|Sponsor||Dale Mill Fragrance - Left click to link to website|
|Date of birth||-|
|Place of birth||-|
|Previous clubs||Burscough, Skelmersdale United|
|Stuart Rudd was part of Wigan�€trade;s youth team who hammered a Manchester United side including David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. He then literally helped to build the Latic�€trade;s JJB stadium and became the North West Counties all time record goal scorer.
Imagine you�€trade;ve just finished your debut season for your new club as a 20-year-old playing as first-choice striker. As you prepare for your well-earned summer break, you take a glance at your scoring record �€“ 22 goals in 37 games. Satisfied? Not if you�€trade;re Stuart Rudd, you�€trade;re not.
Curiously, the Wigan-born forward was disappointed with a goal haul other strikers would relish but that�€trade;s because he has a hunger that has made him a consistent goal machine throughout his career.
It�€trade;s fair to say that hunger was inspired by Rudd senior, Geoff, who took his soon to watch him play for Burscough. Geoff would also take Stuart to Robin Park to turn out for Junior Latics, giving him valuable experience of playing against other talented children before many of his Beechhill Primary school classmates had had a chance.
Meanwhile, Rudd turned out for his school team, experiencing games in central midfield, on the right wing and right back. It wasn�€trade;t until much later that the now father of two got a taste of life as a centre forward.
As he says: �€�My dad was a big inspiration with football. I enjoyed going to watch him, though football was a lot different then. Players would turn out without wearing any shin pads and had big perms and moustaches.
�€�Playing on a Saturday morning for teams like Latics was enjoyable and a lot more competitive than at school. They put me on the right wing because I was quite pacey and strong though I always wanted to be up front.�€�
As a pupil at Shevington High School, Rudd kept up his playing routine and earned a trial with the Wigan town team. After getting selected, Rudd for the first time began to consider the possibility of a career in football.
�€�I was absolutely delighted to get picked for the town team,�€� he explains. �€�It�€trade;s something anyone would be proud of. The standard of play was very good and it gave you an idea of the players who would be around in years to come for the pro-teams.�€�
Such experience earned the 13-year-old attention from several Lancashire teams, including Bolton Wanders and home-town club Wigan. Both declared their interest and Rudd had a difficult choice of which team to join, as both had their pros and cons.
�€�I was thrilled to get the others for schoolboy forms (a contract that would keep him at the club until aged 16 or 17),�€� he says.
�€�Bolton was further away, but had better facilities and Wigan (then playing at Springfield Park) was just round the corner.�€�
Rudd opted for the nearer team and joined 30 or so other lads his age vying for a youth training scheme (YTS) contract. �€�I enjoyed playing for Wigan, but we didn�€trade;t have the best facilities. I did alright in that period for the youth team. Opportunities were very limited though because of a lack of investment in youth.�€�
Rudd was part of the young side that beat the likes of Newcastle and Rangers youth teams and, most famously, beat a prodigy-packed Manchester United side home and away.
He says: �€�It was the side that had David Beckham in as well as the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs and we hammered them 4-0 away.
�€�My dad was standing by Alex Ferguson on the touchline and said he was furious. It wasn�€trade;t long after that that Beckham was shipped off to Preston on loan.�€�
The rest, of course, is history. But Rudd can�€trade;t be blamed for feeling let down for what would happen next in his story. �€�Out of the 30 or us, Wigan only asked one lad to stay on. The rest of us were turned away,�€� he explains.
�€�You could say that, if I had played better I would have been that one person and I must admit I wasn�€trade;t as committed as I could have been. People said that I had wasted my chance by going out having fun, missing training and that let me down. Also, the club said at the time I wasn�€trade;t tall enough to get in.
�€�It was very annoying because it wasn�€trade;t long after that that [current Wigan owner] Dave Whelan took over and put lots of investment into the club. In fact, I ended up helping to build the JJB Stadium. A lot of the Wigan lads would see me and say �€�you should be part of this ground, not building it�€trade;. I didn�€trade;t dwell on it though.�€�
The youngster made his point four years later when his Skelmersdale team beat Wigan in a pre-season friendly 3-0, with Rudd scoring two. The story goes that Latics boss Paul Jewell wasn�€trade;t too happy when he found out after the game Rudd was rejected at Wigan as a teenager.
