Before Robbo in 2010, there was Steve Berry in ’96; the first man to lift the Conference trophy above his head as Boro’ skipper. The fact this tenacious midfielder didn’t get the chance to lead us into the Football League isn’t something we need to go over again. It wasn’t a bad return either for Berry; one full season at the club and one title. Quite what would’ve been possible if he didn’t leave us for Kettering Town in summer 1996 can be debated. But we wouldn’t swap that title win in order to find out.
Steve Berry: Before Boro’
A native of Gosport, it’s hardly a surprise that Berry’s career started out locally; first with Gosport Borough and then Portsmouth. And he was quite the prodigy. Making his debut for Pompey as a tender 18-year-old in the old Division Three, he secured his spot in the first team during the 1981-2 campaign. But, as can be the case, new management saw him fall out of favour at Fratton Park.
After leaving the south coast in 1984, Berry made the long trip north when he signed for Sunderland. The 1984-5 season was a weird one. The Black Cats made it to the League Cup final. But they were also relegated. And, not for the first time, a change in manager didn’t work out well for the midfielder. After leaving Roker Park, the midfielder turned out for Newport County, Swindon Town, Aldershot and Northampton Town in the late 1980s.
With a fair amount of Football League experience in the bank, the early 1990s saw Berry look abroad. Either side of his time in Hong Kong with Instant Dict, the midfielder played a handful of games in the German Second Division for SV Darmstadt. After more time with Instant Dict, he returned home. And it’d be Paul Fairclough who rushed in to snap him up and bolster a Boro’ side that were consolidating after a debut Conference campaign.
Steve Berry: After Boro’
Berry’s departure after the 1995-6 season is disappointing. After all, who wants to lose a title-winning skipper. But it’s also clear why the Poppies wanted him. And he even stood in as player-manager for a time after Gary Johnson left the club. After quitting the dugout at Rockingham Road, the midfielder came home to Broadhall Way. But the Boro’ he returned to were no longer the force of two or three years before.
In 1999, he linked up with Brian Talbot’s Rushden & Diamonds as a player-coach. By now, the focus was more on the ‘coach’ side of the equation. But there was still life in the legs in later years; coming out of retirement to play for Bedford Town in 2003. And that’s not all. In 2005 at the age of 42, he signed for Cogenhoe United; doing his bit as the club recorded a best-ever run in the FA Cup until it was halted in a Third Qualifying Round replay.