through. He was possibly through from inside his own half. And, as a consequence, he was through for a long time. To give you an idea of the length of time Stu was through, it was about as long as the ground war lasted between the US-led coalition forces and Iraq during 1991's Gulf War. That's quite an apt comparison because, much like the coalition forces in that ground war, it appeared that Stu faced no real opposition either. In fact, Melton had even obliged to help Stu out by putting well-renowned comedy 'keeper Alfie in goal that day. Yeah, Stu had essentially scored - there was just the small matter of him needing to complete the formality.

Stu was through.

I was playing that day. I was ambling forward whilst Stu was through, pre-celebrating the goal in my head. I think I began and finished three or four conversations with other people whilst Stu was through. Some of us even started making our way back into our positions in readiness for the inevitable kick-off to come.

Stu was through. And no one was anywhere near him.

He'd been through for some time now though, getting ever closer to the goal, without having got his shot off yet. Hmmm, what was his plan? Take it as close as possible to the 'keeper before smashing it home low and hard, absolutely making sure? Tempt the 'keeper out and go round him? Whatever he was going to do, he was going to do something, right? After all, this was a high quality, been-there-and-done-that player - albeit a young one. Stu had won the First Division title with Melton at the age of just 16, and had almost got to a national final at Villa Park with Northgate High School. Yes, with a player of this calibre, there was clearly a strategy here. A player like Stu doesn't squander a situation like this. No way.

Stu was still through. But now there was the hint of someone getting near him - Paul Ray.

Paul was to later play for Playford himself. However, in this exact moment, Paul's rangy form was just starting to gain some ground on Stu. But this still wasn't a problem, was it? The situation was still massively under control, wasn't it? Stu surely knew what he was doing here, didn't he? He'd get as far into the box as possible, forcing the 'keeper to come out whilst also just starting to draw a challenge from Paul - and then he'd smash it home. Of course he would.

Stu was still through. However, by now, with Paul Ray beginning to close in, Stu was accompanied by some anxious calls of "Shoot!" Yes, shoot. Do shoot. Shoot, Stu! Shoot!! SHOOOOOOOT!!! STU, SHOO...

And then it happened: Paul Ray's long, outstretched leg nicked the ball off Stu's toe. In the end, Alfie never needed to do a bloody thing. Stu laid in a crumpled, desolate, discredited heap, ready for a shallow grave, whilst the rest of us simply couldn't believe what we'd just seen.

But Stu also did many great things whilst playing for Playford. Plus there was that time he got chased and stung by about seven wasps before a game. That was funny too.

Playford 4 Melton Reserves 3

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