65-year-old Paul Rudkin has made his 960th and final appearance for Spalding and District Sunday League side, Jubilee FC, after a 3-1 victory over South Holland United to win the Spalding Sunday League Mont Pell Trophy. Paul was also named as the Player of the Match.
Paul has been playing for Jubilee FC since 1977 and has alongside that been either Secretary or Manager for all but a small number of the games in that time.
Now the season is over for the Spalding side, Paul has made the decision to fold the club after 46 years of competing.
Paul had hoped to make it to 1,000 appearances and that looked very possible after making it to 900 in October 2018, but the Coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner in the works.
“It’s disappointing but I’ve been very lucky and enjoyed every minute of it.”
Even when a doctor said a simultaneous groin strain and pulled calf muscle probably ought to signal the end of his playing days after 500+ appearances, there was more to come.
“I’d been out for a while and was watching a game at West Pinchbeck. The ball flew out of play, and I trapped it,” Paul said.
“I thought ‘well, that didn’t hurt.’ So, I managed to cram in another 20 years!”
Paul’s first appearance for Jubilee FC came in a 5-0 defeat to Littleworth Reserves, having played around 20 games for ‘Still Vaults’ before joining bottom-of-the-league Jubilee just after the club was formed in Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee year.
Paul’s notched 96 goals for Jubilee, even being joint leading goalscorer – with just two – until February this year.
Jake Park, Football Development Manager at Lincolnshire FA, said: “Paul Rudkin is an absolute stalwart of local grassroots football and his commitment to the game over so many years, both on and off the pitch, is truly remarkable.
“I am delighted his final game resulted in silverware for himself & the club as it is a fitting way for his career to come to a close, he has reached milestones which won’t be matched for a very long time. Sunday League football relies on characters like Paul who love the game and are committed week in, week out.”
“On behalf of Lincolnshire Football Association, I would like to congratulate Paul on an incredible career spanning a number of decades, thank him for his tremendous commitment to local grassroots football, and wish him well for whatever awaits him next.”