When hot-shot Var­ney snubbed Eng­land boss

Gloucestershire Echo - - SPORTING INDEX -

LUKE Var­ney was in de­mand af­ter a bril­liant 2006/07 cam­paign, which in­cluded two goals against Chel­tenham Town in League One.

He fired a to­tal of 25 for Crewe Alexan­dra that sea­son, form­ing a deadly part­ner­ship with Nicky May­nard but was un­able to hit the tar­get against his former club in last week­end’s 1-1 draw at Whad­don Road..

Three years ear­lier had been play­ing in the Mid­land Foot­ball Al­liance for Quorn, but sud­denly Gareth South­gate was knock­ing on his door, lit­er­ally, try­ing to sign him for Mid­dles­brough.

“That was a bit of an eye opener,” Var­ney said. “Ob­vi­ously then I didn’t know he was go­ing to go on to be­come Eng­land man­ager.

“He was very down to earth and told me he wanted to sign me, but he’d have to sell Mark Viduka first...i was gob­s­macked to be fair!”

Var­ney ended up join­ing Charl­ton Ath­letic and he spent the next 11 sea­sons play­ing in the top two di­vi­sions be­fore sign­ing for Chel­tenham ex­actly a year ago.

“When Alan Pardew came in for me, I was al­ways go­ing to go to Charl­ton,” he said.

“I saw Gareth at St Ge­orge’s Park re­cently and told him I’d parked in his space, which he wasn’t too happy about!”

Var­ney was given a warm wel­come back to Gresty Road when he re­turned with the Robins at the end of March, scor­ing the last goal in a 3-1 win for Michael Duff’s men.

It was also the Le­ices­ter-born for­ward’s 14th and fi­nal strike of what was his most pro­lific sea­son since leav­ing the Rail­way­men, earn­ing him Chel­tenham’s player of the year award.

“I still look out for Crewe’s re­sults and I went back and played in a tes­ti­mo­nial match fairly re­cently,” he said.

“It’ll be good to see ev­ery­one and I keep in touch with some of the staff, I am close with their as­sis­tant man­ager Kenny Lunt.

“It’s a club close to my heart and my friends and fam­ily still fol­low them from when I was there. I am grate­ful for the chance they gave me.”

Var­ney has been known as ‘Reg’ in foot­balling cir­cles for as long as he can re­mem­ber, af­ter the On the Buses ac­tor, but he has a sneak­ing sus­pi­cion it re­ally caught on at Crewe, although his dad also has the same nick­name.

“I think it was at Crewe that it started and at the start I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand it,” he said.

“Ian Hol­loway and Mick Mccarthy mainly used it and Alan Pardew did for a cer­tain amount of time, but they he just started swear­ing at me so it just stopped!

“My dad is in hos­pi­tal at the mo­ment and he’s had a heart op­er­a­tion. The nurses came in the other day said “all right Reg?” and you re­alise it’s come down a gen­er­a­tion so it’s some­thing I am proud to keep hold of.”

Crewe are known for bring­ing play­ers through their academy sys­tem and also for their pass­ing style of pos­ses­sion foot­ball.

Var­ney has wit­nessed first hand the con­veyor belt of ta­lent un­earthed by the youth set-up.

“When I look back now, a lot of it is down to the time spent in­di­vid­u­ally with play­ers,” he said.

“I didn’t adapt as quickly as I’d have liked and when I first wen there I was quite small.

“I worked hard in gym, then I put my shoul­der out, but they still gave me an­other deal, re­al­is­ing I could make it at that level.

“A lot of coach­ing went into it, per­son­ally as a for­ward and Dario (Gradi) spent a lot of time work­ing with me and Nicky May­nard with the part­ner­ship com­ing to fruition.

“Dario used to take the pros, come back and take the Un­der-16s and 14s and he’d tell us what he had com­ing into the first team.

“Play­ers like Billy Jones and Gary Roberts all came through and have gone on to have great ca­reers, which show the men­tal­ity of the club.

“They know what’s com­ing through so they don’t need to go out and buy play­ers or loan play­ers. It’s a fan­tas­tic sys­tem and I owe them a lot.”

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