Hull City's David Stockdale: 'Journey from groundsman to brink of England cap has made me appreciate things'
AS DAVID Stockdale prepares to face Huddersfield Town 12 years after he was released by the Terriers as a schoolboy, Hull City's on loan goalkeeper can reflect on his teenage adversity as the first step of a remarkably colourful journey.
Even at 27, and with his peak years still to come, Stockdale can already regale an inspiring story.
If rejection from Huddersfield in 2000 was not enough, a similar fate awaited him six years later when shown the door by non-league York City.
"I got into going to the pub with my mates," Stockdale says with a sheepish grin and, to fund his lifestyle, he began working as a groundsman at his local cricket club, New Farnley in Leeds.
CAR KEYS AND REMOTES "FREE REMOTE KEY FOB BATTERY" 01482 423414 ...View details
FOR ALL YOUR CAR KEY NEEDS CALL US NOW ON
SNAPPED KEYS, LOST KEYS, KEYS LOCKED IN VEHICLES,
WE ALSO REPAIR 90% OF ALL REMOTES AND KEYS, NO FIX NO CHARGE.
FREE REMOTE KEY FOB BATTERY ONE PER CUSTOMER
Contact: 01482 423414
Contact: 01482 423414
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
By 21 it appeared Stockdale's footballing career was all but over, but then came a remarkable rise from bar stool to the England bench.
Two years after justifying Darlington's gamble at the start of the 2006-07 season, Stockdale had won a £600,000 move to the top flight with Fulham.
Although Premier League action was limited, by February 2011 England boss Fabio Capello had seen enough to call up the goalkeeper as understudy to Joe Hart.
A first England cap is yet to materialise but Stockdale admits his walk back from the wilderness has instilled an appreciation he will carry through to retirement.
"You can never take for granted what you have got," said Stockdale on the eve of facing his boyhood club Huddersfield at lunchtime today.
"I try not to complain too much. Sometimes everyone has a moan about their job whether you're a groundsman or whatever.
"You appreciate some people don't earn a lot of money. You've got to be respectful of that and you know if you don't work hard you could end up being back where you were.
"Otherwise it's just a case of being with your mates in the pub saying 'I was here doing this' and all your mates saying 'Well you were but you're exactly the same as us now.'
"I still manage to get home and it's nice to see the lads who I used to work with. You get the old stories and remember when we were doing this and that. I'm just glad to be playing football."
Stockdale is relishing Huddersfield's visit to the KC this afternoon.
Three years in the Terriers' academy saw him work as a ball boy on countless occasions at the venue he still calls the McAlpine Stadium and even after his release at 15, the keeper still counts Huddersfield as one of his teams.
However, it was rejection from York City that left him with a point to prove.
After completing his YTS years at Bootham Crescent and cutting his teeth with 26 first-team appearances for the Minstermen, then manager Billy McEwan released Stockdale with questions levelled at the player's desire and application.
Stockdale retreated to his home city of Leeds and set about working at New Farnley CC, where he enjoyed playing in the first XI as a batsman.
"Did I think my chance had gone? Yes, I did a little bit," he said.
"You don't really train for anything as you don't think the call is going to come. I was just settling into life and working. When you're that age all you want do is go out and I wanted some cash to be able to do that.
"When I started trialling at Darlington I said 'Okay, I'll come but I'm getting some decent money working.' They offered pretty much the same and so I went.
"I stopped all the drinking when I was at Darlo. You obviously go out with your mates still but you can't go out every week when you're playing for a Football League club and representing football in general. I think I'm still paying for those pints of beer now though!"
Stockdale has never looked back. After feeling his way in at Darlington with a handful of appearances in his first year, a superb 2007-08 season won him a move to the capital with Fulham.
"It is a funny old game," he says, and the laughs kept on coming.
After loan spells with Rotherham, Leicester and Plymouth, a first sustained breakthrough into Fulham's first team came during 2010-11. Eight Premier League appearances were all that came before his country's unexpected call.
"I had about a year in the England squad with Fabio Capello," Stockdale remembers. "He just kept picking me for some reason!
"I never got a cap but just to be around that sort of thing makes you realise... it gives you a bit of a carrot.
"I didn't get picked because I wasn't playing so ever since then you know you need to go out and prove yourself again. Hopefully, Roy Hodgson – who signed me at Fulham – will be watching.
"It was great experience. Training with Joe Hart, Robert Green and Scott Carson can only make you better and with a coach like Capello, training and listening to what he has to say, I'll never forget those times."
Stockdale is proof that impossible is nothing, but his next targets are rooted in a greater sense of reality.
On loan with the Tigers until January 2, four starts have established the 27-year-old as the latest incumbent of a seemingly cursed jersey.
According to Bruce, Stockdale has restored "authority and presence" to the number one shirt.
The next step will be dictated by parent club Fulham in the new year but Stockdale is ready to commit himself to at least the end of the campaign.
"Definitely," he added. "I'm really enjoying it here. I think the group of lads we've got, even on the bench and in the stand too, shows the quality and depth we've got. We've also got players at a young age who are top drawer.
"You can never say never in football. I want to play football at the top and this is no detriment to Hull City.
"I'm not saying I've dropped to a level which is worse. But I haven't proved yet that I can play at the top level and I want to do that.
"Hopefully, if we can go up this season that is something that can be done and something I'd be thinking about."