Wing wizard Dean Calcutt went from amateur football to playing against Premier League giants West Ham and the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard in the space of six months in the late 1990s.
The remarkable chapter as a member of Ronnie Glavin’s famous Emley side of 1998 was the first step on the Non League ladder for Calcutt whose career contained so many memorable moments and the occasional red card (including an overturned one) scattered here and there.
He won titles with Bradford (Park Avenue) and Accrington Stanley – helping John Coleman take Accrington into the Conference in 2003. He also played in Stanley’s unforgettable FA Cup upset over Huddersfield Town – Calcutt’s hometown team – in the same year.
For a player who entered Non League at the relatively late age of 22, it was quite a journey…
This is Dean Calcutt’s Non League Journey:
“I used to get contacted by Tottenham supporters because it says on the Stalybridge website that I was an apprentice at Spurs when I was younger. I never played for Spurs. It used to baffle me so I did a bit of digging and there was a chap called for Dean Calcutt for Non League sides in the Southern League so unfortunately there’s two Dean Calcutt’s who have played Non League football.
“I started playing local football after I left school as school sport was Rugby-orientated in our day so I played a lot of Rugby League. So I left school and got into playing Sunday League with my brother. I then started playing more and when I was playing well for Brockenhall, a mutual friend told me that Emley wanted me to go and trial with them. I went up and did the pre-season. In those days there were lots of players trialling and they had a good side. Guys such as Denial Graham, Michael Reynolds, Paul David, Ian Banks were there so it was difficult to get in, but I did well and they signed me. That was in 1997 so I literally went from playing local football to playing at West Ham in the space of six months. You couldn’t make it up.”
FA Cup Run (1997/98)
“The whole cup run was something else. You’ve spoken to Willy and others about the cup run and it was unreal. Calendar news came to my work which was at the time was a garage. That was an eye-opener. I was only 22 or 23 and I was thrusted into this limelight. There was all sorts of coverage. There was a spread in the Sun Goals on the morning of the West Ham game.
“There were times in the whole cup run where you look back and wonder how we got through? It was a magical run. We played Belper very early on and won 2-1, but we should have never won. There was the Nuneaton game in the fourth qualifying round. I’ll never forget that one as our left-back Simon Jones scored a 25-yard rocket into the top corner to make it two each.
“We played at Morecambe in the first round proper and I think we got battered and we got a penalty late on which Ian Banks scored to get a replay. It was 2-1 in extra-time and this Japanese fella for Morecambe scored a worldie to equalise and they scored again in the last minute of extra-time. We then got a corner and I’ll never forget it. I remember it like it was yesterday. I said to the ref ‘how long’s left’? He looked at his watch and said ’20 seconds’. Ronnie (Glavin) had chucked on a reserve team striker as his last throw of the dice. It was a chap called Garry Marshall. The corner came out to the edge of the area and Garry shot through a crowd of legs and it went in – 3-3 and we went onto win on penalties. I think there were three or four thousand there that night.
“We played Lincoln in the second round and they were top of the old Division Three which is now League Two. They were managed by John Beck and we battered them and they scored nine minutes into injury-time to make it 2-2. We were obviously deflated and we had to play the replay at Huddersfield Town because of the crowd size. That was a cracking game. It snowed before kick off and I remember playing with an orange ball. We were 2-0 down at I remember looking at the score-board and it said Emley 0 Lincoln 2. Now bear in mind they were top of League Two and we were in the UniBond so you’re practically out. We managed to get it back to 2-2. Glynn (Hurst) won a penalty in extra-time and we scored that, but they scored again so it went 3-3 and went to penalties again. I think I scored the second one and the winners knew they were playing West Ham as the draw had already been made.
“The whole experience of the West Ham game was unbelievable. When we first got into our changing room at the ground the first person I saw was Rio Ferdinand with his top off. I was first out on-the-field to smash balls into the nets. I couldn’t wait to get the team-talk out of the way. The game went really well. It didn’t initially as Neil Lacey got injured which enabled Willy to come on, but it left us short for the first goal. Neil just walked off the pitch. He didn’t go down asking for treatment. He walked off to leave us with ten men and that’s when they scored. If you’re ever seen the goal it was right down the middle of the defence and Lampard scored. We put a lot of pressure on them towards the end of the first half and we got the equaliser from the header from Paul David in the second half. We then had that breakaway with me, Jelly (Michael Reynolds), Glynn Hurst where a different pass may have seen us going through one-on-one with the ‘keeper.
