Jamie Cureton will be 46 by the start of next season but the veteran forward is not ready to let the coronavirus pandemic force him into retirement.
The one-time England youth international is currently player-manager of Enfield FC, who last month saw another campaign curtailed early after it was decided to end the 2020-21 non-league season at steps three to six with immediate effect.
More than 75 per cent of teams voted for that resolution if games could not be played with fans before April 1. For Cureton, it brought his playing future back into focus, having made his professional debut with Norwich in the Premier League back in 1994.
We've released the following update regarding steps three to six of the National League System:— The FA (@FA) February 24, 2021
Including the null and void 2019-20 campaign, the former Bristol Rovers and Reading ace has scored in every season since his first appearance and has a new target in mind.
“I am very close to 400 (career) goals,” Cureton told the PA news agency. “It would be good to get to 400 and after missing a couple of years, it would be nice to finish a season and then I can call time when I want to.”
There is a debate over how many goals the Bristolian has but the 21 strikes he did net for Bishop’s Stortford and Hornchurch in the wiped out 2019-20 campaign would put him down the home straight on 384.
It drives Cureton’s hunger to continue playing – despite celebrating his 1,000th career game two years ago – in addition to the frustration of the last couple of campaigns.
He added: “I have had the last two seasons cancelled on me. One at the end with Hornchurch trying to get a promotion and one being player-manager at Enfield.
“It has been two good projects that I was really looking forward to and they have both been cut short.
“It has been a bit strange and especially at my age when you don’t have many seasons left to have two cancelled and they don’t go down in your history and they are null and void, it is strange.
“Every year is closer to me hanging the boots up and I’ve always said I want to make that decision. At the moment, having seasons cancelled, you think ‘am I going to play again and will we be back next season?’”
After he joined Enfield last summer, Cureton took over as manager at the Essex Senior League club in September but a knee injury restricted his playing time before football at that level was suspended in December.
Two months later and the decision to wipe the slate clean was made again and while the ex-Arsenal coach agreed with that final outcome, he felt it should have been a different story in April when the Football Association declared the 2019-20 term null and void.
“It is strange they cancelled one that was almost finished so quick and one that is not even halfway they have dragged out,” Cureton admitted.
“This time round it was the best thing because of the amount of games. We would have had to play constantly, go into the summer holidays and people have things booked.
“Where as finishing the first season would have been the better one to continue.
“I would have suspended football and when we could go back for pre-season, which was July, started it up again and finished it. And started this one a bit later and then you wouldn’t mind cancelling this one because at least you finished one and had promotion, relegation etc.”
Cureton is set to go for a scan on the injury he sustained at the end of last year but is hopeful he will be available come the start of his 27th season in football.
While he has enjoyed managing Stortford and now Enfield, that love for playing and scoring remains and if his goals from the last two years count, he could reach 400 in the next campaign if he hits the 20-goal mark yet again.
“Being player-manager you can always register yourself anyway,” Cureton pointed out.
“When I was 18 to 20 away from 400 goals, I thought if I can play a good couple of years hopefully I can tick that off.
“That is something, because I am so close to, that would be a nice one to get and after I will play when I need to and wean myself off and at some point stop playing completely.
“But whenever I feel fit and able, I would always register myself and play because if I can, why wouldn’t I when I still can.”
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