Cureton: After all these years I’ve no regrets at turning down Ferguson

 

As What-If moments go, Jamie Cureton’s choice as a teenager to turn down Manchester United in favour of Norwich City may be as close as football gets to Dick Rowe’s infamous decision to reject The Beatles back in the early 1960s.

While the Decca Records executive got it horribly wrong when he justified his rejection with the comment “guitar groups are on the way out,” Cureton’s judgement was based partly on loyalty and also on a hunch that his career would progress more quickly at Carrow Road.

Little did he know that Sir Alex Ferguson was about to change United’s policy of buying established players, and instead give youth a chance. David Beckham, Nicky Butt, the Nevilles and Ryan Giggs were only a couple of years away from proving Alan Hansen wrong when Cureton went on trial with a view to joining them in 1993.

As a free-scoring England Under-18 striker, he was not short of suitors, but when Ferguson rang the family home in Bristol with a contract offer, the youngster surprised even himself when he said: “Thanks but no thanks”.

“When my Dad took the call from Sir Alex, I just said no. I was a United fan as well so I’m not sure why – maybe loyalty to Norwich, where I already was, or perhaps I thought I would not get the same chance to break through at United,” he says on the eve of his 20th season as a pro, mostly in the lower leagues.

“I’d been up to Old Trafford at Easter and in the summer holidays and the others were all there – David Beckham’s only a few months older than me. The one thing that group [the Class of ’92] did not have was a prolific centre-forward, which I was, so you wonder what might have been. But you can’t dwell on it too much. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career and I still love it.”

Now Giggs and Kevin Phillips have retired, Cureton, at nearly 39, will be the oldest outfield player in all four divisions when he makes his debut for League Two’s Dagenham & Redbridge, his 14th club, today.

“I’d have preferred to have played for only half that number, but I made a few bad decisions. I was a bit cocky when I was younger and didn’t always live like a model pro,” he laughed. “When you’re young all you think about after a match is ‘which nightclub are we going to?’ and you don’t worry about what you eat or drink. Managers know what goes on and next thing you know you are out the door.”

His approach to football, and life in general, could not be more different now. “Everything changed in my early 30s – my attitude and the way I trained and looked after myself. Now I watch what I eat, don’t drink too much, hardly ever go out – the complete opposite of when I was younger. You think you can get away with it forever, but you can’t.” At Dagenham he is the elder statesman by some way. “One of the lads was not even born when I made my debut,” Cureton added.

Norwich were relegated from the Premier League in 1995 and  he never returned to that level. “I thought we’d go straight back up and I would be all right because I was scoring for fun, but it didn’t work out.”

A succession of clubs followed, including one in South Korea, (“another big mistake”) but he retains his enthusiasm.

“We’ve got a good group of lads at Dagenham and our aim is to get out of League Two, although we are realistic. Our first target is to avoid relegation. We don’t have much money so ninth last season was a terrific achievement.”

News
Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
people
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
people
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game