Steve Fletcher: How my love for football began
PUBLISHED: 16:16 02 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:16 02 March 2017
Fletch reflects on how his love for football and his association with AFC Bournemouth began
I was born in Hartlepool in 1972 and my passion for football was inspired by my grandad, Jack Howe. He was a former professional footballer and when my mates were out doing things around the streets of Hartlepool that they shouldn’t be, I would be in the back garden kicking a ball with my grandad.
As would be the case for me, grandad’s career began at Hartlepool United. He then went on to play for Derby County, winning the FA Cup with them in 1946. Grandad also won three caps for England. He retired from playing at Huddersfield Town, who were in the top flight at the time, in 1951.
I was about seven or eight when my interest in football began. Liverpool was the big team towards the end of the 1970s through into the 1980s, and my absolute heroes were Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush. I first went to Anfield in the early 1980s with my dad to see Liverpool play Arsenal, and I was also lucky enough to be taken to the 1983 League Cup Final against Manchester United at Wembley.
My mum and dad ran a pub in Hartlepool, which had previously been owned by my grandad. One day, someone came into the pub saying he could get me a trial with Hartlepool United. I was 16 at the time and managed to stand out in a trial game, scoring two goals and setting one up. After the match their manager, Cyril Knowles, offered me a place in the club’s youth team.
I played over 40 first team matches for Hartlepool before moving to Bournemouth in 1992. I travelled down in the summer and the area’s beautiful beaches certainly made an impression. I remember looking at the view from the West Cliff and saying to my dad ‘I’m not coming back to Hartlepool’! In joining Bournemouth I became (current West Bromwich Albion manager) Tony Pulis’ first-ever signing as a manager.
I found it tough to leave home at 19 and make a new life for myself but I quickly learnt to stand on my own two feet. The grounding I had as a young lad from my grandad, my parents and from coming through the ranks at Hartlepool United really helped.
While I was in Bournemouth, my mum and dad had people coming into their pub saying things like ‘your Steve will never hack it down there… he’ll be back before you know it’. But I was determined to be a success at AFC Bournemouth. I certainly couldn’t have predicted that I would go on to break the appearances record for the club, be the first recipient of the Sir Tom Finney Award for my contribution to the game (Finney had been an international team mate of my grandad’s) and still be working for AFC Bournemouth to this day!
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