Stu's retiring? Stu has retired? I can remember thinking that he looked as though he had retired midway through some trouncing in the Playford wilderness season of 2006/07. Well, this is big news. My interest in Stu's development as a player goes back to when he was about 4, or maybe 5? I would have been 13, or maybe 14, depending on how old Stu actually was at the time. I was obsessed with some of the less cared for aspects of football.
Surely ALL professional footballers should be able to use both feet at a professional level? Professionally. Like it's their profession? It still seems to be an issue in today's game.
Anyhow, as soon as Stu could walk and kick a ball, I set to work. At first, gently persuading him to use his left foot (assuming he'd be right footed like most normal people) when having a kick about in the garden, or on the green at Martlesham. After a few months, I made this essentially compulsory. He was getting good with it. It was almost like he was naturally left footed. I'd done some job here.
He inevitably joined the Martlesham Youths and progressed through the age groups - coincidentally, as he got older himself. I watched a handful of his youth games but my real interest in his career reignited when Grange Farm began. Stu would have been 14, maybe 15, whereas I was 22, maybe 23? That all depended on how old Stu was at the time, anyhow, Grange Farm were a quite extraordinary team. They were managed by a quite extraordinary man in the late, and legendary, Charlie Minchin. This season, this feeling, this chaos, this TEAM were 75% of the inspiration for the birth of Playford FC just two years later. The remaining percentage was an odd mix of football comics, the Martlesham Villa under 15 side of 1988 and certain scenes from 'Escape To Victory'.
This Grange Farm team existed in an era of antiquity, where mobile phones couldn't take pictures or videos. However, I had a Dictaphone (late 20th century voice memo machine), and somewhere, in my massive collection of cassettes, I have a verbal recording of a Grange Farm game I was 'commentating' on in Kirton. The highlight of this audio is the sound of me trying to stifle my laughter as Stu kicked a corner horribly, yet directly, out of play for an opposition goal kick. I don't think I ever missed a single game one season. You couldn't afford to. I distinctly remember a 7-6 defeat which was without doubt the most entertaining game of football I've EVER watched - ninety minutes of mistakes, punctuated by goals. Thirteen of them. I took a few things away with me after savouring that season;
Stu was swiftly 'scouted' by Woodbridge football legend *Simon Fryatt at an informal practice match in Rushmere where Stu scored. He shot to beat the despairing dive of the pregnant lady in goal, after neatly rounding the only defender in the four-versus-three classic on a hazy summer evening in the mid-90s.
*This was years before Fryatt (who was my supervisor at work at the time) was dropped in favour of the hastily signed up, ex-Ipswich Town pros, John Wark and Paul Mason. Woodbridge had made the FA Vase Quarter-final and Fryatt had filmed a piece the day before for TV where he was giddy with excitement about the prospect of playing with his ITFC heroes. He came on for the last two minutes. Woodbridge lost. Fryatt then had about three weeks off work 'sick'.
Stu then signed as a sixteen year old with Premier League Melton, and so began a three year stint of running the line at the very highest level and being called 'Becks'; an affectionate nickname that lovingly mocked his uncanny resemblance to the guy that wrote the hit song from the mid 90's called 'Loser'. He won a league title. He was young and the world (of local Sunday league football) was at his left foot.
Then he joined Playford Football Club.
This will be where my contribution ends. I retired from football at 35, maybe 36? Stu would have been 26, maybe 27 then? That depends on how old I actually was really. He went on to play for the club a LONG time after my involvement ended, and for a LOT longer. Now he has time to carry on his half marathon running career, and also coaching the next potential Playford Goldsmith; his son George.
His Playford career and record is leading the way and won't get bettered by many. Enjoy hanging those boots up Stu. The right one as well.