Friday, 7 December 2007

An Interview with David Felgate

David Felgate

David Felgate leads me down the Hilton Park tunnel from the home team dressing room, past the kit room and out on the terracing so that we can talk in peace on a dark September night. It is no more than a few yards but takes a matter of minutes, so much is he still in demand in football. He pauses to catch a word with a Leigh player along with his old friends from the Deva Stadium. His interest in happenings at the Deva are still evident as he listens to the words of Gordon Hill in a post match press conference and asks me what was going on.

The strong figure of the former Welsh International goalkeeper has won many friends and plaudits over many years, his desire to give his all with a philosophy of good fortune has created a goalkeeper who is refreshingly not just another footballer motivated by financial greed. For David considers himself lucky to have even played professional football: "I was fortunate. When I first started in the game. I was at a place called St Asaph in North Wales. I was placed to play for a team in St Asaph, St Asaph City boys at the time and I was lucky because there was an Everton scout there who actually saw me play. He took a chance on me to go down to Everton to the Bellefield Training Ground to play and I enjoyed it. I was about fourteen or fifteen at the time but there was nothing there for me. There were too many players comings, it's a big club at Everton so I asked to get released."

Where many a player simply fall out of football at this stage, Felgate did totally the opposite, catching the attention of several clubs. "A Bolton Wanderers scout came out of the blue and the day I asked to get released at Everton, he came knocking on the door. About two days later, I went to Bolton and played against Blackburn at Accrington Stanley's ground and then three days later I played at Old Trafford in front of fifteen thousand in a youth game. So I was catapulted into the big time."

David went on to become a loyal servant to Bolton Wanderers, the club that gave him his first big chance. A full nine years were spent at Burnden Park and in that time the big Welshman was just happy to be a part of the team. A refreshing change from football as we know today where multi-million pound contracts and sponsorship deals are sought by the bigger names in football. "To be honest, it was a completely different ball game all together when I was at Bolton. I was just so desperate to play. I was given an opportunity to play and I thanked everybody for giving me the chance to play. Hopefully, I was blessed with a little bit of skill because I think the average term of a goalkeeper or an ordinary footballer is around four or five years and then they went out of the game, into the non leagues and whatever. I was lucky, I think I've been playing for almost nineteen maybe twenty years now, so I was fortunate", explained Felgate.

"The money wasn't fabulous. I think I left Bolton Wanderers when the money was starting to get better. It was just down to timing and I lacked it. I've never looked back and thought ooh, if only, because if you start doing things like that, it's pointless doing it. The players who are getting the money must be decent. The Beckham's, Scholes and the Owen's and whatever, they obviously deserve it. At the end of the day, it's an entertainment business, even if you're playing non league in the conference. When I played in the league I always tried to entertain the crowd. When I was at Chester City I used to have a great rapport with the supporters simply because at the end of the day, I think they pay the wages and you've got to give something back. "

Felgate continued: "Sometimes some people don't realise, some players are money orientated at times and I think that's down to, not the greed of the players because I think they only give them what the clubs say well listen you're worth £20,000 this week we're going to pay you that. I never even got anywhere near that but like I say, my goal was just to play."

The Welshman's talent was soon recognised and David recalls the ultimate highlight of his career. "It would have to be the time I spent in the Welsh squad. When I got my first Welsh international cap and my only international cap. But at that time I was cover to Dai Davies and then Neville Southall, that was a good time and obviously my two visits to Wembley with Bolton. There are a lot of players who have never made it into the twin towers. I was fortunate to play, we won one and got beat once." Sadly for David, he only experienced his international dreams turn into reality the once, always playing in the shadow of legendary Welsh goalkeeper Neville Southall.

And then the time came for Felgate to leave Burnden Park onto pastures new. "The funny thing about it was, I left Bolton Wanderers after nine years with them and I went to Wolverhampton Wanderers. But I heard that Graham Barrow had been interested at the time. I went for a month to Wolves and enjoyed it. The manager at the time was Graham Turner and he was fabulous with me. But I heard that unfortunately Billy Stewart got an injury and I came simply because I wanted to keep playing. I didn't want to sit in any reserves and play on a Wednesday night in front two hundred people, I just wanted to play and Graham gave me that opportunity."

Felgate enthused: "I tried to repay that back to the supporters and to the people of Chester at the time. I enjoyed it, I thought it was a great club. I really enjoyed it, a friendly atmosphere, a great crowd and a kind of close knit community. That's what the lads realised about the place and it's saddening to see the situation Chester have found themselves in. I always look for their results, I read to non-league papers and when they got relegated from the league, it was sad for me. I moped around for a couple of weeks, I just couldn't believe it. "

Felgate recalled: "There were a lot of good people at Chester. Ooooh! And loads of great memories. I mean, Graham Barrow won't like me saying this, he basically threatened me a few times because when they used to play the ball back to me, I used to try and dummy the centre forward going to shoot on my right foot and then bring it in. I did it once cut inside and then I went down on my left side, managed to clear it on my left side, the forward ran across me and I cut back inside. I think we just managed to get away with it. To be honest I think Graham was just going to throttle me if I'd have done it again like."

"But I used to do it because I thought the crowd wanted to be entertained and I used to get bored, you know if the ball would be up the other side of the pitch. I used to have a laugh and a joke with people, like I said I think it's an entertainment business no matter where you are and I think the crowd deserve to be entertained. Even if the ball would be out of play at the other end of the pitch you are always interacting with the crowd and I think that was always important."

"At Chester, it was great because Billy Stewart was like a local hero, he'd been there years and he'd done really well for them. It was a little bit difficult at first. I remember the first game I played for Chester, was against Wigan Athletic. I remember going over on the Friday morning and I said to Mark Came, what's the defence like? He went fabulous, solid as a rock and then we got beat six three. I turned around to him in the dressing room and said to him, what the hell have you let me into here! He went, no! We'll get better. And in truth we did and we got promoted and I'm thinking to myself yeah, what's going on here. I remember Wigan playing and cutting us up into pieces. But that's how it was, the lads stick together there and no matter how big the club is, if you always stick together you'll find success."

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