“We’ve got a WhatsApp group and we were due to meet up to have a game last year until that didn’t go ahead for obvious reasons. I’ve got photos, my shirt and Stan Lazaridis’ shirt. There’s also a photo of me taking on Rio Ferdinand.
“The team broke up to a certain degree off the back of the cup run. Glynn went to Ayr United and Jelly (Michael Reynolds) followed him probably the season after. I actually had a week at Lincoln City and played in a couple of games. I was due to sign and I think they were paying £20,000 for me and then John Beck got sacked. That put pay to that move.”
“I’ve played at Emley with Willy and against him when I was at Avenue and Accrington. He’s a character and you never forget some of the stories and things he used to get up to. There were a few old gags when he’d climb from the front of the bus to the back using the overhead ‘lockers’. He’d open his bag up and you’d see eight cans of Cider.
“I think the best Willy story I’ve got is when I first came across him. I turned up for pre-season at Emley in 1997. He’ was there with flowing blonde highlighted locks, tanned up from the summer holidays. He had an XR3i convertible and he was selling sports gear to all the lads out of the boot, shorts, socks etc. I thought ‘wow, he looks the bee’s knees’.
“He played for Ronnie for years and the biggest complement you can pay is that although Ronnie used to fall out with him all the time constantly and sack him numerous times, he always signed him wherever he went. Their relationship was unique and they speak fondly of each other to this day. Willy was a fantastic player and probably under-rated. Ronnie used to send out his spies to make sure he wasn’t drinking on a Friday night. I played in the local leagues before signing for Emley and when I went on contract at Emley I wasn’t allowed to play on a Sunday. Now and again I’d play for this local Sunday team. I don’t know why because everyone will have known it was me. I’d go to training on the Tuesday and Ronnie would say ‘what were you doing on Sunday, you played’. I’d say ‘not me Ronnie it was my brother’. He’d say ‘you did, you scored two goals’. He never missed a trick. He’d catch you playing Sunday’s and he’d catch Willy out drinking’. What a manager.”
“There’s many a story (of people getting substituted regardless of the minute or how long they had been on the pitch) and it wasn’t just me that it happened to. People used to get dragged off at half-time. I once went on as a sub at Ashton and got booked after 20 seconds and got brought straight back off. I don’t remember who it was against but there was a home game where me and Glynn had a disagreement in full view of Ronnie. Me and him squared up to each other and Ronnie took us both off.
“One of the things that led to me and Ronnie having a bit of a fall-out was my red card in a Sheffield Senior Cup final at Hillsborough. We did win the game, but this is god’s gospel; right on the full-time whistle I was in possession and someone went through me. It was quite a bad tackle. The ball ended up in my hand and the whistle went as I got up. I flung the ball at the lad who made the challenge and it hit him on the head. There was a bit of handbags and all manner of things went off after the final whistle and I got sent off. That soured things and me and Ronnie had a bit of a set-two after the first game at the Belle Due which we lost 3-1 to Frickley (in March 2000). I went on the transfer list and nearly signed for Southport when Mike Wright was the manager. Instead I signed for Trevor (Storton) at Bradford.
“When I spoke to Ronnie years after, he really cared for what I was doing and where I had come from. His coaching skills were exceptional and he was a fantastic mentor. When you look back at my age now at some of his methods, it was second to none. I’ve nothing but the upmost respect for Ronnie.”
Bradford (Park Avenue) – Early 2000 to summer 2002
“With about ten games to go of the season I signed and I struggled to settle in. They were close to the top two promotion places, but they didn’t make it. It wasn’t until pre-season when I really found my feet. Trevor and Thommo (Ian Thompson) were absolutely fantastic and they got me playing regularly and I became an asset for the side. If I was fit I was playing. If I’m being honest I probably played my best football there and I really enjoyed those two years.
