Stephen Husband is arguably one of the most talented players to have graced the junior scene in season 2016/17. His title win at Kelty last season has provided the 26-year-old with one of the most memorable moments in his career to date…and it is even sweeter, with Kelty being his hometown team.
The Fifer was always interested in football, with Husband beginning his career off as a 10-year-old.
“I always played football when I was young – although, I probably started a little bit later than some of my friends. I was a bit older before getting into football – you see boys as young as 5 or 6 playing these days! I played with my local side, Kelty Hearts for a couple of years, before moving to Dunfermline for another 2 years. After I got released from Dunfermline, I went to Cowdenbeath, making my way through the youth ranks into the first team.”
After only a handful of matches for the Blue Brazil, ‘Hubby’ got a move to Edinburgh based club Hearts.
“It was a massive move for me [to join Hearts]. I had left school and this was going to be my career, at that time for the forseeable future. I signed a 2-year-deal with Hearts and that meant moving away from my family and moving through to Edinburgh which was quite a big commitment for me at the time. Having spent a little while at the club, I had seen players progress and make the first-team, and I was in and around it myself: I felt I was quite close, as I was going on pre-season trips for example. When Blackpool came in, I would say at the time – and arguably still now – that everyone wants to move to England as it is a bigger stage, or so they say. I thought it was a good move for me to go down there, I thought it might’ve been a better opportunity than what I was getting with Hearts, at that time. You get left with decisions, that, sometimes you are in control of and sometimes you ain’t. Sometimes you make the wrong choices. I think, however, that I have always made the right decisions; things alwys work out the way they do for a reason.”
After a spell on loan to Stockport County, Husband left Blackpool and moved back across the border to his homeland.
“I had a couple of options to stay down in England. I think, due to the time I had at Blackpool, the opportunity to come home was too good to refuse. I had spoken to Jim Jefferies, and more so Neil McCann, about possibly joining Dunfermline: I felt coming up and spending pre-season with Dunfermline, while being surrounded with my friends and family, was the best idea. I was enjoying my football again training with Dunfermline and despite still having an offer down in England at that time, I felt staying up here where I knew I would be happy was the best thing for me at that time. Some players go down to England and make it, some don’t. The advice I would give anyone considering a move down south is to follow your heart…people know within themselves if it is right for them. If it doesn’t work out, you can always come back – you are never going to become a worse player for trying it. It is all in the head, you just need to believe in yourself and give yourself that opportunity.”
While Husband was at the Pars, they suffered financial troubles, culminating in Administration.
“When I was at Hearts, I think I was still trying to learn who I was…by the time I returned to Scotland, I felt I had a much better understanding of who I was; what I was good at and what I wasn’t good at. I think by the time I came to Dunfermline, I was a more mature player. The first notion we had [of financial issues at Dunfermline] was our wages not getting paid. I remember it quite well – people were coming and speaking to us and trying to keep us filled in on the goings on. It was a tough time but we stuck together as a team. It was very difficult sitting down with your fellow colleagues and seeing some of them being let go. I always had a realistic view on football – I’ve always known a simple thing like a manager getting the sack and a new manager coming in and not liking you, changing your fortunes at a club. It is pretty obvious that football is a ruthless game: decisions are made quickly at times; the longest serving managers can come under severe pressure at times if results aren’t going to plan. However, in terms of the Administration at Dunfermline, it was a different approach and to lose your team-mates, it was a really tough time.”
In the summer of 2014, Husband moved to part-time football for the first time in his career, after signing for Dick Campbell at Forfar.
“I had no full-time offers at that time. I’d have loved to have stayed full-time, but, it was taken out of my hands. As I said previously, sometimes you aren’t in control of your own destiny. I went to watch a Forfar game, against Dundee United, and I felt I could’ve fitted into their team better than some others. I also thought the players I had in front of me suited me a little better. Again, I felt it was the right decision – I knew a lot of the boys, so I knew it was an easy transition and that allowed me to adapt to part-time football a lot easier.”
After only one season at Station Park, Husband left the SPFL structure and joined local junior club, Kelty Hearts.
