Football: Stein shows loyalty is not out of fashion

That was the weekend that was
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The Independent Online
IN THESE days of mega-money, club-hopping, short-term superstars, the idea of loyalty in football is in danger of becoming an alien concept.

Happily, it does still exist - witness the rousing reception accorded to Bournemouth's Mark Stein by Stoke City fans at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

Those supporters retain a deep affection for the 5ft 6in striker. With 68 goals in 123 appearances, Stein played a major part in winning the Second Division championship and the Autoglass Trophy under Lou Macari's management.

But then the South African-born player is especially worthy of respect for the loyalty he has shown to struggling Bournemouth after Mel Machin rescued him from a nightmare at Chelsea.

A pounds 1.5m signing when he moved from Stoke to Stamford Bridge, Stein established himself after a slow start and set a Premiership record by scoring in nine consecutive matches.

But when Chelsea began to recruit expensively from overseas, he fell out of favour only to find himself trapped by a long-term contract and in the reserves.

Now 32, he last played a Premiership match in November 1995 but his hopes of rejoining Stoke after a successful loan spell two seasons ago came to nothing when Chelsea demanded a pounds 1m fee. Similar obstacles prevented a permanent move to Ipswich last season.

Eventually, he stepped down two divisions just to get some action while waiting for his contract to expire, joining Bournemouth on loan in March. And when Machin offered to retain him during the summer, he chose to stay despite the chance of a more lucrative move abroad.

"It's not about money because I could have got more elsewhere. I wanted to stay in England and have the chance to show people I have still got a lot to offer," Stein said.