“We had a great team and a close-knit side. We had Andy Hayward who Ronnie hated when he was at Frickley. He must have scored a couple against us every time we played his sides and that’s probably where he got the nickname ‘brace’ from. Ronnie must have tried to sign him at least five times but it never happened for whatever reason.
“When I later signed for Accrington, the goalkeeper Jamie Speare said ‘who’s that nutcase who plays upfront for Avenue, what’s his name…Maxy,’? I said ‘yeah Jason Maxwell’. Accrington hated playing against him.
“We played a system 4-3-1-2 with me as the one and I could play on either wing. You had Hanks (Mark Hancock), Wayne Benn and people like Phil Lindley as centre-midfielders and Jason and Andy upfront. I didn’t have too much responsibility defending-wise, but I had to affect the game as an offensive player.
Old NPL Division One Title Win (2000/01)
“The best memory I have of the title-winning season is the head-to-head we had with Vauxhall. I remember a comment from their manager after they had beaten us at our place. He said ‘you’re go up with us’, assuming they would win the league. We put a real run together and ended up overhauling them and winning the league by quite a few points. I was either suspended or injured, but the decisive game was a Wednesday night game against Witton. The heavens had opened and it was close to getting postponed as it was nearly waterlogged. We beat them 4-1 and won promotion. I remember Radcliffe away which was the final game of the season as well.”
Avenue Coach Trips
“It was a different bus to what it was at Emley. It was supporters at the front and players at the back and we had some cracking journeys with supporters like Mad Pete and Ronnie. You had Primo the kit-man. You’ll never forget those chaps. You’d hear Ronnie when you were playing; the phrases he’d come out with like ‘mark ‘em tighter Avenue’. I don’t think you could have played for a better club who had a close-knit fan-base who mixed together with the players and was like a family. That is very rare and Emley was very similar because it is a village club.”
“Ill-discipline cost me a lot of games. I don’t have any regrets because I played at the highest level I possibly could, but the discipline side of it…I really found it difficult to accept decisions sometimes. It was sheer will to win and if it wasn’t going my way the frustration really came out.
“You know me, I was quite unlucky with some of the red cards. I ended up with a few and I do think some of them were harsh. Maybe reputation precedes. I certainly think. I once got sent off at Avenue (circa 2001/02) and because someone was videoing the game it got overturned on appeal. I hadn’t done anything and I think that was a case of reputation precedes. That’s the only red card I got overturned.”
2001/02 – Avenue in the NPL Premier Division
“I had a great season when we got promoted and I said to Thommo ‘I think I deserve a pay rise’. He agreed and he said ‘how much do you want’? I quoted a figure and it might have been another £30 on top of what I was earning at the time. He said ‘deal done, happy days’. I spoke to him another time and he said ‘we were going to give you a lot more’. That was my negotiating skills at the time, absolute zero.
“Trevor was so calm and laidback and in the Premier Division we struggled at first. We didn’t win for 11 or 12 games, but then we went on a really good run and finished in the top half. That was down to Trevor and Thommo because of their perseverance.”
2002 NPL Challenge Cup Final
Avenue reached the Challenge Cup final and lost on penalties after the two legs finished in a 1-1 stalemate
“I was suspended for the first leg when Accrington had two goalkeepers sent off in the first half. Not to blow my own trumpet but I remember sitting there and thinking if I was playing that I’d have a field day. We only won 1-0 and we went away for the second leg and there were some controversial decisions that night. We should have had a penalty and we couldn’t believe the referee didn’t give it. Although we went toe-to-toe with them, and bear in mind Accrington’s budget will have been a lot higher than ours, we lost on penalties. Accrington were a sleeping giant and it was a cracking cup tie over two legs.”
Move to Accrington (summer 2002)
“I’d done really well in the four games against them in the previous season and John Coleman had come to watch me away at Runcorn when they played at the Widnes Rugby Stadium. I think James Stansfield got sent off and I scored on the break and I think we won 2-1 despite being under the cosh. He watched that and one of our pre-season games against Scunthorpe. John said to me when I signed ‘I was always going to sign you when you started that 22-man mass brawl in that friendly’. I think me and someone else either got sent off or told me come out for the second half.
