Best moments have been in non-league football says Urchins captain Spence
PUBLISHED: 15:00 24 April 2020
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Hornchurch captain Lewwis Spence has had a career full of opportunity, including playing at Premier League side Crystal Palace, working under the late Justin Edinburgh, and finding his way into non-league football.
The 32-year-old midfielder started out at the Eagles, before heading to the likes of Wycombe Wanderers, Rushden & Diamonds, Dover Athletic and a host of non-league clubs.
Learning from star players and earning League Two promotion are some of his career highlights, although he did admit most of his favourite spells have been in the non-league game.
“When I look back and think about the opportunities I had and what you made of them, it’s brilliant, even to the extent of the people you were around, the likes of Clinton Morrison, Jobi McAnuff, just being around them and seeing the drive, love for the game, and that they were always good mentors,” he said.
“Ben Watson is another one for me. He’s from my local area, and these players have gone on to what I call careers for 15 years in the top leagues.
“Jobi McAnuff is still going now and so is Ben Watson, but he is a little younger. It was a great grounding and foundation for me to learn my trade at Crystal Palace.”
Spence then made the switch to Wycombe as he sought regular first-team football under manager Peter Taylor and at Rushden under Edinburgh.
“I got to a point where I was young, wanting to progress my career as I thought I was doing well at reserve level, but there was a lack of game time which obviously would be the case when you’ve got the likes of those players above,” he added.
“Peter Taylor moved to Wycombe that summer and offered me an opportunity to join, he said to me if I could do what he knew I could, then I’d get an opportunity to play more games which I did the first season.
“We earnt promotion from League Two, so that was something that was unbelievable, I think I played something like 30 to 35 games that year.
“That was for my first experience of men’s competitive football, that was another great opportunity for me, and something I really enjoyed.
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“The following season didn’t quite work out as well, we had a change of manager, and then to be honest I probably wasn’t doing enough when I look back now to push to get into the team.
“I thought I was at the time, but when you reflect 10 years on or whatever it is, you realise you can always do more.
“Then I moved on from there, I went to Rushden & Diamonds, where I linked up with Matty Johnson who I play alongside now.
“I remember walking into that club and there was a lot of young players like my sort of age, hungry with good talent, and I think Matty Johnson came from the likes of possibly Aveley then and I remember the first day in pre-season training thinking ‘who is this lad? I’ve got some catching up to do’ as he was flying.
“That was under the late Justin Edinburgh, who was a great man manager, I wasn’t in the team week in and week out so I would go knock on his door and ask him what I had to do.
“He was always very honest with me and very up front, he gave me opportunities, and I probably didn’t capitalise on those that I had at the time.
“Then when the time come I had an opportunity to move on to Dover, so I’ve had some great memories in full-time football, but I think the majority of my football and where I’ve enjoyed it most has been in non-league playing funnily enough under ‘Stimmo’ (Mark Stimson) at Thurrock.
“I spent a long time there, but didn’t get as much joy as I would have liked in terms of promotions, I remember missing out in the play-off final to Brentwood which was a shock to a lot of people but they were really good on the day. Alex Akrofi in particular was unplayable.”
“I got an opportunity to leave Thurrock and link up with Gary Alexander, someone who I have always admired being someone from the local area to where I grew up, and still get on really well with now.
“I took that opportunity to go to Greenwich, at the time it was not a sideways move I wouldn’t say, but an opportunity to play in a different league, but the same level.
“It was a different type of challenge and opportunity, we came close and missed out in the play-offs, which I seem to do quite a bit,” he chuckled.
“It was a great experience to play under Gary and John Mackie, who were brilliant and I had a lot of good players around me, playing alongside Peter Sweeney, Mohamed Eisa who is now playing full-time football, Glenn Wilson who I’ve grown up playing with.
“The opportunity then came to go back to Thurrock who had been promoted. Maybe a little coincidence that I left, and they got promoted.”
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