Imagine my surprise when I read that England legend Stuart Pearce had come out of retirement and joined non-league side Longford AFC.
I was even more surprised when I found out that this was a “One Match Deal” and was part of an advertisement campaign. It seemed to me that making money was far more important than the long term future of the AFC, who play in the Gloucester Senior League Division Two.
But there more I think about it, this can only be a good thing. The “signing” has been covered by many national newspapers and the attention garnered by the ex-England international will only bring more people to the game. However, it is only for one game and so it will be difficult to see how Pearce will have a long term impact. Will he be involved with the club after his debut / final appearance? Or will he melt away and leave the club. Manager Nick Dawes see’s it quite different though:
“The initiative shines a light on non-league football reminding people of the importance of amateur football in contributing to the development of the national game,” he said.
We started the league with only 13 players but now the media attention around Stuart Pearce’s signing has seen our squad number now reach 25 first team players. A year ago we were playing in front of one man and his dog and now, we are set to hundreds for Stuart Pearce’s debut.”
In 2004, after ten years of retirement, Brazilian star Sòcrates joined Garforth Town, a semi-professional team in Leeds. He initially signed a one-month deal but only made one appearance, a twelve minute cameo against Tadcaster Albion. Town also managed another coup by signing UEFA Cup winner Careca, another Brazilian. Both signings got massive attention from both the press and paying spectators.
The difference between the two teams, apart from the gulf in quality, is the fact that Garforth Town made their signings for football reasons, Longford AFC have done so for publicity. Is either reason wrong?
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