CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today CLICK HERE

AFC Bournemouth legend Steve Fletcher on the honour of receiving the Sir Tom Finney Award

PUBLISHED: 15:42 17 October 2014 | UPDATED: 14:29 25 March 2015

Cherries legend Steve Fletcher. Photo by Hattie Miles

Cherries legend Steve Fletcher. Photo by Hattie Miles

Hattie Miles 07907 645897

Steve Fletcher enjoyed a glittering career with AFC Bournemouth but his greatest honour came this year as the first recipient of the Sir Tom Finney Award, which has a special family connection

Steve Fletcher with his Sir Tom Finney Award at the Football League Awards 2014 - © EMPICS SportSteve Fletcher with his Sir Tom Finney Award at the Football League Awards 2014 - © EMPICS Sport

Cherries legend Steve Fletcher is used to accolades. In more than 20 years AFC Bournemouth’s favourite striker Fletch, as he is affectionately known, has scored over 100 goals and loved the adulation that followed.

Humble is not the first word that springs to mind with footballers generally but it is the one that Steve uses to describe his reaction to learning earlier this year that he was to receive the Football League’s inaugural Sir Tom Finney Award for a lifetime achievement in football.

The award came in March just a few months after Steve finally hung up his boots. He is now the Cherries Head of Recruitment in charge of scouting for new talent.

“I was shell-shocked when I first heard,” he tells me. “It was such an honour. I couldn’t quite believe it.”

The award, in recognition of an astonishing career that has so far lasted 24 years, has special significance as Steve’s grandfather, Jack Howe, played for England alongside Tom Finney in the late 1940s.

“My grandad played for England on three occasions with Tom Finney so I feel there’s a small personal connection there.”

Jack Howe also played with great footballers like Stanley Matthews, Jackie Milburn and Billy Wright and won the FA Cup with Derby County in 1946. “He was really special. I’m sure he should have been capped for England many more times but the war came along and effectively killed his international career.”

It was Jack who honed Steve’s childhood talent, helping to instill in him his lifelong passion for football and equipping him with the techniques that would see him develop into a masterful player.

“Grandad used to take me in the back garden and teach me control, heading, volleys, half volleys, passing, left foot, right foot, all the fundamental skills. By the time I was eight or nine, I was living and breathing football and it was really all down to him. I used to drive the neighbours crazy, kicking a ball up and down the road day and night.”

Jack died when Steve was just 15. He says he regrets that he didn’t pay more attention to his advice and get to talk to him in more depth about the early days and the great footballers he had played with.

“When you’re 15 you don’t understand these things,” he shrugs. “Those big names didn’t really mean a great deal to me at the time. I was a Liverpool fan. My heroes were Kenny Dalgleish and Ian Rush.”

It was in 1990 that 18-year-old Steven Mark Fletcher first turned out for his hometown team Hartlepool United. Two years later he was on his way to Bournemouth, and apart from short spells at Chesterfield and Crawley Town and a brief period on loan to Plymouth Argyle he has been at the club ever since.

He ponders the ups and downs of his career and admits he would have liked to have played at a higher level.

“I never got to emulate my grandfather. I played longer than him but never reached the heights he achieved. On the other hand when I was a kid growing up if anyone had said I was going to have a 24-year career in professional football I’d have laughed at them. I haven’t done too badly,” he smiles.

Indeed he hasn’t. Breaking the club appearance record, playing at Wembley, scoring in the play-off final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and having AFC Bournemouth’s north stand named after him are just a few of his achievements.

Giving up playing clearly wasn’t easy but with the Cherries having just spent their first season in the Championship, Fletch is loving his new role as Head of Recruitment.

As he points out he needs a job - “there are still bills and a mortgage to pay” - and he loves working for AFC Bournemouth.

“Dorset is the most wonderful place to bring up a family,” says Steve who with his wife, Lynne, have two teenage daughters, Danni, 16, and Emily, 13. “There are great beaches, amazing places like Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove and the weather is fantastic. I don’t think I would ever go back north now. I’ve lived over half my life down here so I suppose I’m more of a southerner than northerner.” He looks a little alarmed at the thought, and whispers: “I think I’d better keep quiet about that in Hartlepool.”