The late Eric Whalley
“Eric Whalley is a legend at Accrington as he was the chairman as they went up the leagues and back into the Football League. He was a character. Accrington signed me two days before the new season for 10 thousand and I was on the bench for the season opener. Eric was shouting ‘get him on I’ve paid 10k for him’. We won the game and I didn’t get on!”
Accrington’s NPL Premier Division title win (2002/03)
“John put a good side together. Mike Marsh was in central midfield and I think he signed Mike Marsh, myself and Carlos Marinelli that summer to complement what they had. Upfront you had Lutel James and Paul Mullin and you won’t find two better strikers in Non League Football than those two. We ran away with the league, maybe by eight or nine points. A game against Witton is one I remember the most as things weren’t going too well for me. We were 2-0 down and I remember thinking ‘if there is a time where I need something to happen this is the game’, Some of the crowds were having a go at me and we got a free kick in our half in the second and Mike laid the ball to me on the right wing. I went past a couple of players and with my left foot, which is rare, I sent a shot straight into the top corner. I think we won the game 4-2.”
Huddersfield Town FA Cup first round tie (November 2003)
“I had the privilege of playing for Accrington in the Conference and at some really nice grounds like Woking, Stevenage. We also got on a cup run that season. We beat Leigh in the fourth qualifying round and the draw for the first round proper was made when we were in the bar afterwards. It came on the screen ‘Accrington Stanley versus Huddersfield Town’. I’m a Manchester United fan, but I live in Huddersfield and I’ll watch them and my brother is a season ticket holder. My phone became red hot. I couldn’t believe the draw. I got a few tickets for my brother and his friends and I think it was my brother’s brother-in-law who did the streak on the pitch live on the TV. That was hilarious.
“Rory (Prendergast) was on the other wing and he went down in what happened to be a challenge from Jon Worthington in the first half. But no-one actually touched him and the referee sent Worthington off. I’ve never seen a replay, but if you see you’d be scratching your head.
“We went onto win that game 1-0 with a last minute goal and the chap who scored Andy Gouck came on as a late substitute. John had said ‘go and get the winner’. It is a cracker of a goal and that caused pandemonium in the ground. Because I was from Huddersfield the celebrations went long into the night and I had some bragging rights that week.”
“He’s come a long way from the days of winning the UniBond One and UniBond Premier, but his ability to sign players and recognise traits was unbelievable. He’s even doing it now and you can see how well he’s doing. He’s taken them from UniBond One right through to League One and looking like they could potentially get in the play-offs.
“John was great at ranting. He’d come in and have a go if you hadn’t produced the goods or not got a result. We played in a local final against Morecambe at Morecambe and I was unlucky again with a red card. There was a bit of a set-two and me and someone else got sent off. We lost the final and John wasn’t happy. Even John agreed I was unlucky with that red card. He said ‘Dean, you’re unlucky again, but you’re always there in the middle of it if something is going off. Paul Mullin is never there. He never gets in these situations. Take a leaf out of his book’.”
Win over Bournemouth in the FA Cup second round
“I broke my hand after falling awkwardly at Dagenham so I missed the Bournemouth second round games. We drew 1-1 down there down and won on penalties live on Sky in the replay. That’s remembered because John Coleman brought off the goalkeeper Jamie Speare with one minute to go in extra-time to put the other goalkeeper Jon Kennedy on for the penalties. The whole ground couldn’t believe it. I was gobsmacked. A friend of mine Paul Haworth scored the winning penalty so it didn’t make any difference but it was a talking point. I came back for the Colchester game in the third round and we should have beaten them as we had some good chances. We lost the replay 2-1.”
Leaving Accrington (summer 2004)
“The conversation after winning the league the year before was quite quick. After the last game everyone had to stay behind and speak to John in the office. Some lads were negotiating and weren’t happy with ‘this’ or ‘that’. All based around money. I walked in and it was quite simple. He said ‘how much are you wanting’? I said a figure. He said ‘I’ll give you an extra £50’. ‘Right, done, see you later’. After a season in the Conference the plan was to go full-time and if you’re working full-time and getting paid for part-time football you’re not going to earn the same amount going full-time playing football. He wanted me to sign, but he couldn’t warrant paying £1000 a week to everyone. So I would have been losing income which I wasn’t in a position to do so. That my time up at Accrington so I went to play for Stalybridge.”
