FOR Spalding RFC legend Andrew Branton, playing rugby for the club has been as regular as having a shave since his 1994 debut.
But a horrible neck injury in January – which left the popular former skipper with bulging discs, pain in his hands and little reflex on his left side – forced one of Town’s finest-ever players to call time on his playing career.
Last week Branton was honoured at Spalding’s end of season bash, where the club also toasted another successful campaign.
He was handed his Spalding jersey, which now takes pride of place in a frame at his house. And although he admits to being embarrassed by the award, Branton couldn’t be prouder to have played a major part in Town’s upturn in fortunes.
It was his significant two-year stint as skipper, with Harry Sharman as vice, that laid the foundation for promotion to the lofty heights of Midlands One East two years ago – and you won’t find a nicer sporting figure in South Holland.
Now an RFU licensed coach, Branton has taken charge of Spalding’s Colts (junior) side, but he admits it can’t replace the buzz of playing.
“I’d like to thank the club for the shirt and their kind words, it was all a bit embarrassing but it was a proud moment,” said Branton. “It’s been tough – but long-term I’m going to be OK.
“I wanted another season with the first team and would have turned out for the Vets in time, but the reality is that it’s too risky.
“I just love playing rugby. It’s all I’ve done since I was 11, so I don’t know any different.
“But I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved over the past few years.
“Ever since the game turned professional in 1996,the interest and support has grown and we’ve made great strides in increasing the profile of the club.
“It’s now my job to help develop players for the first team.”
Current first team skipper Sharman added: “Branny was a great skipper and a fantastic servant. He deserves great recognition for what he did.
“His hard work helped put the club where it is today.”