Thursday, 25 November 2010
201 Mark Stuart
Played : 1993-94 to 1998-99
Appearances : 202
Goals : 41
One of my favourite players ( and I'm not just saying that because he usually sits not far from me in the WMG Stand ) Mark was signed on a free from Huddersfield in the summer of 1993. He started out at Chesterfield and became a regular in the season they won promotion to the First Division in 1986. The following season he scored ( probably too soon for his own good ) the most significant goal of his career , one whose repercussions still affect football to this day. It was the only goal in Charlton's defeat of Man U. at Old Trafford, a result which nailed the lid down on Ron Atkinson and brought a certain Scottish wanker into the English game. Mark was a regular for two seasons in the First Division but eventually fell out of favour and went to Plymouth for £150,000 in November 1988 having scored 28 goals in 107 appearances. Mark spent 2 years at Home Park scoring 11 in 57 appearances but again fell out of favour and was loaned to Ipswich at the end of the 1989-90 season. Despite scoring twice in 5 games for the Tractor Boys he moved north to Bradford for £80,000 in the summer. Mark settled in Bingley but never managed to establish himself as a regular in the side scoring 5 in 29 appearances. After failing to feature in the opening months of 1992-93 he moved to Huddersfield in November 1992 on a free and made 15 appearances for them scoring 3 goals.
Mark made an immediate difference to the side with his tricky wing play on the left and eye for a goal which was then celebrated in some style. He was also one of our best free kick experts. He was one of the few genuinely two-footed players we've had which made him an unpredictable and dangerous opponent. He was also a joker and led the banter in the dressing room. Of course there was a downside or he wouldn't have been playing at Rochdale. He didn't like tracking back and could be lazy, letting the fullback do all the running for him. He also had a reputation for not liking "Jack" i.e. going missing in the winter. That certainly happened in his first season but he had a storming finish wth three goals in the last 4 games including a priceless winner at Gigg Lane (I've rarely experienced such a feeling of wellbeing as I had on leaving that game ) to take us to the brink of the play-offs.
Unfortunately Mark had a nightmare of a season in 1994-5 scoring only twice in 31 games and finishing on a really sour note when he swore at one of the EGP lads during a 4-0 hammering at Darlington. He started the following season on loan at Chesterfield but they didn't think him worth a game and he returned after a month. That seemed to give him the necessary kick up the arse and he scored the winner in his first game back after coming on as sub away at Lincoln. From there he inspired us to a purple patch in autumn 1996 with great victories at Scunthorpe (where his goal celebration seemed to suggest he'd had electro-shock treatment ) and Barnet where he scored twice. Unfortunately for everyone, he broke his jaw against Rotherham in the FA Cup in November and by the time he returned in the new year we were slipping badly. Mark's return helped stabilise the situation especially after scoring the winner in an unexpected victory at Preston.
Mark duly got another contract and was one of the few "survivors" actually rated by the incoming Grham Barrow. He scored 7 in 31 appearances in 1986-7 including , characteristically, 4 in the last 3 games as Dale put in a strong finish. The following season things started to sour for Mark as he was unbelievably dropped to the bench in favour of the right-footed midfielder (if he was anything) Mark Bailey (a decision that convinced many that Graham Barrow didn't know what he was doing) after a training ground row with Barrow's hatchet-faced number 2 Joe Hinnigan. Although Mark invariably came on and indeed played in 45 games that season, the damage was done and he only scored 4 goals.
By the following season Mark's hair had turned grey despite being only 31 and in his play he was also beginning to look long in the tooth. He played 19 games without scoring, leaving him tantalisingly on 99 senior goals in his professional career. His last appearance was in a 3-0 defeat at Leyton Orient ( sadly I was absent due to mortgage-induced penury ) in March 1999 after which he was loaned out to Southport. At the end of the season Mark had the option to sign on for another season but opted to remain with Southport instead which was probably the right decision; it's hard to imagine him thriving under Steve Parkin.
Mark had two good seasons at Southport scoring 12 goals including a televised free kick against Havant in the FA Cup in 2000 before signing for Stalybridge Celtic in 2001. His final club was his local team, Guiseley FC. He currently works as a gym instructor in the prison service and attends most matches at Spotland..