Stalybridge Celtic (2004/05)
“It was a disaster to start with and I felt sorry for Dave Miller who signed me. I signed a two-year deal and I had put off a double hernia operation at the backend of my last season with Accrington so I did all pre-season and then went in for the operation. That wasn’t great timing and I found it difficult to get back into it. Dave got sacked and Peter Wragg came in. He struggled and he went and Reedy (John Reed) came in and did the great escape. I had another year left but me and Reedy didn’t see eye to eye. I think he was keen to get me out and I was keen to go so I went back to Avenue on loan.”
Back to Avenue (2005/06)
“I got on with Gary (Brook) and I liked him and Brian (Crowther), but it didn’t work out for them despite a good start to the season. Tom Greaves was scoring and that when was his career started to take off. We were fourth at the end of October, but then we didn’t win in the league for something like 23 games and when you get into a bad run like that it is difficult to turn it around.
“Phil Sharpe replaced Gary late in the season and although we took it to the last game at Radcliffe we got relegated. I didn’t play in it as I pulled my hamstring in the president’s cup final at Ilkeston which we won in the midweek.
“Sharpey also took me off at half-time in the second to last game of the season against Telford. I was captain as well. Things weren’t going well and it was mainly frustration and I said a few words and he had a go back and he brought me off. You should respect the manager so I shouldn’t have. I had no problem with Sharpey, sometimes things get said. We never saw eye-to-eye though. The Telford game put the writing on the wall for my time at Avenue.”
2006/07 – End of the Non League Road
“Andy Hayward was the assistant to Kitty (Steve Kittrick) so I signed for Ossett Town. I think the reason Ossett Town signed me was because of my goal on the previous Boxing Day for Avenue away at Ossett. It must have been from 25 or 30 yards out. All the Avenue fans will remember it. It flew into the top corner and that was one of my best goals.
“I did all pre-season with Ossett and played well in the first half of the first game of the season and then I pulled my hamstring. That was a feature of my career. I was out for six weeks which didn’t help and I struggled to get into a rhythm with them and I went on loan to Stocksbridge Park Steels. I played out the season under Peter Rinkcavage and that was it for my Non League career. It fizzled out. You don’t realise the fitness you need. At Stalybridge I was coming back from a double hernia and I’m not saying you can’t come back from these injuries but when you’re falling behind and losing fitness, to get back into the rhythm – especially in struggling sides – is hard.”
“Kirkburton were looking for a player/manager and because I’d had enough of the travelling the opportunity allowed me to stay in the game. We did really well and we won the treble in the first season. We won the West Riding County Amateur League first division, the Sheffield Cup and the League Cup. I actually signed Michael Reynolds my old team-mate from Emley along with a certain Ash Flynn. I was his first mentor when he was 17 or 18-year-old and he scored goals for fun for us.
“In the second year in the Premier we got to a cup final which we lost and that’s when I left because my daughter was born. No matter what level you’re at, managing a football team takes so much effort and time up. You can’t take it on if you don’t have the time.”
“I feel very privileged to have played for big Non League clubs with big fan-bases. As well some of the players I played against and with, I feel quite privileged. Michael Reynolds springs to mind. If you speak to anyone who played for Emley ask them about Michael Reynolds in his prime. He was absolutely lightening and unplayable at times. Avenue had a great nucleus of a side. Mark Hancock was a very under-rated player and then we had Andy Hayward and Jason Maxwell who was hard as nails. Paul Mullin the striker at Accrington was exceptional. Some of those players who went through Non League with Accrington stepped up with them into the Football League and played in the Football League for a couple of years.
“I’ve been quite lucky really. I had a couple of good runs with Emley and a good run with Accrington which included playing against Huddersfield Town. I feel really lucky to have played in those games and cup runs. I also won the UniBond One, UniBond Prem and played in the Conference so I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Dean Calcutt was interviewed by James Grayson
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