Former Imp Mark Stallard retired this week at the age of 35, after voluntarily leaving his last side Corby Town. He had spoken to the club about an unwillingness to draw a wage from the team when he was past his best, and this last anecdote really typifies a man who Imps fans took to their hearts in the two seasons he spent here.
Mark Stallard started his career at Derby County as a 16 year old YTS player. The forward was always strong and combative; however he managed just 27 appearances in a five year period at The Baseball Ground. A 1994 loan at Fulham brought him his first hat trick in the game.
Shortly after £110,000 of Bradford City’s money took the striker to Valley Parade where he began to forge relationships with fans. His goal in the 1996 division two play off final took Bradford up at the expense of Notts County, and Stallard began his route to cult hero status at several clubs.
John Gregory paid £100,000 for his services at Wycombe, and 17 goals in the opening season for him soon justified his transfer fee. However a bargain £10,000 move to Notts County followed in 1999.
In his five years at County he bagged 67 goals and became one of the clubs most loved former players. He was always strong, tough and combative but with a talent and edge to his game that was often overlooked.
In 2003 Stallard was name fans player of the year and players player of the year at Meadow Lane after banging in 24 goals. County were still relegated.
Following spells as Shrewsbury and Barnsley the veteran striker ended up at Sincil Bank in the 2006.
The news of his signing was initially met with some scorn by Imps fans. They wanted to push on from the previous years play off agony, and yet here was an aging striker being signed to compliment Jamie Forrester whom was aging fast himself.
However September 2006 justified his signing as he hit seven early season goals and collected the League Two player of the month award. It became apparent very quickly that Mark Stallard was a proper footballer, willing to put himself on the line for the cause.
In all he notched 17 goals for City in his two year spell, despite 2007/08 being blighted by injury. He made a total of 66 appearances for City, and could never be accused of hiding on the field.
In February 2008 he was dismissed against Rotherham for an off the ball incident which led to a three match ban. It’s thought this minor indiscipline led to the eventual end of his tenure at Sincil Bank.
His Imps spell ended when he was released by Peter Jackson as the ill fated ‘magnificent seven’ took their place in the squad. He moved to Mansfield Town and ended up as caretaker manager there before the move to Corby Town.