Marcus Stewart returns to Bristol Rovers to help youngsters
By The Bristol Post | Monday, July 23, 2012, 05:00
MARCUS Stewart has returned to Bristol Rovers 16 years on from leaving the club to embark on what turned out to be a glittering playing career.
Stewart, 39, has taken up a position as development coach at the Memorial Stadium with responsibilities to help the 18-21 year-old age group make the transition to senior football.
The move marks a return for a player, who is recognised as one of Rovers' finest in the last 20 years before going on to play at the highest domestic level for Ipswich Town, where he finished second-top highest Premier League goalscorer behind Chelsea's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in 2001.
Stewart, who scored 57 times in a five-year stay at Rovers in the early 1990s, also had spells at Huddersfield Town and Sunderland before spending the final years of his 20-year long career at Bristol City, Yeovil Town and Exeter City.
Since calling time on his career playing for Exeter against Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium in 2011, Stewart has been part of the coaching staff at St James's Park, but will now return to the club that shaped his own development to help their current crop of youngsters.
Rovers have always been close to Stewart's heart as he acknowledged when deciding to retire in the game at the Memorial Stadium last year by saying: "I've been in the game 20 years and spent have spent all of my life playing football. So there's no other place to retire other than the club that you started off at as a kid.
"I was at Bristol Rovers for almost ten years which is the most time I spent at any club in my career, and I'm Bristolian, so of course it is nice to finish off where you started."
The move is certain to be welcomed by Rovers supporters, who received Stewart warmly whenever he returned to the club as an opposition player and stayed behind at the end of his final game to give him an emotional send off.
The marksman scored 204 league goals in a 20-year stint as a professional, which took in 669 outings. He played 171 league games for Rovers before a £1.2 million move to Huddersfield in 1996.
Stewart, meanwhile, was at Weston-super-Mare on Saturday as Rovers continued their pre-season campaign with a 2-2 draw in one of two games against non-league opposition that were played at the same time.
Manager Mark McGhee was with the less-experienced half of the squad that lost 1-0 at Frome Town after which he said: "It is disappointing to lose but to be fair Frome scored a fantastic goal.
"We missed a few good chances and if we'd have got the first goal than I think things would have worked out differently.
"It was the perfect fitness exercise for us, though, which is what these games are predominantly about, and the lads did very well throughout."
Midfielder Matthew Lund managed to complete 45 minutes and McGhee will now wait to see if there is any reaction from a niggling Achilles injury before finalising a six-month loan deal for the Stoke City youngster.
Triallist Fabian Broghammer was offered another outing and will be given two further games to try and earn a contract with the club.
Adam Virgo, meanwhile, played his first game in over nine months and managed to mark the occasion with a goal for the other half of the squad in a 2-2 draw at the Woodspring Stadium. Former Bristol City striker David Clarkson netted the other goal from the spot.
Assistant manager Shaun North, who was in charge of the side, said: "It was a very good work out for us, and they provided a tough test. The boys worked hard and the fitness levels were very good. We passed the ball around and competed very well."