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The Conference Championship squad of 2003/04 ... Part 4

Continuing our look at the current whereabouts of the players who took Chester back into the Football League in 2003/04.

Mark Beesley was one of Graham Barrow’s first signings following relegation from the Football League in 2000 when he joined the club from Preston North End. He has the distinction of scoring Chester’s first Conference goal, in the 3-0 win over Doncaster Rovers, and finished leading scorer in both 2000/01 and 2001/02. The arrival of Michael Twiss, Ryan Sugden and later Daryl Clare saw Mark fall out of favour and in the promotion season he only made three appearances from the substitutes bench. In September 2003 he embarked on a month’s loan to Southport and after rejecting a permanent move to Northwich Victoria had his contract cancelled by mutual consent and signed for promotion rivals Hereford United in December. Mark made 15 appearances for the Bulls and scored two goals including the winner against City in the final game of the season, the last goal conceded by Chester in the Conference. During summer 2004 he was released by Hereford and signed for Forest Green Rovers but a knee injury saw him miss most of 2005 and when he returned to the team he struggled to regain his form. In September 2006 he came back to the North West on a one month loan with Lancaster City. This season Mark has hit a rich vein of form playing alongside ex-Hereford striker Stuart Fleetwood. The duo have already scored 25 goals between them, with Mark grabbing eight, as Rovers sustain an unlikely challenge for a place in the Football League.

Steve Brodie was always a player who caused Chester problems when lining up for the opposition and his signing from Swansea City in summer 2002 was seen as a real coup. Unfortunately the tricky striker never revealed his true form at City and quickly fell out of favour with Mark Wright. In 2002/03 he managed just four Conference appearances and was sent out on loan to Nuneaton Borough in February with Mark Quayle coming in the other direction. In the promotion season Steve made brief appearances as a substitute in the first two home games against Tamworth and Forest Green before going on loan to the latter club at the start of September where he scored three goals in seven games. Further loan spells followed at Droylsden and Leigh RMI and when his contract was cancelled in March 2004 the Sunderland born forward joined Droylsden on a permanent basis. After just over 100 appearances for the Bloods Steve moved on to Blue Square North side Stalybridge Celtic in 2006 and is currently with table topping Unibond League side Witton Albion who he joined in the summer.

Despite the presence of Beesley, Brodie, Ian Foster and Michael Twiss manager Mark Wright turned to Robert Gill, on loan from Doncaster Rovers, to accompany Kevin Rapley up front for the 2003/04 opener against Stevenage. The young striker made three starts for City before returning to Rovers but was unable to break through into their first team and spent further loan periods at Dagenham and Redbridge and Burton Albion. At the end of the 2003/04 season Robert was released by Doncaster and signed for Scarborough and although he was a regular in the side at the start of the season he struggled to find the back of the net and loan periods followed at Whitby Town and Forest Green. Summer 2005 saw Robert on the move again, this time to Hucknall Town of the Conference North, before a £1,000 transfer to Ilkeston Town in March 2006 where he made a goalscoring debut against Ashton United. In March 2007 Robert emigrated to New Zealand to play for Gisborne City in the Central Premier League and won the Golden Boot award with an impressive 19 goals in 18 games. Having competed in the winter league Robert has recently moved to Waikato FC in the New Zealand Football Championship where he is seen as a major signing after his exploits at Gisborne. The summer league kicked off at at the start of November with Robert on target from the penalty spot in Waikato’s 2-0 win over Otago United.

Finally, a mention for Kevin Rapley, who featured in a previous article. Kevin moved from Leigh RMI to Barrow at the end of October and scored his new club’s only goal in the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth in the FA Cup First Round.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Chas Sumner [Published 4/12/07]




















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