Cureton still scoring for fun and enjoying the challenge of juggling several different roles
- Credit: Dave Simpson/TGSPHOTO
The forward, who played for QPR, Leyton Orient and Dagenham & Redbridge, is now coaching at Arsenal while managing and scoring for Bishop’s Stortford
Jamie Cureton is still running around like a teenager and finding the net despite turning 43 in August, but in recent weeks he has had to contend with something new – telling himself he was not in the Bishop’s Stortford starting XI!
When Adam Flint resigned as the Blues boss midway through September, the Bostik Premier club turned to their veteran striker.
Cureton, alongside owner Steve Smith, took over on an interim basis and things have gone excellently so far.
Stortford have played six times and won league games against Carshalton Athletic, Tonbridge Angels and Wingate & Finchley.
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A draw occurred against Burgess Hill Town last weekend and bookending these league results was a 2-1 success at Hertford Town in the Velocity Trophy first round on September 18 and Tuesday’s second round penalty shoot-out win at home to Tilbury.
Top goalscorer and current interim player-manager Cureton said: “We’ve changed a few bits and bobs around and have managed not to lose at the moment.
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“If you class Tuesday as a win, it is five wins and a draw, so we can’t complain and the boys have done everything we’ve asked of them.”
When Cureton and Smith took over from Flint, Stortford were struggling and had just lost 3-2 away to Kingstonian after conceding in the 95th minute.
It left the ProKit UK club 18th in the table and just above the relegation zone after one win all season.
Given Cureton had just scored a brace in the game with Kingstonian, what the former Dagenham & Redbridge forward did next was slightly unusual – he dropped himself.
Ahead of Cureton and Smith’s first match in charge together away to Hertford, the duo decided to put the experienced ex-Football League ace on the bench.
The Bristol-born hitman explained: “I left myself out early on and it was a message.
“I didn’t play in our first game in the cup and we won and then all of a sudden we had a league game. I had scored two in our previous league game, but because the boys had won we didn’t change it and I didn’t put myself in and that was a strong message.
“I think it showed if you play well, you will keep your shirt, so for the first three games of my player-manager role I sat myself out and it gave the boys a bit of belief.
“I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of work rate and effort and now it is about little bits we can try and put right. It has been enjoyable. It is different and there is a lot more of a work load, but so far so good.”
Cureton’s name has been synonymous with goals since he broke through at Norwich City in the Premier League during the 1994/95 campaign.
A 22-year career in the professional game has seen him delight fans of the Canaries, Bristol Rovers, Reading, Colchester United, Exeter City, Cheltenham Town and Dagenham.
There have also been some less successful spells. Notably with Queens Park Rangers and Leyton Orient, albeit these were rarities.
Since departing Daggers at the end of the 2015/16 season, Cureton has demonstrated he can still score for fun at Farnborough and now Bishop’s Stortford.
Even though he continues to find the net, the experienced forward knows nothing can last forever and naturally he has pondered what he does once he eventually hangs up his boots.
Given his form for the Blues this season, retirement shouldn’t come any time soon, but an opportunity which arose in the summer of 2017 may have altered Cureton’s life after playing.
A call from Arsenal saw the prolific Football League goalscorer take up a role at the Gunners academy.
Cureton coaches both the under-16s and under-15s at Hale End and this unexpected intervention looks to have potentially created a future manager.
“I have been with Arsenal for a year,” Cureton said. “It wasn’t in my make up - the coaching side of the game - I was thinking more media and going down that route, but an opportunity with Arsenal come up.
“I’ve done it for a year part time and I say part time, but I am in Monday through to Friday now, so it’s been really good and I’m learning a lot.
“To now come into this side of things with Stortford, I am learning a bit more because I am dealing with squad lists and players and leaving them out.
“At one point we let six people go and I didn’t do that, but I had an input in who was going and it is hard because I am still a team-mate of these boys, so it’s a transition. I think it has worked.
“When I have played, I have scored, so I am getting the balance right and there is a confidence from the boys that they know I can do both jobs.”
Smith and Cureton have only been in charge for six games, but they certainly appear to have the magic touch so far.
The winning run in both the league and Velocity Trophy has seen Stortford move into the last-16 of the latter competition and jump up to seventh in the table.
It is only the beginning though, Cureton added: “We are now starting to be a little bit picky with them. We had let things go for a bit to settle it down, but we have told them we will now be a little bit picky and demand more. I think we are getting there.
“We are still not where we want to be, but six games without losing at any level is really good and especially from the position we were in.”
Next up for Cureton and Smith is a trip to Merstham this weekend where Stortford will look to make it seven without defeat in all competitions.
From a playing point of view, the Blues number nine will try to add to his goal tally of eight for the season… if he picks himself that is!
After years of primarily worrying about scoring, the forward now has to think about all types of issues ahead of a 3 o’clock kick-off on a Saturday.
But Cureton insists: “I am really enjoying this. I will always be involved in football whatever way it is.
“I have finished my badges. I have passed my UEFA B and moving forward it will be a case of jobs I suppose and what comes up.”
For a while it seemed another former professional with so much to give may be lost from the coaching side of the game, but thankfully it appears fate had other ideas.