Steve’s current responsibility for finding new players and identifying future talent for the club is far from simple. For every dozen names bandied around by armchair pundits ten will be non-starters.

“We know within reason the players we can and cannot look at. Obviously I can’t go chasing £10m players but it’s not just the price you have to pay, it’s the wages as well. We have a wage structure at this club and whoever we look at has to fit in with that.”

Things have changed a lot since AFC Bournemouth bought the then 20-year-old Fletch from Hartlepool for £30,000 and a weekly salary of £300. He chuckles at the thought of those early days.

We’re talking in the players’ dining area - all wholegrains and nutritional charts outlining the perfect balance of protein and carbohydrate. Even the ice-cream is super healthy and jauntily titled Whey Hey.

“It’s so different. When I first came here we used to pop over to the Kings Park Cafe and eat whatever we wanted. You were sort of expected to go out with the lads on a Saturday night whether there was a game the following Tuesday or not. Now of course you’d never play for the club again if the gaffer found out. These days players are kept at the top of their game. By the time they get into the first team they’re pure athletes.

“I wish football had been like it is today when I first started. The professionalism, how you conduct yourself, the strength and conditioning as well as the brilliant coaches - we never had all that.”

A new member of the youth squad wanders in, helps himself to a huge bowl of muesli and looks aghast at the selection of herbal teas. He plumps for ginseng and lemongrass, sniffs it suspiciously, grimaces and asks: “am I supposed to put milk in it?”

Fletch, almost parental in his concern, gently puts him right. A learning curve has begun.


Read on

Photographer Anthony Blake goes behind the scenes at AFC Bournemouth and interviews Marc Pugh

10 reasons to love Bournemouth

Maria Greenwood talks horror films and shares her band of the month


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tue, 10:39

From festival director to an internationally acclaimed artist, meet some of the remarkable people working behind the scenes to enhance what historic Sherborne has to offer

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hosted by Martin and Philippa Clunes, this year’s event drew people, ponies and dogs from far and wide to raise funds for Dorset County Hospital Charity Cancer Appeal

Read more
Friday, July 27, 2018

Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places

Read more
Monday, July 9, 2018

Calling all self-professed Clunatics! Test your knowledge on Doc Martin with our quiz.

Read more
Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fanny Charles meets some of the residents and businesses owners who are proud to call Dorset’s newest town the place where they work, live and play

Read more
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Donna and Harry Mosley have brought the taste of their world travels to The Paddle in Highcliffe, where brunch and lunch is a deliciously leisurely affair

Read more
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Here we turn the spotlight on some of our county’s most successful and discover what makes them tick

Read more
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Human rights lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith has brought the plight of detainees at Guantanomo Bay into the art rooms of local schools

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

Rural communities throughout the UK could be eligible to receive funding via the Calor Rural Community Fund from energy provider Calor

Read more
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

His extraordinary physique made Chang Woo Gow famous, but this well educated family man sought escape from the limelight in Boscombe

Read more
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Retired drama teacher turned film director and producer, Rosita Clarke tells us about the ghostly Dorset love story that has just won her an award at an international film festival

Read more
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

We’ve been lucky enough to speak to some of Dorset’s best known over the years. Here’s what they love most about this beautiful county

Read more
Monday, January 29, 2018

A world-renowned explorer, a palaeontologist and futurist, and a butterfly conservator reveal the importance of the past for the future of mankind

Read more
Monday, January 15, 2018

AFC Bournemouth’s Jermain Defoe tells Andy Greeves how having a virtually vegan diet has helped to keep him at the top of his game and why beetroot helps him run faster

Read more

Local People

Tue, 10:39

From festival director to an internationally acclaimed artist, meet some of the remarkable people working behind the scenes to enhance what historic Sherborne has to offer

Read full story »