NLP Column 14th December 2016
At all levels of football, we see heroes returning to a team, years after leaving.
These players are often lauded, and fans rejoice when they see the announcement that J. Bloggs has come back to where he has made his name.
Whether it’s Jose Mourinho returning to manage Chelsea, six years after first leaving Stamford Bridge, or even Paul Scholes coming out of retirement to come back to Manchester United.
Returning to a former club doesn’t seem to be all too common in the higher echelons of football but it’s seen a lot more in our beloved Non-League.
Whether it’s players leaving to move into the Football League and returning on loan following the move not quite working, or wanting to return home.
That second reason is why midfielder Andy Drury has returned to Ebbsfleet United, a decade after leaving Stonebridge Road.
Drury explained: “I needed to get back to my family, we live in Kent, and I was stuck in the car for six hours a day. For family reasons I needed to get back and play for a club closer to home. This is only 40 minute drive from home so it’s ideal.
“I felt like I was having a good season but the team as a whole weren’t progressing like I thought we would. With the budget they’ve got, they should really be right up the top but for one reason or another, things weren’t working.”
Drury has dropped down a league to return home, but perhaps it shows why managers and clubs should never cut ties with a player completely.
As Jimmy Greaves famously said, “football is a funny old game” and you never know when you might require the services of a player again.
For the likes of Drury, it’s been all change in the Garden of England, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t felt like a homecoming.
He added: “I went and met Macca (Ebbsfleet manager Daryl McMahon) and had a chat there and it was all sorted. I played with Macca at Stevenage for a while and I’ve come across a lot of the players over the years so it’s easy to settle in.
“It’s a little bit like I’m returning home. There is a lot going on off the pitch and the owner is really going for it.”
And with the Fleet chasing Maidenhead in the National League South, Drury’s signing could prove pivotal.
Perhaps this will be a lesson. Folk heroes of a club don’t just vanish. Those doors should always remain open, because one day, they might be just what the club and the fans need.
By Joshua Peck