Eastbourne Borough winger Matt Crabb is already planning for life after his playing career ahead of his testimonial match against Braintree tomorrow.
Crabb, 29, is about to embark on his 12th season as a Boro’ player after he was signed by boss Garry Wilson from Eastbourne United 11 years ago.
He said, “People said at the time that maybe the move was too early for me or that I was only going to play a handful of games but I always believed in my own ability and 11 years later I’m still here.
“I can’t see myself leaving the place. It’s such a great atmosphere, the spirit never changes and that’s one of the things that Garry and Nick (Greenwood) have done – it’s a very good place to be.
“After playing I would probably have a year out to do stuff with the family and then eventually start doing my coaching badges but I would love to come back hopefully in a coaching role.”
Matt, who has two young daughters, is one of three footballing brothers, along with younger siblings Nathan and Sam, who have all forged successful careers in the non-league game.
He represented Old Town Boys, one of the town’s top youth football clubs, before beginning his senior career with Eastbourne United in the Sussex County League.
The game that changed his career came when United hosted league leaders Boro’ (then known as Langney Sports). Wilson said a youthful Crabb ‘destroyed’ his side, as the young winger scored and United raced into a 2-0 first half lead.
Boro’ did hit back to win 3-2 but Crabb had shown the quality to impress the management.
He added, “The day I went to sign for them, I had hay fever, my eyes were running, my nose was streaming and I’m amazed they still wanted me.”
Crabb has continually proved the doubters wrong. At five-foot seven and weighing little over nine-stone soaking wet, many thought he would be brushed off the ball in the thud and blunder of non-league football. But quick feet, good balance, a unique style of sliding tackle and a few ‘toughening up’ lessons from former Boro’ hardman Stuart Tuck taught the wirey winger how to look after himself.
He added, “Gaz (Wilson) and Nick really helped me develop as a player but I also learnt a lot about the defensive side of the game playing with Stuart Tuck.”
Crabb also admitted Tuck was not a man to mess with which he almost found out to his detriment during one training session.
“I was winding Tucky up and I think I pushed him too far. He chased me around the pitch trying to attack me with a corner flag. Luckily I was too quick for him but I ran and kept going out the gates. I didn’t even dare go back for a shower or get my gear.”
During Crabb’s time with the club, Boro’ climbed from the Dr Martens Eastern Division to the top flight of non-league football. He picks the last promotion, when brother Nathan scored in a televised 2-0 play-off final win over Hampton & Richmond in 2008, as his best moment.
And, although the club were relegated from the Blue Square Bet Premier last season his appetite for success remains.
He is known to love a statistic and one he will be all too aware of is Boro’s poor recent record in the FA Trophy and lack of a good run in the FA Cup.
He is still determined and would love to help Boro’ play one of the top teams in the FA Cup or play in a Trophy final at Wembley.
“My gran said she would be a happy lady if she saw one her grandsons play at Wembley and I would love to do that for her with Boro.”
Wilson described Crabb as one of his best signings during his 12 years at the club, and it’s easy to see why.
His marauding displays down the left flank have made him a firm favourite and tomorrow’s game will give fans the chance show their appreciation for one of the good guys of non-league football.
Boro’ v Town report: page 89