Ryan hoping to follow in father’s footsteps
CLIVE Stafford is one of a select band of players in Suffolk to be plucked from non-league to turn professional.
The former Coplestonians and Achilles defender was playing for Diss Town in Division One of the Eastern Counties League when he had trials with Ipswich Town and Colchester United.
He was approaching his 26th birthday when he subsequently signed professional forms for Colchester, and went on to make 33 appearances for the U’s and two while on loan at Exeter City, before dropping back down to play locally for Bury Town and Sudbury Town and finishing at Felixstowe.
Stafford’s son, Ryan, is now following in his father’s footsteps and shining on the non-league stage with Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division Woodbridge Town.
How far Stafford, 21, progresses only time will tell, but there is no doubting his ambition.
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He said: “I don’t feel there is a lot of pressure to live up to, but I look up to him and it has always been a dream of mine to do what he did.
“He comes and watches me and I ask him afterwards what I could have done better, but he never puts any pressure on me just because he had a good career. He lets me do my own thing.
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“He wants me to do as well as I can and offers as much advice as he can.”
Stafford has clocked up just over 100 first-team appearances at Notcutts Park since making his debut in August 2008.
He said: “I want to play as high as I possibly can. I always look to play as well as I can as you never know who is watching.
“I will keep working hard and you never know you may get a breakthrough. Hopefully I can fulfil my potential higher up and one day play for a team like Leiston or Lowestoft.”
Stafford Senior, who celebrates his 50th birthday on April 4, played the majority of his career at left back – the same position Ryan has appeared in most of his matches with the Woodpeckers.
He said: “I don’t mind playing anywhere, but my favourite position is as a full back, wing back or in left midfield.
“I have no real preference whether I play as a left back or right back. Being right-footed and playing left back has certainly helped to make my left foot stronger.”
Unlike his father, who is over 6ft, Stafford stands just under 5ft, 8in tall, but he does not consider that as a handicap in his career.
“I don’t think my height will hold me back – a lot of full backs are no bigger than I am – and as long as you have got good strength and speed and a good football brain, which I think I have, then it is down to you and how much you want it and are prepared to work for it,” he said.
Stafford has been sidelined for the past three weeks with damaged ankle ligaments, but should return this weekend in what has been a disappointing season for Woodbridge, who finished sixth last season but currently occupy 15th place.
He said: “Right now it is hard to put a team out with a lot of players injured.
“It has been a topsy-turvy season with injuries – the side has not been as settled as last year – and we are not getting the results.
“We should be doing better than we are with the squad we have got,” added Stafford.