Marcus Gayle got his boots back on at Woolacombe FC to provide an unforgettable experience for an AFC Wimbledon supporter.
Will Glover James (pictured right in the above photograph) with Marcus Gayle (centre) and Stefan Johnson was delighted to be joined by one of his heroes in North Devon to celebrate his stag do!
Marcus is still revered by Dons supporters for his goals during Wimbledon's Premier League years and he memorably returned to help play a part in the rise of AFC Wimbledon.
It was a dream scenario for Will to play on the same pitch as Marcus and have a pint with him and below he tells us all about his amazing experience.
Last weekend was my stag. Myself and twenty close friends made the long journey south to North Devon, which is when it was announced by my brother and best man that we would be playing football. With Marcus Gayle. Our excitement was only tempered by the fact we knew we had a night of heavy drinking ahead of us. We would try to be sensible.
On the morning of Saturday June 9 we woke bleary eyed after a only a few hours, sleep, before picking our way through as much breakfast as we could stomach. As we slowly trudged downhill from our campsite to Woolacombe FC's pitch, the excitement grew again. As did the nerves. Situated at the foot of a north Devonshire valley, only a short walk from the golden sand beaches, the setting was perfect. True to his word, Marcus Gayle was there, boots on, and ready to go. After a quick handshake, introduction and warm-up, the referee lined up the two teams - Wombles (Marcus's team) versus Firemen (my team).
As the stag, I was given the choice of teams to captain. Having seen him play so many times over the years, I thought it would be a great opportunity to pit my wits against the man himself, and expose some of his weaknesses. Once the whistle had blown and we'd played a few minutes, I realised that even after all these years Marcus didn't have any weaknesses, and perhaps I'd picked the wrong team! The pitch was bone dry, had no lines, and was surrounded by sitting nettles, but this only provided us with excuses for wayward passes and breathers when the ball was retrieved again.
Marcus blasted home a penalty in the second-half to bring the game level, but I managed to restore the lead, albeit with a perfectly timed slice from two yards out! The final score was Wombles 4-6 Firemen. The game had been played in excellent spirit, although the standard was pretty shocking! After a quick victory parade with the cup, we took the short walk down to the lovely coastal pub for a few restorative pints. Marcus kindly offered to get a round in, but we insisted he sat down and put his feet up, so that we could ask him 101 questions about his playing career. It was such an experience to be able to sit up close and listen first hand to his stories of the old Crazy Gang, his World Cup ventures, and, of course, AFC Wimbledon.
Throughout the whole day, Marcus was incredibly approachable, humble and eager to join in. Being in his company made me realise what a great asset he is to the club, and how lucky I am to be a Wimbledon fan. A few of the stag members who aren't Wombles by divine right could only look on in envy and wish they could be part of such a unique, inclusive community. After another round of group photos and selfies, Marcus wished me good luck for the future and began his 230-mile trip back home. I can't thank him, the club, and my best man enough for organising a day that I never could have expected and will never forget. I can't wait to see which Dons legend turns up for our wedding!
Will's marriage to his bride-to-be Rowan will take place in late September in Pembrokeshire and we wish the couple well for their big day.