In terms of turbulent debuts go few can weigh up to the likes of Jonathan Woodgate with his own goal and red card in his long-anticipated Real Madrid bow. Or what about Graham Souness’ inaugural match as player/manager at Rangers ending in a red card for a mass brawl that the fiery Scot initiated himself?
However, as goalkeepers go few would have went from the extreme highs to devastating lows that Shane Gore endured in his football league bow. Shane, who signed to Sparta GK almost two years ago and is the current captain of Isthmian Premier League side Wingate & Finchley, spoke to Stephen Linsley of Sparta Spotlight to talk through his Wimbledon days, FA Cup fairytales and a very successful career in the upper echelons of non-league.
You’ve been in the senior game for nigh on twenty-years now, but how did it all start for you?
So, I grew up in a coastal town called Ashford in Kent and started playing football at school. I was a bit overweight at school so naturally I went in goal (laughs). I played for the school team and the district; it was there when I got spotted by West Ham. I was at West Ham’s academy from the age of 12 to 14 before doing my YTS at Wimbledon.
You would have spent your youth days at Wimbledon in the days of the Premier League and Championship. How was it?
Because of the financial difficulties Wimbledon were having at the time, we only had the one goalkeeping coach so we worked with the first team. That was when Neil Sullivan and Kelvin Davis were at the club so we would be doing the same as them, learning from them. They didn’t really need to say a lot you just had to watch them train, but they were fantastic. We used to have ‘Goalkeepers’ Union’ nights out together. When you’re 16/18 and friends with these professionals it’s just amazing. I remember talking to Neil Sullivan just before the Euro 2000 play offs when Scotland were drawn against England. Neil was Scotland’s first choice and I was having a joke with him telling him to let England win. It’s surreal when I think about it. Working with him and Kelvin Davis was an amazing learning experience.
Your debut for Wimbledon in 2002 was interesting to say the least. Saving a penalty with your first touch only for it to be retaken and then conceding three in a 6-2 defeat. How did you feel after that?
I was 20 years-old at the time and our keeper, Ian Feur was sent off when we were 3-2 down to Grimsby, who were battling relegation at the time. My first touch in the Football League was saving a penalty which if it had stood would have kept us in the game at 3-2 but was retaken. We conceded three times in the last ten minutes which was absolutely gutting, it was really weird. A couple of the senior players, David Connolly and Neil Shipperley pulled the boys round and said: ‘lets have a drink’. We had a swift half pint before getting on the coach and then I went out with some of the younger players when I got back. It was really bittersweet to make my first team debut in those circumstances.
You went out on loan after that and the Grimsby game turned out to be your last action for Wimbledon. Why didn’t it work out at Selhurst Park?
The club was heading towards administration, so I thought I had a decent chance of getting a new contract but basically got told to find another club. I went to Barnet on loan for a season, did pretty well and ended up staying there.
You were part of a promotion winning side with Barnet but went to Stevenage before you got a chance to play again in the Football League. Why was that?
Again it was a mixed bag. First season I established myself in the first team and we got into the play offs but lost on penalties to Shrewsbury. Unfortunately, in the second season where we went up as champions, I only played ten games or so because I’d broken my foot. I didn’t really have a choice in leaving to be honest. The manager Paul Fairclough had basically told me that I wouldn’t be first choice, but I was too good to be sitting on the bench. They brought in another goalie, so I had to leave really and I had the offer to join Stevenage who were a decent non-league side and near to where I lived. Stevenage already had a pretty established goalkeeper who had done really well for the club, so it was difficult to get a sniff. I actually met my wife at Stevenage through my now sister-in-law who worked at the club.
You played for Luton whilst they were in the Conference. What was it like playing in a Football League setup in non-league?
It was like being back at Wimbledon in respect to facilities etc and it definitely felt like a league club. It all happened really quickly to be honest. I had been at Maidenhead for a few seasons and Luton were on the lookout for a number two, Mick Harford invited me to train with them in pre-season. I was there for two weeks and I was given a contract. To play for a massive club, to go from part-time to full-time was a chance I could not turn down. I didn’t get to play as much as I would have liked, but I did get a chance in the FA Cup against Rochdale, who were near the top of League Two. Mark Tyler pulled his back in the warmup before the home tie and without really expecting to I was playing. We ended up drawing 3-3 after being 3-0 up which was gutting but we went away to Spotland and pulled off an upset in the replay when we beat them 2-0, which was a fantastic moment.
You’ve had a quite a career in non-league footballer, but what do you rank as your best moment?
Again that was in the FA Cup with Chesham Town. We went away to Bristol Rovers in 2015 who were top of League Two, bearing in mind we were in the Southern Premier Division and 75 places below them in the pyramid. We ended up winning 1-0 and you know what it’s like, an FA Cup giant killing is just a fairy tale. That was my best feeling in football.
You’re at Wingate & Finchley and have been for three years now. Do you have any plans for retirement?
I’m 38 now so I’m at that point where I’m just taking every season as it comes, but I would love to play until I’m 40 or just as long as I can. As someone once told me; ’You’re a long time retired.’ I have no real desire to get into management or coaching at the moment, I think it would probably be nice to have a Saturday or two free for the first time in twenty years.
Finally, how did you get involved with Sparta GK?
It was at the beginning of last season, one of the younger goalkeepers at Wingate, Lamar Johnson was using Sparta gloves in training. I googled them and liked the look so ended up contacting Chris looking to get involved. I’ve worn both the Taugetus and Poseidon so far and on both the grip in wet weather is unbelievable, far better than other gloves I’ve worn. They’re an excellent company!