Alan Stevenson Interview

Alan Stevenson was born in Staveley, Derbyshire on the 6th November 1950.  A keen sportsman, Alan also played cricket for Steveley Works in the Bassetlaw League and Derbyshire County Cricket Club second team as a wicket keeper and batsman.

An apprentice fitter at the local iron works, Alan also played as an amateur footballer for Chesterfield Youth team.  After signing a professional contract he then went on to make his league debut for Chesterfield on the 4th October 1969 away to Scunthorpe United.

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Stevenson is still mathematically, the club’s best ever goalkeeper having conceded a mere 0.846 goals per game during his 115 consecutive games, as he went on to win the Fourth Division Championship in his first full season at the club.

In the summer of 1972 a £50,000 move to Burnley Football Club followed and Alan continued to be an all round sportsman playing for Burnley Cricket Club in the Lancashire League, whilst also playing competitive tennis and table tennis for local clubs in Burnley.

During his 12 seasons at Turf Moor, Alan made 543 appearances for the Clarets on the way to winning the Anglo Scottish Cup (1978) and the Third Division Championship (1981-82).  Alan was also called into the England Squad whilst at Burnley, when he was a substitute for England’s friendly against Portugal in Lisburn.

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After being released by Burnley, Stevenson joined Rotherham United and in December 1983 he lined up for Rotherham against the clarets at Millmoor.  The crowd that day witnessed one of the most incredible receptions for a former Burnley player.

As the teams switched ends ahead of kick off and Stevenson made his way down the pitch towards the Burnley fans. I don’t think he’d got out of the penalty area at the far end when the applause started and it just built up and up as he approached the Clarets fans.

Stevenson was clearly moved by the reception as the applause was accompanied by the singing of ‘Oh Alan Alan, Alan Alan Alan Alan Stevenson’.  I’ve seen players go back to their old clubs and get good receptions, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this since.

Interview

Biggest Influence of your Career?

The biggest influences of my career were my parents who always encouraged me from my school days right up to the end of my career.  They attended nearly all my games home and away when work commitment allowed.

Jimmy McGuigan, my first professional manager at Chesterfield was also a big influence, he gave me my league debut and advised me during my early days, before eventually selling me to Burnley in order to progress my career.

Career Highlights?

There are a number of things that stand out including winning leagues and cups, however I would say making my league debut for Chesterfield at the age of seventeen, signing for Burnley in 1972 and being selected for the England Squad are my three main highlights.

Career Lowlights?

Being a positive person, I don’t remember to many low points in my career, I prefer to remember all the good times.  After making 543 appearances for Burnley in 12 years, it was very disappointing to be released just two games short of becoming the club’s record appearances holder.

League Debut?

My league debut for Chesterfield was certainly a bit of a shock, at the time I was a 17 year old apprentice fitter at the local iron works and playing as an amateur player for Chesterfield Youth side on Saturdays.

On the 4th October 1969, Chesterfield were playing Scunthorpe United and on the morning of the game the Chesterfield goalkeeper was taken ill, the reserve team goalkeeper was already injured so the team coach picked me up from my home on the way to Scunthorpe.

I made my debut in a 2-1 win and playing for Scunthorpe that day was Kevin Keegan who went on to have great career with Liverpool etc.

I kept my place in the Chesterfield team and was signed professionally three weeks later and from that day until I was transferred to Burnley, didn’t miss a game making 115 consecutive appearances.

Burnley Debut?

My Burnley debut was away at Leyton Orient, I had just been transferred for £50,000 on the Thursday and met my new team mates on the Friday.  We then travelled to London and played on the Saturday; but unfortunately we lost 1-0 to a last-minute goal.

Best Game You Played In?

It’s very difficult to say which was the best game, but a few stand out in my memory for different reasons. Playing at Anfield against Liverpool in an FA Cup replay was a great experience and even though we lost, I had a good game and at the end was congratulated by the Liverpool Manager Bill Shankley.

Favourite Ground?

My favourite ground was Turf Moor, not just because of the atmosphere; the crowd was very close to the pitch, the hills standing out over the stands, especially on floodlit games.

Most of all the Burnley supporters were very supportive of me, even in games that went wrong, the relationship was brilliant.  I always enjoyed playing at Leicester and West Ham but hated playing at Derby County.

How has the game changed from when you were playing?

The game has changed quite a lot since I started my career, it’s much faster, the diets are better and the players are much fitter.  Skill wise I think the top players in my era would be just as effective today and would have adapted to present-day trends.

When you were playing, the football apprentice would clean the pro’s boots and paint the ground in pre-season etc. Do you think that was a good grounding to becoming a pro?

In my era, apprentices would clean the pro’s boots, paint the stands and sweep the terraces etc. I believe the youngsters coming into the game now don’t have the grounding from starting at the bottom and striving to achieve success.

I know whenever I felt down after a game I remember my early days as an apprentice fitter in the local iron works and very quickly realised how lucky I was and would work harder to achieve more in the game.

But through PFA pressure and political correctness clubs are not allowed to use apprentices in the old ways, which is a shame. Players like Trevor Steven, Micky Phelan, Brian Laws and Lee Dixon were apprentices and regularly cleaned my boots and they didn’t have too bad a career.

What did you do after you finished playing?

After leaving Burnley, I had a spell at Rotherham before moving on loan to Hartlepool, where after three months I signed as Player/Commercial Manager, combining both duties.

I wanted to plan for the future when my playing days came to an end.  After eighteen months I retired from playing, concentrating full-time on commercial matters.

I move to Middleborough, but six months later I was offered the Commercial Manager’s position at West Bromwich Albion and spent seven years in the midlands before moving to Huddersfield Town.

At the time Huddersfield Town were moving to a new stadium and this is where I started my involvement with football club stadium relocations.

You are now working in club relocations to new stadiums whats involved?

My brief is to maximise the commercial potential and celebrate the closure of the old stadiums whilst also putting in place systems for all commercial aspects of the new stadium, such as sponsorships, naming rights, executive lounges etc.

This is the area which I now specialise in and i am currently involved in tenth relocations project to date, which has so far included:-

  1. Huddersfield Town (Leeds Road to McAlpine Stadium)
  2. Bolton Wanderers (Burnden Park to Reebox Stadium)
  3. Wembley Stadium (Last 2.5 years at Old Stadium)
  4. Hull City (Boothferry Park to KC Stadium)
  5. Widnes Rugby League Club (Move to Halton Stadium)
  6. Coventry City (Highfield Road to Ricoh Arena)
  7. Doncaster Rovers (Belle Vue to Keepmoat Stadium)
  8. Shrewsbury Town (Gay Meadow to Greenhous Meadow)
  9. Chesterfield (Saltergate to Proact Stadium)

The tenth project that I am currently working on is for York City who will be moving from Bootham Crescent to the New York Community Stadium for the 2017/18 season.

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