You can’t always be sure what you’ll get if you sign a veteran pro. But, if they could all turn out like Steve Guppy, we won’t complain. You see, some elder statesmen of the game can turn up down the pyramid for one last hurrah – but not really do all that much. Not too sure why the name Ray Houghton comes to mind there. Odd. But the addition of Guppy was an inspired one by Mark Stimson in August 2006. And he’d go on to make history with us – let alone become a cult classic in Boro’s red and white.
Steve Guppy: Why Is He A Cult Classic?
A week into the 2006-7 Conference National campaign, Stimmo’s reign hadn’t started in a blaze of glory. Both our opening games ended 2-1 to the opposition. So, the new manager took action. In one fell swoop, we snapped up a pair of Steves – Guppy and Morison. The impact soon became apparent. Moro’ brought the goals. We all know that. But Guppy had that class and experience to help Boro’ get into their stride.
Now, we scored 76 league goals that campaign; only champions Dagenham & Redbridge bagged more. Now this is by the by, but our dismal start is probably what cost us a shot at the playoffs (we were eight points shy of Exeter City in fifth).
Back to the point, however.
Add four FA Cup and 23 FA Trophy goals to our league haul and you’ve got a Boro’ team that bagged more than 100 in total for that season. Guppy himself chipped in with a mere two goals. But, then again, he didn’t come to us with much of a reputation for scoring. Nor did Stimmo really have that role in mind. No. The ex-Leicester winger was here to lay ’em on for the likes of Moro’; to use his deadly left peg and experience to unlock defences.
And he certainly had an impact on a certain young Boro’ winger who was just coming into his stride. In an interview with the Non-League Paper, George Boyd said: “Steve Guppy came in and was absolutely amazing. It was the end of his career when he came, but he was half a yard quicker than anyone upstairs. And he had a wand of a left foot. He just kept putting it on Steve (Morison)’s head, and Steve would score.
“We were the last team he played for, but he still loved football. At the time, you think ‘Wow, how does he keep going?’. But, as I’ve got older, it’s an attitude I can completely identify with.”
One thing that Boydie never managed to do with us, however, was win silverware. Guppy did. It was part circumstance, of course. While our league campaign didn’t go quite as we hoped, the FA Trophy was another story. And, with Jeff Kenna, the winger had the honour of being the first player to turn out at both old and new Wembleys. The story of the final is not one we need to repeat here. But Guppy, though replaced by Craig Dobson during the second half, still ended up on the winning side – picking up a medal for his part in it.
Steve Guppy: Epilogue
“So, let’s see if we can win the final, enjoy the summer and then maybe the summer will go on for a few years. I honestly don’t know what I want to do, and I don’t know what the manager [Mark Stimson] is thinking either. I’m just not looking past the final… It’s always a great buzz to get to a Wembley final, and for players at our level there’s an extra buzz. It’s not something I expected. I came out of retirement to play for Stevenage, to have another year just to enjoy it.”
It’d only be one other year for Guppy. He left that summer; the winger back to the USA to turn out for Rochester Rhinos as player-assistant coach. After one single campaign there, however, he hung up the playing boots and his next move would take him further along the coaching path. He went to Colorado Rapids in 2009; taking up the post of assistant to head coach Gary Smith. Not long after Smith left in late 2011, so too did Guppy.
It was this association with Smith that made people think that Guppy would come back to us in 2012. With Smith named new manager, the expectation was that Guppy would take up the role of number two. And maybe that was the intention. Instead, he got a role up at Sunderland in March 2012. If Smith did plan to bring him in as assistant at Boro’, it’s only natural that Guppy opted for perhaps one of the few alternatives that stood out more. By going to the Black Cats, he was working under Martin O’Neill; a boss under whom Guppy had played at three separate clubs: Wycombe Wanderers, Leicester City and Celtic.
Mind you, we did spot Guppy in the away end at Hillsborough during that season.