In a move arranged by Direct Line, Stuart Pearce, 53, has come out of retirement to play for Gloucestershire-based Longford AFC, whose entire first team and manager left last summer.
Longford AFC captured the attention of the national media, having lost all 19 games this season, scoring one goal and conceding 181. The team that was scraped together from the reserves are playing around three leagues above their standard.
Stuart Pearce, the former Nottingham Forest and England legend, will still have to pay the £5 match fee in a deal arranged as part of the Direct Line marketing campaign.
Direct Line, who claim they can ‘fix’ the confidence and fortunes of Longford AFC, are also supplying the team with a brand new kit and training equipment. To mark this unique signing, the team will also play in a redesign of their home kit for Pearce’s home debut.
Whilst Stuart Pearce’s return to competitive football brought national attention to the ‘worst team in England’ the real credit must be given to the Longford players who have perservered and played through their heavy losses. In particular Shane Heaven, Irshad Badat, Howard Jackson and Alastair Beard, who have all played in more than sixteen of their games this season, will have deserved the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to line up alongside England legend Stuart Pearce, who is set to begin training with his new side prior to his debut.
Longford’s attention will not be distracted for too long as they take on Winchcombe Town away from home tomorrow with Winchcombe unsure which Longford they will face, who have eighty eight registered players eligible to play.
Despite their heavy defeats of 17-0, 16-0, 15-0 and 14-0 earlier on in the season, Longford can go into tomorrow’s match knowing that they could come away with something against a team who’s last win was back at the start of December. Their two recent 2-1 losses against Lydney Town Reserves and Quedgeley Wanderers must feel like victories against teams who beat them 16-0 and 15-0 respectively, earlier on in the season.
With 11 games left and sitting 15 points adrift to avoid relegation, it would be incredible if the Northern Senior League Division Two side’s fortunes were to be reversed and they somehow managed to avoid relegation, but they will need more than a new kit and ninety minutes from an England legend to do so.