ROLLING BACK THE YEARS: Edgware Town player-boss Fergus Moore is still as active as ever, despite approaching 50. Pictures: Paul Holdrick and Chick Marshall
By John Lyons
Fergie time was a phrase associated with Sir Alex Ferguson because of the seemingly interminable injury-time his Manchester United team always seemed to enjoy – but it could just as well be applied to Non-League’s very own Fergie.
After 30 years playing his heart out for a host of sides, Fergus Moore is still going strong.
And although his 50th birthday isn’t that far off, the Edgware Town player-manager hasn’t got any plans to hang up his boots just yet.
Ever since he was released by Brentford three decades ago, he’s been a permanent fixture in London and the Home Counties. The powerful centre-back has played for, wait for it, Yeading, Staines, Uxbridge, Wealdstone (three times), Chertsey, Hemel Hempstead (twice), Boreham Wood, Northwood, AFC Hayes, Leyton, Berkhamsted, Bedfont Green, Windsor, Hanwell and Cockfosters.
It’s an exhausting list but the 48-year-old has still got some puff when virtually all of his contemporaries have given up the ghost.
A self-confessed football addict, he’s played for more than the last decade without being paid. Money has never been his major motivation.
“Sometimes the span of a player’s career is six or seven years, so you could say I’ve had about four or five careers,” he joked. “When I started out all those years ago, there was no set target. More recently, I’ve taken it one year at a time.
“At 35, I was still playing in the Ryman Premier for Wealdstone and people said I was in the twilight of my career. I suppose I was, but then I wanted to drop down and play to 40. It’s got silly now!”
Strikers Barry Hayles, 47, player/assistant boss of Merstham, and Jamie Cureton, 44, most recently with Hornchurch, have shown that the golden oldies can sparkle – but they’re still younger than Moore, whose Edgware side are in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division.
“People don’t recognise it too much because of the level,” he said. “If it was another step up, it would get a bit more coverage.
“But it’s still a hard league – a lot of players come through from Step 5. I’m proud of it, I do it for the love of the game.”
While he’s not picking himself for every game, he’s still notching up a healthy number of appearances.
“I wouldn’t play if I didn’t have to,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a lack of form or away games where people can’t make it. There’s always going to be that at this level.
“In any case, I couldn’t go from playing 40 or 50 games a season to doing nothing. Last year I played about 25 and this year I’ve started about 13 or 14 games and made other sub appearances. I’m cutting down gradually.
“I scored one goal, a traditional header, and I didn’t get sent off! I did get knocked out against Biggleswade United at home, though. I couldn’t play the following week because of the concussion rules.
“That was something different, I hadn’t had that before. I didn’t feel injured and just wanted to be back playing.”
Of course, if Moore, who works as a BT engineer, hadn’t been so keen on playing the game he loves, he could be higher up the managerial ladder now.
“I played with Luke Garrard at Northwood and look at the job he’s doing at Boreham Wood now – and he’s only in his mid-30,” he said.
“I’m managing at this level because I’m playing at this level and I don’t regret anything. I’ve made the friends I have done and I’m giving something back.
“Who knows, I might not have been successful at a higher level.”
It’s hardly a picnic managing at Step 5, though.
“Sometimes the turnover of players makes life tough,” said Moore, whose team were tenth when the season abruptly ended. “We’re offering facilities and a good team to play in. A few have gone on to Step 3 and 4 and that’s what I can offer – if you play well for me, you will go higher.
“There are teams at our level paying silly money and we have to compete with that. In the long run, I want to manage as high as I can, like I did as a player.”
But Moore admits that some of the young lads he plays alongside may not have the same desire as him to succeed.
“I just want to play, it’s the buzz and adrenaline, basing your week around it,” he explained. “It’s a way of life – you go out and enjoy your football.
“Sometimes I look at the players now and think ‘why are you here?’. They aren’t getting paid and don’t seem to be enjoying it. Perhaps it’s a generational thing.”
It’s something for Moore to muse on and he can do so with another golden oldie at Edgware, Scott McGleish.
The 46-year-old striker has gone full circle. He started out with Wares in the early 90s before going on to carve out a successful career in the Football League with the likes of Leyton Orient, Barnet, Colchester, Northampton and Wycombe.
“He’s still got the enthusiasm,” said Moore. “He’s been a credit to us – he’s played up front, midfield, everywhere. He’s scored a lot of goals wherever he’s been and he’s scored a few for us. He’s been outstanding and I think he’s enjoyed it.”
Anyone who has read Moore’s warts-and-all autobiography ‘And sometimes, the dog was busy!’, in conjunction with Roger Slater, knows that the current lockdown will have been especially difficult for a football obsessive like him. He doesn’t hide that fact.
“I’m lucky I’m still working and I have my family,” he said. “If I didn’t have that it would be soul-destroying.
“It’s the longest I’ve been without football and it can get to people. Even when the season ends, you usually have things to do and there’s football on the telly – play-offs, cup finals.
“At the time when football stopped, it seemed surreal, but then another week and another week would pass by. You get to grips with it and you have to have a coping mechanism.”
At least the lockdown days have given Moore the chance to spend more time with long-suffering wife Hayley and their three children – Aaron, 20, Callum, 14, and Holly, 9.
“When I said I would give it a go as manager, Hayley was very understanding,” he said. “At the start, I was a bit more stressed as it’s a lot more work. Say, you’re trying to get a team together and then you get a couple of late drop-outs. She’d say to me ‘you aren’t playing, are you?’. Once I had to call her and say ‘I’m in hospital’. She said ‘you have got to stop this now’, but it’s all gone the next day. She puts up with it, she knows it’s part of me.”
As much as ever, Moore is itching to get back to football again and if there is a difficulty in putting a squad together, he knows there’s one player he can definitely count on – himself.
“I’ll sign myself on and see what happens,” he said. “Even if I don’t have any intention of playing, I know I will be needed. I could sign five or six centre-halves at the start of the season, but a couple might leave and one or two could be injured or unavailable. I know the circumstances.”
Will hitting the 50-mark be the perfect time, then, to finally call it a day on the playing side?
“If there was an opportunity to manage higher up or I got a budget to work with here, that would be the time,” he admitted. “But while I’m at this level and know the circumstances, I’d consider myself. Perhaps I’ll go for 60!”
As for Fergie time, the Liverpool fan added: “I’ve gone well over that already – I’ve stretched it to the limits. I just enjoy football and the whole Non-League scene. If I had to choose, I would rather go to watch a Non-League game than an Arsenal or Tottenham.”