Rudd found himself leaving school with just a handful of qualifications and no football club, determined to pick himself up. He not only uncovered a new-found love for bricklaying and sought out a three-year apprenticeship, but went on to compete in national bricklaying championships.
But things were less positive on the soccer side of things. As he explains: �€�It was difficult with football. I wasn�€trade;t interested in playing football at all for the next year or so.
�€�I also picked up a cartilage injury which kept me out for a year. I was on crutches for a few months, but I�€trade;ve always been naturally fit and when I turned 18 I was going into the gym a lot so I picked it up again.�€�
Rudd then joined FC United captain David Chadwick at Daisy Hill (then Westhoughton Town) and hit 30 goals in about 20 games. The goal haul impressed Skelmersdale manager Russ Perkins, and Rudd joined them for the 1998-99 season, when he got those 22 goals.
He says: �€�I didn�€trade;t get off to the best of starts and I wasn�€trade;t happy with that record, to be honest. The way I saw it, I could have been a professional player and I was playing at a level much lower.�€�
Rudd scored 24 goals in 54 games the next season and helped Skelmersdale to lift the NWFCL Challenge Cup and reach the 4th round of the FA Vase, catching the attention of his dad�€trade;s old club, Burscough.
The Victoria Park club were so impressed with Rudd, they shelled out a record fee of �£2,500 to secure his services, which remains a NWCL record six years later.
But although the star man scored 22 goals in 20 games, things didn�€trade;t go totally according to plan. �€�I played the first four games, but then another established striker Mark Wilder came back from holiday and started, so I wasn�€trade;t getting regular games with Lee McEvilly [now with Wrexham] also starting,�€� he says.
�€�Then one night in winter we were playing up at Gateshead and the manager wanted to bring me on for the last minute of the game. I asked if he was joking and before our conversation had finished the full-time whistle had gone.
�€�Having to take time off work to travel for three-and-a-half hours on a coach to be a sub and have to arrange someone to mind my kids and getting paid less than I would at work. It wasn�€trade;t enjoyable.�€�
Rudd returned to Skelmersdale and, having continued where he left off in the scoring stakes, netting 28 times in 24 games during the 2001-02 season, he was made club captain.
�€�I was happy to be back. Things were good at Burscough, but the fact that all the NWCL clubs were within easy travelling distance made it a better arrangement for me.
�€�Skelmersdale have always been a big club at their level and have always got relatively big attendances, so they were always an attractive club for me to play for.�€�
Rudd stayed at the Ashley Travel Stadium until this summer, hitting several landmarks along the way that have etched his name into non-league football history.
In the 2002-03 season, the striker hit 46 goals in 43 games �€“ a record he was to equal last season, though in 38 games and without taking penalties. On leaving Skelmersdale, Rudd joined FC United with a mammoth record of 229 goals in 308 games.
He says: �€�I have some fantastic memories there, looking back, and last season was excellent. To earn promotion was fantastic because the club have deserved it for so long.�€�
But things ended on a low note when promotion-winning boss Paul Gallagher was sacked just a day after the Skelmersdale awards night. The club said they wanted someone with Unibond League experience in charge.
The decision angered many of the players and five, including Rudd, left.
Starting afresh with FC United, Rudd admits he feels he is playing with the best team in his career.
He says: �€�It really does feel like home from home. It is a dream playing with Rory [Patterson] up front. I think I�€trade;ve helped his game a lot and he has helped mine too because he can do so much of what I can�€trade;t.
�€�Every other player in the team shows tremendous effort and will to keep their place in the team week in week out and I am just enjoying every minute so far.
�€�I was a nervous wreck before I made my home debut against AFC Wimbledon, but to play before that crowd was immense. They just keep singing for 90 minutes and to have them on my side so early is great. I want to thank them all for giving me so much support.
�€�The best moment so far for me was undoubtedly the goal against Nelson. It�€trade;s funny because once it went in I had no idea how to celebrate. I had a different celebration for every goal at Skelmersdale, so I�€trade;m having to get into the habit again.�€�
And with support from his parents, his two children and his fianc�©e Natalie, Rudd said he is looking forward to a rosy future at Gigg Lane and claims nothing could tempt him away. He adds: �€�I had offers from Conference clubs in the summer and I know a few teams have had scouts watching me this season, but even if Manchester United came in for me tomorrow, I still wouldn�€trade;t leave FC. �€