Clive’s fairytale move to professional football

FAIRYTALE: It has to go down as one of the biggest footballing fairytales of all time, and an example to all those who dream of playing professionally.

Clive Stafford spent 11 years playing in the SIL before being taken on by Colchester United where – at the age of 26 – he became a first team regular making 31 appearances.

Clive’s remarkable rise in taking to the pro game like a duck to water proves what small margins exist between the amateur and professional game.

With a little bit of luck and perhaps being in the right place at the right time and having the correct temperament some of today’s local Ridgeons League and perhaps Senior Division Kingsley Healthcare SIL players could now be earning an absolute fortune out of the game.

Craig Parker at Needham Market is just one example of a modern-day player who could surely make the grade if given the chance.

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Clive played eight years with Coplestonians and then three with Achilles before joining Diss Town at the start of the 1988-89 season, the Norfolk club’s first in the Ridgeons. By February he had games on trial with Ipswich Reserves.

Colchester were also taking an interest and their manager Jock Wallace snapped up the insurance worker, who has also played friendly cricket for Suffolk.

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Clive went on to play twice on loan for Exeter before in December 1990 joining Bury Town and then Sudbury Town in 1992 where he enjoyed six happy years, helping them win promotion to the Southern League Premier Division in 1993-94.

The highlight was a 1996-97 FA Cup run when Sudbury beat Brighton on penalties after two draws in the first round proper.

In 1998 Clive had one season back in the Ridgeons League with Felixstowe, before hanging up his boots.

Clive had a spell as reserve team manager at Woodbridge Town and is now doing some coaching at Coplestonians and is back working in insurance.

Looking back on his professional playing career, Clive Stafford said today: “I certainly didn’t do it for the money.

“It was to test myself having not been ready for the step up when I was younger.

“The decision was a big one as I had a family to support, but I have no regrets.

“I had to get used to full time training, but footballing-wise and general fitness-wise I did not find the jump insurmountable.

“There are undoubtedly players out there who could move up from the Ridgeons League say to the professional game.”

And Clive revealed that he came close to moving higher when he spent a week with West Brom.

“I got off the coach after a 1-0 defeat at Carlisle and Colchester manager Jock Wallace told me I was going to West Brom.

“I spent a week there and played a friendly against Derby County with Sam Allardyce playing beside me at the back. But nothing came of it.”

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