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One of Chester’s former players, Steve Ludlam, recently visited the Deva Stadium to watch his son Ryan in action for Worksop Town. Steve was clearly delighted with the Tigers shock victory and was happy to have a chat about his own footballing career which included three seasons with Chester at the start of the eighties.

Steve was born in Chesterfield and started his career with Sheffield United at the age of 14. As a youngster he played for Yorkshire Schoolboys and just missed out on the England Schoolboys team after picking up an injury. He made his debut for the Blades, against Tottenham Hotspur, in the old Division One in December 1975 but could not help them avoid relegation at the end of that season. “When I was an apprentice there were players like Tony Currie, Alan Woodward and Billy Dearden in the side. They had all developed together but in the mid-seventies United started to experience financial difficulties, Currie was sold, and youngster like myself were given a chance.” In 1977 Steve himself was sold to Carlisle United for £16,200 and spent the next three seasons at Brunton Park. “Carlisle were in Division Three at the time and Bobby Moncur was the manager. We had a good side but I think we were just short of a striker. In my last two seasons there we finished sixth on both occasions and just missed out on promotion. We also played Manchester United in the FA Cup and had a cracking cup tie against Ipswich Town in the year they won the cup. We only lost to a late John Wark penalty after playing them off the park. In 1980 the Carlisle side was beginning to break up, a couple of players left and many others were unsettled so I was looking to move on. John Harris, who had previously managed both Chester and Sheffield United, spoke to Alan Oakes about me. One thing led to another, I had a chat with Alan and was happy to join Chester. At the time they had just sold Rushie and I remember that they had also just signed Trevor Phillips and Mike Kearney.”

Steve joined Chester for a then record fee of £45,000 in July 1980 but unfortunately this coincided with a change in the clubs fortunes. Two of Alan Oakes other summer signings, forwards Mike Kearney (Reading) and Trevor Birch (Shrewsbury) failed to find the net in League games and midfielder Steve actually finished the 1980/81 season as equal leading goalscorer with only 7 goals. The following season Chester were relegated, Oakes was sacked and Cliff Sear took over followed by John Sainty in November 1982. “Alan was a nice bloke but I felt there was too much concentration on fitness rather than tactics and organisation. We used to play a lot of five-a-side but didn’t get much actual coaching. Alan had played with great players like Lee, Bell and Summerbee but he was dealing with players who were not up to that standard, players who needed coaching and organising. When John Sainty took over there was a change of emphasis and we used to concentrate a lot more on tactics and he used to play different formations.”

“While I was at Chester I remember playing in a cup game at Penrith. It was horrendous. The pitch was on a slope, it was boggy, there was a wind blowing and it was raining and hailing. It was just a horrible, horrible day and the game was even worse than the day. The lad who scored the goal, Geoff Fell, used to clean my boots at Carlisle. I can still remember the goal going past Grenville.”

“After relegation I almost joined Port Vale where John McGrath was the manager. I remember him coming round to my house but the deal depended on Vale selling Neville Chamberlain but it just fizzled out and I stayed at Chester.”

After 102 League appearances and 12 goals for Chester Steve joined Ilves in Finland for 6 months although his registration continued to be held by Chester. “I remember that the club was in financial difficulties and a lot of players knew their contract wouldn’t be renewed. I was also struggling with an achilles tendon injury so negotiated a settlement with the club and went to Finland. I got the deal through a friend of Nigel Edwards from his days at Aldershot. After playing in Finland I remember coming back to Chester and training in the gym with Paul Needham, Peter Zelem and John Sainty. We were playing head tennis when Sainty was called out of the session. When he returned he just said “I’d love to carry on but I’ve just been sacked”. I continued to have problems with my achilles in England and although I was running fit I couldn’t train properly and the injury kept flaring up. I briefly joined Blackpool and Rochdale but both clubs were suffering financially and couldn’t offer me a contract so I retired when I was 28.”

Steve briefly played non-league football for Rhyl and Buxton and then went into the licensing trade for ten years. Since then he has also worked for Legal & General Financial Services and is currently employed by the Royal Mail. He is also still involved in football coaching. “I coached at Sheffield Wednesday Centre of Excellence for a few years and then my lads started playing and I concentrated on helping them. Craig was at Sheffield Wednesday while Ryan, who played tonight, was at Sheffield United. For the last seven years I have been coaching with Chesterfield Centre of Excellence although I had a short spell with Rotherham. I currently run Chesterfield Under 13s so I’m still involved in football. I just can’t get enough of it”.
Chas Sumner [Published 8/02/03]

Since the publicaton of this article Steve Ludlam has been appointed manager of Worksop Town.





















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