AFC Bournemouth scout Steve Fletcher has admitted that his heart sank last week when the realisation that his playing career was over hit him.
Former AFC Bournemouth striker Steve Fletcher will go down in the history books as a club legend having made 835 Career Appearances, including 728 AFCB Appearances.
The 40 year old decided to retire after making his final appearance for the club away at Tranmere on the final day of the 2012/13 season, just one week after the Cherries clinched promotion to the second tier of English football for only the second time in the clubs history.
Fletch initially joined the Cherries in July 1992 from hometown club Hartlepool United. That first stint lasted 15 years, where Fletch first broke the all time record for the most appearances for Bournemouth.
He is one of only two players who have played for the Cherries at both Wembley and the Millennium Stadium, scoring at the latter on route to the Cherries lifting the 2003 Division Three Play-Off Trophy.
When he was released by then AFC Bournemouth manager Kevin Bond at the end of the 2006/07 season he went on to sign a deal with Chesterfield who had just been relegated to League Two. Chesterfield went on to narrowly miss out on the play-offs, with Fletch being involved in the majority of games. However he left after one season due to wanting to play closer to home and joined Crawley in the Conference. However just 5 months later, he left and returned to his natural home of Dean Court, thanks to new Cherries manager Eddie Howe.
His arrival proved to be the catalyst to a remarkable 16 months which first saw the Cherries avoid relegation out of the Football League despite a 17 point deduction and with all well written scripts, Fletch was the man to score the goal to secure the Cherries survival.
The following season, despite being 37, Fletch went on to miss just one game all season as the Cherries clinched promotion to League One.
In April 2010, Fletch had the honour of having the North Stand named after him and in January 2011, Fletch was named as assistant to new caretaker manager Lee Bradbury following the departure of Eddie Howe to Burnley, he later stepped down from the position in November 2011 to concentrate on his playing career.
A short loan move to Plymouth in March 2012, saw Fletch make six appearances helping them avoid the drop out of the Football League.
But there was to be one more career highlight for Fletch, the 2012/2013 season.
Despite sitting in the relegation zone in October, Eddie Howe’s return to the club turned the side around and won promotion to the Championship.
Fletch made 12 appearances along the way, securing his third promotion as an AFC Bournemouth player, record appearance maker and legend.
But the realisation had alluded him until the rest of the squad returned to pre season training last week and with his own future at that point not resolved at that stage, Fletch admitted that he found it hard.
Fletch told the Daily Echo…
‘…Nothing had been finalised regarding my role on Saturday when the boys came in for a test day. Although the manager invited me in, I had to decline and it was the first time I had ever not wanted to come to the ground.
“I would have found it difficult to watch the boys and it would have broken my heart. I knew I had to face up to it eventually but, for the first day, my heart sank because I wasn`t going to be part of it for the first time in 24 years.
“I knew I had to face up to it eventually and the manager asked me to come in on Monday. I watched the boys train and helped out but, all the time, I was wishing it was me. People had told me what to expect and said it wouldn`t be easy. As much as everybody tells you how hard it is to overcome, nothing prepares you for when it actually happens…’
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