“I was meant to be starting a trade in engineering – I was due to start college in Rosyth at the Dockyard. I was planning to stay part-time but I hadn’t agreed anything with Forfar at that point: Kelty had asked me to go in and have a chat with them. After a few discussions, they offered me the chance of learning my joinery trade as well as the football. Both factors were more appealing than doing all the travelling if I was to join another side. By them offering to help me out with my football as well as helping me get a job, it was another decision I felt came pretty easy for me. There was a lot of exciting stuff happening at Kelty at that time – they had just won the league, for example. Then, when you got to see the things that were going on at the ground and the changes that were being made, I just felt that to go to my hometown team and get the trade I was looking for, it was an exciting decision to make.”
This season, Kelty won the East Superleague title once again, with Husband being a main figure in their rise to the top.
“When people look back on their career, once they are retired, you look for trophies first and foremost. To lift a trophy, surrounded by the people you know, and love, the most, then, for me, nothing can beat that. It doesn’t matter where you play, your family will travel to watch you, but, to do it in front of nearly everyone that you know, it has a lot of sentimental value: probably not as much as it does just now, but, certainly when I am retired, I will look back upon this as something special.”
Despite the last game of the season, at home to Bonnyrigg, not being the potential title clincher the fans thought it might be, The Rose pushed Kelty close after clawing back a massive points tally on the early runaway leaders.
“I think we strengthened our squad from the previous year. I also felt, personally, I had now completed my first year in the juniors and I felt a little bit wiser in terms of what teams we will be playing and what to expect: I felt I now understood the junior game a lot better. I think, in pre-season, we put our foot right onto the accelerator. We were winning all our games and we just carried that on into the league campaign. I think we ended up going 26 games unbeaten, which was phenomenal. When you get to that stage, and Bonnyrigg are getting tied up with all their games, with the lead at 21 points, I think that is when you begin to say to yourself “this is going to take something special to take the league away from us now” but you just need to keep going – and, to be fair to Bonnyrigg, they pushed us right until the end. You have to give them credit for that, but, we done what we done – we got the points on the board early doors. The title was always going to be ours, I felt.”
With Kelty Hearts moving up into the Pyramid Structure next season with the junior club joining the East of Scotland League, Central Park may become an even bigger attractive proposition for part-time players.
“I wasn’t the only one to join Kelty from a senior club, there was a few others, as well,” explains Husband. “Players have turned down senior moves to stay with Kelty; players have turned down senior moves and chose Kelty and that was before the step up in league happened and I think that was purely down to the way the club was going – facilities wise and obviously the language they speak too – it is all about winning, doing the right things and wanting to achieve stuff. With that attractive factor already there, I think what has happened now just boosts what was already happening. It takes us to another level – hopefully it helps us attract better players as we move up the leagues and things change, but, I think the squad of boys we already have are more than capable of being able to achieve some magnificent stuff. Now, we have the chance to go and prove that by going and doing what the committee and the manager feel we are capable of.”
With the teams in the East of Scotland League being an unknown quantity to the 26-year-old, Husband is edging on the side of caution ahead of the league campaign.
“We can’t go into this season saying “we know about them, we’ve seen their results, we can beat them”, it won’t be like that. We probably have to look at the worst case scenario and that is our last game against a side from that division, Lothian Thistle. We got beat 3-0 off them in the Senior Scottish Cup a few years ago, so, I think instantly, that is where our minds will go – it’ll be tough, we won’t get points on the board every week. The East Superleague is also a very tough league, though, and we achieved some great stuff there, so, in my opinion, we just need to be confident, take each game as it comes and be prepared for change. Even between the seniors and the juniors, there is change so we have to be adaptable to the fact we are in a different league against fresh, but unknown, opposition. We will just take it in our stride.”
At 26, Husband has time on his side to climb back up the ladder, if that is what he decides to do in the future.
“I haven’t had the longest of careers, but, it just shows you how quickly things can change – you can be staying in Scotland when you are 16; England when you are 19; part-time by the time you are 23 and a qualified joiner by the time you are 26! It is a crazy thing, to try and foresee the future, but, I will just take everything as it comes: I have signed a 2-year-deal at Kelty, I am happy, the club is moving forward, so, at the moment, there is no reason to worry about where my next move is. I am a Kelty lad and for everything the club has been through with me, such as winning the league, then I just want to focus on that right now. Hopefully we can go on and win the league next year and then the year after as well!”