Football Legends At Small Clubs
Basingstoke Town’s audacious bid to sign former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho may have failed, but we take a look at some other minnows who’ve managed to sign a footballing legend.
The late Brazilian midfielder captained his country’s feted side at the 1982 World Cups and played for a host of Brazil’s top clubs along with Fiorentina in Serie A. So what more fitting way to come out of retirement than with, err, non-league Garforth Town. The Northern Counties East Football League side signed the legend up on a one-month player-coaching deal, but Socrates only managed twelve minutes for his final club – as a substitute against Tadcaster Albion. Legend has it that he also togged out for League of Ireland’s UCD when studying medicine in Dublin, which has never actually been verified.
Gazza’s top-level career basically ended when he left Everton in 2002, but he spent a few seasons moving between a series of increasingly bizarre clubs. After a spell in China with Gansu Tianma didn’t work out, the midfielder returned to England and signed as player-coach with Boston United. After five appearances in three months with The Pilgrims, Gascoigne effectively hung up his boots. Until last month, when he came out of retirement to sign for Hayward Sunday League Division Four side Abbey FC, having met the club’s boss on a taxi journey for some cigarettes.
Some big-name players refuse to wind down their careers in the lower leagues, putting their pride before their love of actually playing football. Not Chris Waddle, though. The former England winger once joined Marseille for £4.5 million, making him the world’s third most expensive footballer at the time. Ten years later, he started what was almost a second career – in England’s non-league. His first stop was at Worksop Town, where he made sixty appearances before moving on to the likes of unheralded Glapwell and Stocksbridge Park Steels. He even made a comeback last year for Hallam FC.
Matt Le Tissier:
Le Tissier is often held up as an example of the loyal, one-club man. Which isn’t exactly true as he spent two seasons after leaving Southampton at non-league Eastleigh, ending his spell there with a rare trophy – the Hampshire Chronicle Cup Final. Ten years after his retirement he returned to help out hometown club, Guernsey Town, who were facing a fixture backlog and had to play seventeen games in a month. However, his punditry work clashed and he only made one substitute appearance for them against Colliers Wood United.
It’s quite rare to see an image from George Best’s footballing career where he isn’t in the red of Manchester United or the green of Northern Ireland. However, the legendary winger spent time at almost twenty other clubs, taking in North America, Australia, Hong Kong and League of Ireland on his travels. He was still at United, and only 27, when he joined the ambitious Dunstable Town on loan. However, Best only made three appearances for the side managed by Barry Fry, and their heavy spending led to the club ceasing to exist.