The Premier League may have spent more than Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga combined during the January transfer window but the award for the biggest coup has to go to non-league side Longford FC.
Dubbed ‘the worst team in the country’ by the British media, the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division Two outfit have failed to pick up a single point this season, conceding an incredible 190 goals and scoring just three.
But the media focus on Longford’s struggles has inadvertently turned their fortunes around, courtesy of insurance company Direct Line and ther social media campaign, #DirectFix. The #DirectFix team have been travelling around the country, visiting cities such as London, Cardiff, Portsmouth and Birmingham, to ‘fix’ the wrongs insurance can’t cover and Longford’s incredible losing streak called them into action once again.
The #DirectFix team helped seal Longford an almighty coup during the winter transfer window; England icon, Nottingham Forest legend and non-league football advocate Stuart Pearce, convincing him to return to competitive football after 14 years in retirement.
He said upon signing for Longford; “I believe grassroots football is essential to the lifeblood of the game, so when Direct Line contacted me and asked me if I would like to come out of retirement and help raise the profile of Longford AFC, I jumped at the chance.
“I started out in non-league football playing for Wealdstone before joining Coventry City so I’m looking forward to working with manager Nick Dawe, and helping a group of talented young footballers achieve their dreams.”
After spending a few weeks regaining his fitness, ‘Pyscho’ made his debut for the amateur outfit last weekend in front of 450 spectators – a significant jump from the usual crowd of ‘one man and his dog’, to quote Longord gaffer Nick Dawe – and the thrilling contest was caught on camera by Direct Line. You can watch the highlights of Pearce’s debut below.
So the tough-tackling veteran couldn’t help Longford secure their first points of the season, due to one very contentious refereeing decision. But nonetheless, his run-out for the non-leaguers is seen as a huge success story by all involved – the club, the manager, Direct Line, the #DirectFix campaign and of course, the former England defender.
Longford boss Dawe said after the game; “It was a great but we deserved more because the lads, Stuart included, played their hearts out. Stuart really has come in and ‘fixed’ the confidence of the team so we’re hoping we can press on and move up the table despite today’s loss. We should have been given that goal but these things happen in football.
“Thanks to Direct Line for making this possible, the whole club has seen an uplift in confidence. We have fielded calls from all over the world; players want to turn out for us and fans want to come along to watch us play. It has been a tremendous whirlwind for this small grassroots club.”
Pearce added; “It was great to be back on the pitch. The lads were brilliant and really gave it their all. The result was unfortunate, but it was always going to be a difficult task. They’ve got the players to turn this around and now that we’ve seen a real improvement in their confidence, hopefully they’ll push on and start climbing up the table.
“I want to thank the players, the coach and everyone that turned up to watch today. It was great to be given the opportunity by Direct Line to come in and help fix the morale here at Longford AFC.”