Jamie Cureton thought that his time had gone. The solely participant to have scored in each division from the Premier League down to the ninth tier had been out for greater than 10 months with the primary knee harm of a profession that started with a top-flight debut in the identical month that Pulp Fiction was launched. More than 1,000 video games and approaching 400 targets later, the need to proceed was undimmed. But when the 46-year-old tore his proper meniscus and the restoration from surgical procedure in early summer season took longer than anticipated he started to query if it was time to transfer into administration completely. The determination to hold enjoying, even at a grade as low as the Essex Senior League, had already come at a sacrifice. In 2019 he left a training position in Arsenal’s academy as a result of it was clashing with coaching classes at Bishop’s Stortford, the place he was player-manager. What gnawed at him most whereas restricted to the latter half of that position he now has at Enfield was not the choice to go away one of many world’s greatest golf equipment to focus on non-League. It was that he wouldn’t be bowing out on his personal phrases. His remaining sport had been a defeat during which he didn’t rating however as autumn arrived the power in his knee improved after hour upon hour of studious health club work and on Tuesday, to no shock of anyone who has watched him carefully over the previous 27 years, Cureton discovered himself scoring twice in 45 minutes for Enfield in a 3-0 win away to Hoddesdon Town within the Herts Senior Cup.
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“I didn’t assume I used to be going to play once more,” he says. “It was a aid, I used to be actually happy and if I finished at present I’d be a contented man. My final sport we misplaced and I didn’t rating, so if it occurred now and I didn’t play once more I’d be happier scoring two. That will really feel on my phrases. Covid and the knee operation isn’t how I needed to finish all of it.” He has pulled up OK from his return. There was inevitable stiffness from muscle tissues that had not been engaged for the very best a part of a 12 months however the knee felt sturdy and he might flip and twist as earlier than. That bodes nicely for the rest of the marketing campaign however he’s real looking by way of the extent he’ll function, regardless that as supervisor he might simply make himself the primary identify on the team-sheet. “It’s not prefer it used to be when it was ‘If I’m match I’ll begin video games,’” he says. “I’ve received two good strikers right here in Dwade James and Olly Miles. They’re each doing nicely and scoring targets, so I can flit out and in. If we want to relaxation them I can carry them off or if we’re dropping and want a change I can come on. If they want a break I can begin. “But we’ve spoken about it and if I’m the best choice, I’ll begin myself. It’s extra what’s the most suitable choice for every sport and if gamers are in or off form. It’s extra sporadic than regular. If I am going on a run and I’m match, so be it.” Above all, although, that is a couple of love for the sport. If Cureton stopped having fun with it he would give up and few gamers to have scored a aggressive aim at Old Trafford might say they get as a lot enjoyment from the prospect of turning out in opposition to St Margaretsbury, at present’s opponents at Woodside Park. He additionally appears to be like at Cristiano Ronaldo, poster boy of the veterans, as inspiration and proof that with the correct care the ageing course of will be slowed. Nevermind the actual fact Cureton was 9 years and greater than 100 targets into his skilled profession by the point Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United for the primary time.
“It’s down to what your physique permits you to do,” he says. “I’m certain a great deal of individuals I’ve performed with would love to proceed however their physique wouldn’t enable them to do it. Luckily for me my physique has held up, I’m nonetheless in a position to do stuff that contributes to a sport. If you take a look at the highest degree, take a look at Ronaldo. He’s proof of how when you take care of your self, have the mentality and drive, you’ll be able to hold scoring targets on the high degree. “Some gamers get to the purpose the place their thoughts has sufficient and the physique is ok. You have to have each. Your physique has to work and you continue to have to love enjoying. Which is what I do have. People assume I’m loopy however I nonetheless totally get pleasure from it. “Ronaldo units an instance for everybody that when you do all the pieces to hold your physique proper you are able to do it. I feel extra gamers are going to do it now, into their late 30s and 40s at a high degree. It’s more durable once you drop down since you’re not doing it for the Champions League or Premier League, it’s about purely loving soccer. But I’m allowed to play thanks to my physique, so why wouldn’t I hold going?” With that framing, the choice to go away Arsenal was extra easy than many would have imagined. Cureton had been at Hale End for a little bit greater than two years and he learnt lots about improvement. It additionally made him realise that he received extra return from managing reasonably than teaching, dealing with recruitment and being outlined by three factors on a Saturday, than the longshot long-game of making ready younger gamers for slender hopes of knowledgeable contract. “It was unlucky as a result of I actually loved my time there,” he says. “I learnt lots about teaching and being at a high membership. That was an honest two and a bit years of studying however it was both give up soccer and go into academy teaching or keep with enjoying and managing in non-League. I needed to proceed enjoying and I used to be having fun with managing.” Balancing his want to play with what’s greatest for the crew appears to come with ease, too. It all boils down to whether or not he’s the very best match for a specific sport. The query is a straightforward one when ego will be parked to one facet. Cureton says greater than as soon as throughout our dialog that he feels he might log off now and be content material as a result of it was on his phrases. Yet there’s additionally a watch on the subsequent aim, the subsequent milestone. In April 2019 he joined an exalted group of about 30 gamers to have performed 1,000 senior video games. It is a listing that features Xavi, Roberto Carlos, Frank Lampard and a small striker from Bristol. Since then Cureton has performed fifty to sixty extra video games and the aim tally is (he thinks) at 388. “I’ve at all times stated I’d like to get to 400,” he says. “I’m certain I’ll get to almost 1,100 video games as nicely. Although numerous the stuff on-line is outdated.” Once the joints, muscle tissues and tendons stay forgiving will we be doing this interview once more in the summertime of 2025 simply earlier than his fiftieth birthday? “I’m undecided,” he says. “But I’m not ruling it out. I at all times take it 12 months by 12 months. Maybe having this day trip will give it again to me. If I play right here and there, hold match. It’s in regards to the degree – if we go up with Enfield it may be too onerous for me to play. I’d then most likely name it a day however for as lengthy as I can do a job I’ll hold going. “We’ll see subsequent season if I nonetheless go. If I get to 48, I’ll assume it’s one other two years. I like to push myself and set new targets. I’m very happy that at 46 I’ve managed to play a few video games and rating some targets. At my age.”