Article written by James freddy.
The world of football is an unforgiving business. One minute, players are in-form and have a seemingly bright future ahead of them, then the next, a devastating injury can occur that can hinder any chances of progression. Thankfully, the latter scenario didn’t manage to blight the careers of a number of former Stratford Town players who managed to reach the upper echelons of the English football pyramid.
In the same way the likes of Jamie Vardy went on to leave non-league side Stocksbridge Park Steels before going on to win the Premier League with Leicester City, some of Stratford Town’s former players have achieved some notable successes of their own. In fact, for a relatively small side in the shape of Stratford, there has been an abundance of professionals who’ve caught the eye and shone in some of the most entertaining and well-supported leagues in the country.
While the Bards ’struggles are evident this season, it’s a club that has acquired the services of a number of talented individuals over the years. As such, maybe the team’s current crop of players will use some of these former stars as inspiration in their quest to become professional footballers themselves.
So, without further ado, below is a look at some of Stratford Town’s former stars who had solid careers in the professional game.
A striker who turned out for Stratford Town in recent years, Leroy Lita is a player who came through the youth ranks at Chelsea before reaching England’s top flight with Reading, a side that regularly dominated the Championship before reaching arguably the best league in the world and aiming to defy the Premier League relegation odds that tended to suggest a battle down at the bottom was firmly on the cards. The Royals managed to stay up on numerous occasions, with Lita himself recording a number of career highlights along the way, most notably when he managed to score in a 2–2 draw against his former side Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Injuries did hinder Lita’s career, though, although he did have a successful time overall, turning out for other big clubs in the shape of Middlesborough, Swansea City, Barnsley, and Sheffield Wednesday.
A player more senior supporters of the Bards will remember fondly, Matty Blair is easily one of the best players to have ever played for the club. Operating in wide areas of the pitch throughout most of his career, Blair finished the 2008–09 season with seven goals in 40 league appearances for Stratford, before departing the club for pastures new with Bedworth United. Also turning out for other non-league sides, such as Redditch United and A.F.C. Telford United, his performances appeared to go up a notch when he was surrounded by better players at sides like Kidderminster Harriers and York City. At York, in particular, Blair had arguably the best spell of his career, eventually sealing a move to Fleetwood Town and going on to make numerous appearances in the Football League as a result. Due to never-ending issues with his knee, though, Blair announced his retirement from the game on 12 September 2022 while under contract at League One side Cheltenham Town, but there is no doubting that the former Stratford talent went on to have a great professional career in the beautiful game.
Currently preparing for life after football after recently being given the role of player/assistant manager at Hereford Town, Adam Rooney is yet another professional player who dropped down the leagues before eventually turning out for Stratford’s finest football team. Playing Championship football for Birmingham City was arguably Rooney’s biggest achievement, although his time in Scotland with Aberdeen resulted in a far more memorable time for the former Stoke City youth product. Rooney bagged an impressive 88 goals in 197 matches for the Dons during his four and a half year spell with the club, playing against giants Celtic and Rangers in the process. Rooney’s career did decline after departing the Scottish side, although decent experiences at the likes of League Two side Salford City and National League club Solihull Moors highlighted his clear quality in front of goal. Injuries appeared to disrupt his career in recent years, though, something fans of Stratford undoubtedly noticed during his brief spell with the club in 2022, but Adam Rooney’s career was certainly a successful one. Now, while working alongside Hereford boss Paul Caddis, Rooney will be hoping to pass on his knowledge and experiences to his new clubs crop of players.
Special mention must also go to Ian Muir, John Gayle, Lee Colkin, Paul Hall, Carl Dickinson, Wayne Thomas, and Matija Šarkić.