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Sheffield 160: Chris Clifford

10:55 AMAleks Vee

by Aleks V |


2017 marks the 160th anniversary of the world's first football club, Sheffield FC. Sheffield 160 is a bi-weekly series that goes behind the scenes of the historic club through interviews with players and staff.

This week, Aleks chats with Sheffield FC Veterans SC right-back, Chris Clifford, who featured in the team's historic friendly games in Italy, getting an assist against Dexter Calcio at the San Siro Stadium.

All photos courtesy Chris Clifford.


How did you get involved with Sheffield FC and with the Veterans SC?
Being a Sheffield lad and a huge football fan, it was always my ambition to represent the world's oldest football club. As a child, I would often go down to watch the club as a supporter, including seeing us take on European giants Inter Milan (including World Cup winner Marco Matterazzi and a young Mario Balotelli) at Bramall Lane.

I was asked by a friend involved quite high up within the club to represent us in a small game against Sheffield FC legends and former players at the Boundary Academy near Sheffield's home ground in Dronfield. After that, the club organised many social gatherings based on or around match days and the vast majority of the lads would get together. Bob Dyson was the main architect behind the SC and I think everyone involved with the Veterans owes him an awful lot for his organising of so many wonderful events.

After a few gatherings there became murmurs of a game against a small Italian side Dexter Calcio. This came to fruition on a chilly November Sunday morning at the 'home of football' in Dronfield, with Sheffield FC running out comfortable winners, including myself getting on the scoresheet.

After the game, the Dexter lads promised us a return fixture in their home city of Milan in the iconic San Siro. Many of the Sheffield lads never thought it would happen ... but we were wrong.

Where have you played before? Did you ever play professionally?
As a child, I joined my local village team Killamarsh Dynamos aged 6 and played there throughout my junior years through to 18. During this time I'd had trials at boyhood club Sheffield United after being picked up by a scout one Sunday morning.

But it was with Chesterfield FC, a small lower league club around 10 miles from where I live, where I started playing at a higher level. I played for Chesterfield from the age of 12 and we had a very successful side. A number of players from the side went on make it in the professional game. However, for me, it wasn't meant to be.

I joined a side in the County Senior League, a Yorkshire based division which included many reserve sides of semi professional teams including Sheffield FC. I had a couple of spells with Sheffield FC with their reserve side, but it never quite worked out, and after a while I was asked to join the world's second oldest club, Hallam FC, by a former manager and good friend. It was during my time at Hallam that I picked up a bad injury, breaking my ankle, that prevented me from progressing any further up the footballing ladder.

Did you always play as a right-back?
When I first started playing football, my hero was the Sheffield United goalkeeper, Alan Kelly, a Republic of Ireland international who I tried my best to emulate. I spent a number of my junior years playing as a goalkeeper before being moved around - central midfield, central defensive - but settled at right back, a position that's become more and more important in the modern game with the emphasis being more about getting forward, almost like a winger.



You assisted Jim Fern's goal in a 3-0 win over Dexter Calcio in Italy. What was that like? Do you stay in touch with anyone from the Italian club?

Just to set foot onto the field at the San Siro was such a privilege, an honour, and to represent my hometown club, a club so close to my heart, was amazing. I was either the youngest or second youngest member of the touring party at 24 and the Milan trip is one I will never forget. I remember every single second of the game like it was yesterday. When club legend Matt Roney laid the ball into my path just inside my own half, there was only one thing on my mind.


I often watch the video clips back on YouTube, the one of the goal I'm heavily involved in is one I've shown probably every member of my family and friends a million times. Even to this day (4 years ago to the day exactly of writing this 5th June) it never gets old.

Jim is such a lethal finisher, it was never in doubt that he'd finish the chance to grab his second of the game. As a full back, all you can do is get forward and the ball in the right area, and hope your forwards tuck away the chances. Luckily for all involved with the Veterans SC, we had many good finishers - Jim, Danny Moore and Chris Dolby, to name just a few.

I stay in contact with a couple of the Dexter Calcio lads, mainly Marco Patruno through social media, especially around this time of year, as it's the anniversary of that famous Milan tour and the game in the San Siro.


Aside from the Veterans SC, are you involved with any other Sheffield FC activity or events?
Since breaking my ankle and work becoming more and more intense, I haven't been able to get to as many of the events as I'd like. The club used to be my second home, whether it be playing there or watching the junior sides. I have a lot of fond memories there, memories I will never forget.

What has been your most memorable SFC game you've seen over the years?

The game at Bramall Lane against Inter Milan back in 2007 to mark the club's 150th anniversary. Sheffield lost the game 5-2, but the occasion itself was worth much more than the result. Before the game, Pelé was introduced to the crowd as guest of honour, and afterwards opened an exhibition including plenty of football memorabilia.

Two of the lads on the Milan tour, Matt Roney and Chris Dolby, both played in the game against Inter Milan in 2007.

How would you describe the club to someone who only knows of Sheffield as being the world's oldest football club?

Sheffield FC is not just a football club, not just the oldest team in the world, it's a way of life. Welcoming and warm from the second you pull into the car park. The volunteers, staff and everyone involved with the club are friendly and there's always a real sense of history every time you mention the name.

The club is at the core of where it all began, pulling on the red jersey makes you feel part of history, part of something special. Hopefully one day Sheffield will progress higher up the football pyramid, I don't think anyone would begrudge the club where it all started a push up the leagues.

You'll go a long way to find a football club that stays more true to its roots and honest than Sheffield FC. The fact that Sheffield FC is renowned around the world makes me as a Sheffield lad not just proud to have represented this great club, but proud to have them just down the road a stone's throw away. Steeped in history and culture, a journey to the home of football is an absolute must for any football fan.



Chris Clifford is a right-back for the Sheffield FC Veterans SC.
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Read more on Sheffield 160 here.
Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #Sheffield160.

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