Carl Alford. A man so far up the list of BoroGuide’s bestest ever Stevenage players that he commands a tremendous view overlooking the Sussex coast and, on a clear day, Guernsey. After Barry Hayles had departed for the pastures of the Football League in 1997, Boro’ had been unable to use that famous FA Cup run to paper over what was an otherwise poor 1997/8 campaign.
Goals were needed. Gary Crawshaw had managed 16 goals in 51 appearances; Neil Trebble with 10 in 47 throughout that season. The next top goalscorer was Giuliano Grazioli with 9 and he was only around for that one game against the Toon. So it was apparent that firepower was needed and Paul Fairclough made no mistake in delivering it.
In fact, you could argue this Cult Classic would also sit in the Bestsellers’ section – and we’d ask you to trust us when we say we tried to get through this without a contrived reference to The Streets. But we failed.
Alford arrived from Rushden Anne Diamond (love rehashing old fanzine jokes) and was to make his “unconventional” presence felt with a debut goal at Barrow. The next game threw up another goal. And the next game after that? Well, he didn’t score there but it’s not quite as if he was out of the action long. His first Boro’ campaign yielded 33 from 50. Wowzer.
The man was clearly one who had long grown tired of scoring bog-standard punts from the six-yard line. Those sort of goals were ones that BoroGuide built a career around. But Carl, nah. He liked to fling his “imposing” physique through the air and, even when timing may have been slightly awry, the ball would still skew off a flaying body part and into the net. It was that easy to Carl Alford.
Under Dickie Hill, Boro’ raced out of the blocks at the start of the 1999/00 season with six straight league wins. Alford scored five of them and continued his run of form until March, when he scored his last of the season at Kidderminster. A more mellowed 26 in 45 was that campaign’s final tally. And then he left for at-the-time-no-better-than-Boro-and-finished-below-Stevenage-in-2001, Doncaster Rovers. Ah.
In one last undesirable twist of fate, Alford chose non-league’s biggest stage – the 2002 FA Trophy final at Villa Park – for one last demonstration of his eye for goal. The poise of the most elegant ballerina and the sunlit grace of a sprinting cheetah… were extremely notable by their absence as the overhead kick was dusted down at Boro’s expense. Annoying? Fup aye…
But here is how we prefer to remember Carl Alford at BoroGuide: