Ryman League is more intense, says Leiston keeper

JAMIE Stannard says the biggest difference between the Ryman and Ridgeons Leagues is the intensity of the matches.

The ex-Ipswich Wanderers goalkeeper stepped up to the Ryman League this season after Leiston won the Ridgeons League Premier Division last season.

Stannard spent five rollercoaster years with Wanderers, suffering relegation from the Premier Division in his first season, before winning the Division One title at the second attempt.

He then spent two years playing in the Premier Division before Leiston came calling and joined the Victory Road club five years ago. He has been their No.1 choice keeper ever since.

The 32-year-old shot-stopper, who is currently injured, said: “The biggest difference is the intensity – you have to stay switched on. You can have spells in the Ridgeons League when you don’t touch the ball for long periods, but in the Ryman League it seems sides can break away and score at any minute.”

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And Stannard said he needs to stay on his toes for not just 90 minutes.

“We seem to play so much more injury time. In our first game of the season (a 3-3 draw at Waltham Abbey) we played a total of 105 minutes! As a goalkeeper I have to be more mentally attuned than anyone.

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“You may think you have done enough, but you can’t switch off for a minute. All the teams have got good strikers and they will punish you.”

Stannard is rising to the challenge of Step Four football, after ten seasons of playing at Ridgeons League level.

“Winning the league last year was the highlight of my career so far, after playing for so long in the Ridgeons League. That is what you strive for – to be the best team in the league.

“We were close to winning it the year before, but had a dodgy spell around Christmas, so to win it in the manner we did last year was pleasing.

“That was the first silverware I have won in 11-a-side men’s football apart from the Division One title with Wanderers and the East Anglian Cup with Leiston,” he added.

Stannard had a sound game in Leiston’s 1-0 FA Vase quarter-final defeat away to Coalville Town last season, pulling off one particularly memorable save, when a win would have put the Suffolk side within a two-legged semi-final of Wembley.

But he has no hesitation in naming Leiston’s FA Cup first round proper replay at Fleetwood Town in the 2008/09 season as the biggest game he has played in.

“We drew 0-0 at home and then lost the replay up there 2-0 in front of 2,500 people. That was definitely the biggest game I have played in for the occasion and atmosphere,” he said.

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