|Sponsor||Claire & Ian Gooddy, David & Jack Smith|
|Date of birth||06-10-1981|
|Place of birth||Wythenshawe|
|Previous clubs||Bolton Wanderers, Sheffield United, Rochdale, Radcliffe Boro|
For FC United�€trade;s solid midfielder Steve Spencer, football has always been about the passion on the pitch and making decent career of it. At times during his eight years in the game the Wythenshawe-born 24-year-old was making all the right moves to get ahead, but setbacks at key points along the way have stifled Spencer�€trade;s ambition. Though for now, the Liverpool fan is happy to have achieved at least one of his aims thanks to his current club.
�€�I am very content with my football at the moment. I love going to games and training with FC. When you hear the roar at the start of the game or at odd moments when the ball goes out of play and fans just pick up the tempo. It�€trade;s incredible and it makes you feel proud. There aren�€trade;t a lot of non-league footballers who can say they are totally satisfied with that level of competition, but FC provides that.�€�
Spencer admits that satisfaction through playing was a given during his younger years. When he was eight he played for his primary school team and Sale United�€trade;s boys�€trade; team, where he played right through until the age of 14 when football became a possible career option.
�€�My parents [father Lol and mother Diane] got me involved with Sale where I played for a fair few years. It was a good place for the parents and the kids to socialise and I learned a lot while I was there.�€�
�€�Then when I was about 10, a couple of the lads got called up for City or United, so you knew there was potential there, though it was still just fun for me. Then when I was 14, I moved to Stretford Vics because they had a really good team and I wanted to be a part of it.�€�
The experience with Stretford Vics �€“ one of Greater Manchester�€trade;s best known junior clubs �€“ took Spencer on a trip to Belgium to square up against the likes of PSV Eindhoven boys�€trade; team and other continental outfits. It was tests like that, he says, that made him see the bigger picture of what football could offer to talented teenagers.
�€�It was a bit of a step up in standard from Sale to Vics. Even when I left school at 16, football was the only career option I had. I was determined to make a go of it. A scout from Bolton came to a Vics game and signed me up on schoolboy forms. I was absolutely delighted at the time.�€�
Getting the backing of a Football League club with big plans for a new stadium and regular Premiership football gave Spencer bags of confidence, which he was determined not to waste.
�€�I was very impressed with how things were at Bolton. We played at the training ground in Euxton which had good facilities. We had players in our team like Kevin Nolan and we had a quality side. When my year with Bolton was nearing an end I fully expected to get a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) place. I went in for a chat with the staff feeling pretty confident, but they turned me down.�€�
The rejection was hard to take.
�€�As soon as I was told I was absolutely gutted. I remember getting home, getting changed and the first thing I did was go out for a run. It was harsh, but you get on with it. One of the Bolton coaches told a few of the lads about a trial at Sheffield United, which gave me a chance to get right back into it.�€�
And it was the very next day after the Bolton rejection that Spencer showed up for a trial with the Bramhall Lane club.
�€�They had a look at me and were happy to give me a YTS. I was delighted because it meant I would be settled. I also had a chance of a trial up at Sunderland, but I was happy enough with Sheffield United due to the distance and the fact that my best mate Phil Jagielka (who is still with the club) was also down there. Initially I was getting the train over, but eventually moved to Sheffield and things began to click into place.�€�
In his first YTS year, Spencer was among a handful of lads landing reserve-team places and impressing the senior coaches. Things got even better in his second contracted year as he became youth team captain and even appeared in the reserve team. He claims his finest football moment - pre-FC - is scoring an FA Youth Cup goal for the Blades against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
�€�That win at Ewood Park was very special. We played teams like Arsenal too in the cup. It was exciting to play against such a mix of players.�€�
D-day eventually came when Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock decided which young players would be offered professional contracts, which brought back harsh memories of Spencer�€trade;s last day at Bolton.
�€�Warnock for me was the type of manager who, if you weren�€trade;t in his good books, he didn�€trade;t know your name. He had a lot of players to choose from at the time and they were quality players. I had nearly finished the season with Sheffield United and they sent me out to Rochdale, for whom I played a few games towards the end of the season. Sheffield United told me to go for pre-season training, but then they changed their mind and they were going to release me.�€�
Spencer moved back to Manchester before his fate had been sealed in Yorkshire. It took a while for him to come to terms with the setback, but he eventually got involved with Leigh RMI.
�€�Leaving Sheffield United was hard because at some point you realise that you�€trade;re not going to make a career out of football and you have to look at getting another job. I started playing for Leigh and I was getting the odd game, but it wasn�€trade;t regular. It was so frustrating being in the reserves because I had come from a club so much higher up and knew I deserved a chance. You look at why you play football and if you�€trade;re not making a career out of it you have to enjoy it, and I really wasn�€trade;t getting either.�€�
The realisation lead to Spencer leaving Hilton Park and later signing for Radcliffe Borough in the 2003/4 season.
Their manager was Kevin Glendon and he told me it would be good passing football. It was a good little set-up. I was impressed and ended up staying there for two years. He�€trade;s a good manager and I know a couple of the other FC lads who were at Radcliffe (Karl Marginson, Rory Patterson, Simon Carden) like him and the way he plays football. I had a run in the first team in the first year but I got a torn ligament injury in the second year that kept me out for 14 weeks, which was very frustrating.�€�
Despite finding a level of happiness at Stainton Park, his old mate from Sheffield United Rob Nugent inadvertently set the wheels in motion for Spencer�€trade;s departure.
�€�I spoke to Rob in July and asked him what he was up to. He said he�€trade;d signed for the new supporters-owned club and he was saying how it was growing all the time. Then he told me about what it had been like in the Leigh RMI friendly and I was very interested in what was going on.�€�
After Karl Marginson watched a pre-season game at Radcliffe he asked Glendon if Spencer could make the switch to Gigg Lane.
�€�Kevin said it was my choice, so I went and played for FC in the friendly at Stalybridge and it was just superb. Warming up was one thing, with fans trickling in, but running out onto the pitch was just amazing. I decided to move to FC the next day.�€�
Since then, Spencer has featured in almost every game he has been fit to play, despite fierce competition for the midfield places from Will Ahern, Simon Carden and Mark Rawlinson. Consistency aside, Spencer said his best moment came when he netted the red�€trade;s first ever league goal at Leek in August, and went on to score a second.
�€�I just remember hitting the shot and the crowd going mad because of the goal�€trade;s significance. It was a hell of a moment as a player. But nothing surprises you with FC. When the crowd got to 4,000 it sounded more like 40,000 and all the players respect the fact that they pay to come and see us play every week. I want to be at the club for years to come - there�€trade;s no limit to what we can achieve.�€