During a football career lasting more than 26 years, former United midfielder Tony Ford racked up one very impressive record which can never be taken away from him.
|During the coming days, we'll republish past interviews with legendary former Iron players from our matchday programme.|
Ford was the first outfield player to appear in 1,000 games as a professional and his 931 league appearances are only bettered by goalkeeper Peter Shilton throughout the history of the English and Scottish leagues.
He represented eight clubs during more than a quarter of a century playing the game and after various spells with the likes of Grimsby Town, West Brom and Stoke, Tony signed for the Iron in 1994.
“I remember finding it very easy to settle into life at the club because I was 35-years-old and very experienced at the time. It’s a nice little place and I’d always enjoyed myself when I’d played there previously with Grimsby so it was a good challenge for me.
“I really enjoyed my time with Scunthorpe because we had some very good players and we played an attractive brand of football which was another factor in my decision to join the club in the first place.
“One of the highlights of my time with the club has to be the first leg of the League Cup game against Rotherham which we won 4-1. Unfortunately we lost the second leg 5-0 but the first leg was where we really started to get into our stride and play some really good football.”
After two seasons with United, Ford departed the club at the end of the 1995-1996 campaign having scored eleven times in 91 matches.
The arrival of new Scunthorpe manager Mick Buxton saw the end of Tony’s time at the club and at the age of 37, many would have expected to see him call time on his playing career but it wasn’t long before he managed to find a route back into the professional game with Mansfield Town.
“Mick Buxton came in and wanted to change a few things which I fully accepted,” he continued.
“I’d been player coach with Dave but I wasn’t released because of that, I was released because of my age which was understandable so there are certainly no hard feelings.
“I started playing non-league football with Barrow because I just wanted to carry on playing football. It was only part time and I was also coaching the youth team over at Mansfield when Steve Parkin became manager, who I’d played with earlier in my career. He realised that I was still fit enough to play and asked if I’d like to join the first team playing squad and I ended up staying there for the next two and a half years.”
It was during his time with the Stags that Tony passed Terry Paine’s long standing record of 824 games in English or Scottish league football as an outfield player when he appeared for Mansfield away at Plymouth Argyle.
But that milestone wasn’t particularly something that the humble Ford always desired to achieve.
He continued: “I didn’t set out to get any records, I don’t think anybody does.
“I started playing because I enjoyed it and that’s why I continued to do so for so many years. It kept me fit, I loved the competition of it all and it became a way of life for me.
“I liked training, I liked playing and I did manage to keep fairly injury free during all that time. I never had any serious injuries which certainly helped.
“I went through a spell about two and a half years after I’d finished playing where I wished I’d never stopped but I was at Barnsley and at the age of 42 I didn’t think it was fair for me to take up a place in the side that could have been filled by someone much younger and with so much more potential than I had.
“Within the first six months of calling it a day, I knew I’d never be able to get back to the level of standard and fitness required but after 26 and a half years, I suppose I’d given it a fair go.”
He continued: “I just hope that every player gets the same amount of pleasure out of playing as I did because I really did just enjoy it and I loved every moment of it.”