Born in London, England, Stuart Plant arrived to Australia in 2015 and has quickly made an impact and risen through the ranks in Northern NSW Football (NNSWF). Not only a terrific shot stopper and ‘high ball commander’, Stuart displays great leadership qualities as well and after recently working his way into the National Premier League (NPL) NNSW, has proven those qualities at the highest level. Stuart spoke to Quentin this week about his progression from English football all the way to joining Lake Macquarie City as well as the major differences between the football experienced in his hometown compared to here.
Where and when did you start your junior career and how did you progress into senior football?
My Junior Club was Davenham Dynamos and my first year as a goalkeeper was at 17. I was then picked up by Nantwich Town Youth team before then making the switch to Crewe Alexander. I then ventured into the semi-professional game with playing for Eccleshall before signing for Witton Albion. I then went on loan to a few clubs before joining Runcorn Town. I then came across to Australia and was the import for Singleton Strikers, before leaving to play for Charlestown City Blues and I’m now currently a Lake Macquarie City Rooster.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not playing football?
I love watching rugby league, spending time & having days out with my girlfriend – just the usual standard stuff really. It’s a long season so any break is worthwhile.
What do you do for work?
I studied in England to become a greenkeeper once I left school. I also studied Sport Performance and Excellence for 2 years and I currently work at Sportspower Singleton.
What are the major differences between playing over in England to the football here?
Passion I’d have to say. England is football mad and you basically eat, sleep and breathe football. Out here, it’s not as big but it’s growing which is good. There is a lot more physicality over there than here. Weather is a major difference as well. Your pre-season is in Aussie summer in 30-40 degrees and during the winter, its 15 degrees while in England, you’re playing in minus temperatures. I’ve played in snow before so an Aussie winter can’t be that bad.
How did the move from Singleton to the NPL and then over to Lakes come about?
I loved playing for Singleton Strikers. I was lucky enough to captain them for a year and I’ll always be forever grateful for what they did for me, both on and off the pitch. Everyone that knows me knew it was very hard to leave but I wanted to break into the NPL and play at the top level. I spoke to David Tanchevski and I was lucky enough that Charlestown gave me a gig. I loved my time there, everyone knew that. Training was intense and was very competitive and that helped. Playing under Mark Wilson helped me a lot purely due to how calm and collected he was. When the roster window came about, I got the call and spoke to Nick Webb and he wanted me to come across as first choice for the rest of the year and I knew I’d be silly to turn it down. I was ready to make the step up and I haven’t looked back. I’m enjoying working with Nick & Craig and the boys at Lakes. It’s a very good club that’s moving forward in the right direction.
What has your initial thoughts been of the competition and the standard so far?
The standard of football is great quality. Its fast paced and I love it and the professionalism as well. I remember my first game in the league against Olympic when we got beat 4-3 – that game was probably the fastest I’ve ever played in. It’s a physical league and you know every game is going to be a battle.
What player has been one of your favourite players to play with and you have admiration for?
I’ve been lucky to of played with some quality players back at home. At Witton Albion, Ben Harrison & Michael Powell (professional English footballers) who taught me so much, but also looked after me and helped me find my feet at Witton. Marc Joseph was another who at the time was playing international football. Out here in Australia, there’s a few but one would definitely be Dan Bartlett. I played with him in my first season here and even though he can be a bit of a hot head as everyone knows, I loved his passion, work rate and his desire to win.
Which player is the hardest to play against and why?
The first player I think of straight away is Sam Walker. He’s now a current teammate of mine, but boy, has he put some goals past me. I’ve lost count of the amount of times he’s scored hat-tricks where I’ve been on the receiving end of and that’s no exaggeration either. Now that I’m playing with Sam, I’d probably say David Hodgson and Scott Smith. It’s always a battle when you’re coming up against either of them.
Most memorable moment(s) of your career so far?
I’ve got a few. Playing at the Old Wembley would be one for sure as well as signing for Crewe Alexandra. Another would be playing in the FA Cup qualifier for Runcorn Town against Barrow who were 83 places above us. We beat them and kept a clean sheet in front of over a 1000 so that’ll stay with me forever. Last one would be playing Liverpool at Youth level when they had the big guns like Raheem Sterling. Playing Liverpool was huge purely because my Mum supports them so to play against them was a big thing for me, even at Youth level.
Most influential person in your career?
Mum and Dad. They’ve taught me everything I need to know on and off the field. They’ve put in countless hours running me around and watching my games. Even when they’re on the other side of the world, I know I still can count on them and turn to them for advice. You soon realise that you wouldn’t be where you are without that type of love and support.
What are you hoping to achieve for this year’s season?
This season I’m hoping we can finish as high as we possibly can. I know I speak for a lot of the club when I say we’ve been coming off frustrated thinking we should have taken something from the game. But that’s life and that’s football. There isn’t a big jump between 8th and 4th, so with a few wins, you just never know. Personally, I’d love to keep a few more clean sheets. I know goalkeepers pride themselves on clean sheets and I’m no different so a that would be nice!
What are your plans for the future of your career? Where are you hoping to progress?
I think most people’s answers would be to play professional football and I still haven’t given up hope. You never know with football. It’s always been a dream of mine and I was lucky to live that life for a year. The way I see it is if you never try, you’ll never know. If not in the playing side of things, I’m booked to start my badges so I can start coaching and hopefully work through the ranks. Hopefully one day I might be working with a professional club as either a coach or a goalkeeper coach.