Stuart King: 'I take interest in the kids, the reserves and I do scouting. That all came from Moyesy'
Banbridge boss Stuart King on spells at Preston, Linfield and family support
Bring the name Stuart King up in a conversation with someone involved in Irish League football and the first reaction tends to be a smile.
The Banbridge Town manager and former Linfield hero is a hugely popular figure here. Maybe it's because at 38 he retains that childlike enthusiasm and pure love for the sport. There's also his infectious sense of fun and at a time in society when the lines between fact and fiction are increasingly blurred, his disarming honesty is to be admired.
Asked why he left Preston after over five years at the club, the simple and straight answer is "I wasn't good enough".
King departed Londonderry for Deepdale as an ambitious teenage winger hoping to make it big in English football. It didn't quite work out that way but he has no regrets.
"I loved it. I was playing football every day and getting paid to do it," he said. "I did quite well in the first few years at Preston and learnt a lot. Being away from home, I had to look after myself and became a man. It's not for some people but for me being a footballer was what I dreamed about and I adored it.
"I made my first-team debut at 17 away to Hartlepool, who had Peter Beardsley in their team. We were going to the game on the bus and I had to borrow a mobile phone from one of the pros to ring my dad's landline to tell him I was playing.
"It was a cup competition and it went to penalties and I missed one. Even so, it was still a phenomenal experience to make my debut and play more games."
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
King wasn't the only Ulsterman at Preston. David Healy (now Linfield boss), Colin Murdock (football agent) and Paul Morgan (physio for Accrington Stanley) were there too along with another man with Northern Ireland connections.
"David Moyes was assistant manager. He also looked after the reserves and was very good to me," recalled civil servant King. "His mum was from Coleraine and he recognised I was a young lad away from home trying to make it.
"He went on to be first-team boss and the biggest thing I learnt from him was his work ethic. He did everything. He took training, looked after everyone and did all the scouting.
"At Banbridge I take an interest in the kids at our club, the reserves and what goes on behind the scenes plus I do all the scouting. That all came from Moyesy.
"He took Preston from the bottom of Division Two to the play-off final for the Premier League, went on to manage Everton, where he did so well, and then Manchester United. He started at the bottom and worked his way up. That's what I aspire to do."
During his time at Deepdale, King had loan spells at Ross County and Queen of the South in Scotland. After it came month-to-month contracts with Oldham and Southend. In 2001, then Linfield manager David Jeffrey, who remains an inspirational mentor to King, came calling. "Big Davy needed a left winger and asked me to come home. In the first year I did alright and ended up staying. We won everything. It was amazing to play in that team," said King.
"Big Davy was a brilliant manager and we had the best dressing room ever with a tight-knit group.
"I was young like Michael Gault, Alan Mannus and Andy Hunter and we had senior players who could crack the whip. When Noel Bailie spoke everybody listened and when Winkie (William) Murphy and Spike (Glenn) Ferguson went for you, you hid! It was a great blend."
Amongst league title and cup triumphs, one match stands out for King, a 3-1 victory over rivals Glentoran at The Oval on Boxing Day in 2003 when he scored a double. Davy used to play one winger so it was normally between Mark Picking and myself.
"Picky was suspended and Davy told me before the Christmas party, 'No messing about tonight, you are playing on Boxing Day'. I knew I had to perform and thankfully I did.
"The crowds back then were three times what they get now at Big Two games and The Oval was packed. I'll never forget that day."
In 2005, King moved to Ballymena United. He would go on to play for Glenavon, H&W Welders and Larne.
"The season before I left Linfield I played about 50 games but around 40 of them were from the bench," he said. "I had another year left on my contract but Tommy Wright, who I got on with when he coached at Linfield, became Ballymena boss and wanted me to join him. I was fed up being a sub and wanted to play every week. Ballymena was great. It's a big club but we didn't do as well as we should have done and that includes my own form.
"In my last six months I was in a free role under Roy Walker. That's when I played my best stuff for Ballymena. Glenavon were interested in me and I moved there but I shouldn't have left as I was enjoying my football so much.
"I loved it at Larne. Larne galvanised me because I wanted to help young players. Davy McAlinden (Larne), and other friends like Gary Hamilton (Glenavon) and Oran Kearney at Limavady before he went to Coleraine, became young managers giving me an appetite to do the same thing.
"I recently got my A Licence and I'd like to do my Pro Licence next. What is important to me is to help players improve and be honest as a manager."
Having joined Banbridge as a player in 2016 he took charge last year, bringing the Intermediate club success with Bob Radcliffe Cup glory.
Husband to Bernice and proud dad to Lucy (8) and Charlie (2), King added: "I'm away with football a lot and thankfully my wife understands. We got together when I was a footballer and she knows what it means to me.
"Bernice is amazing and our kids love football and come to every game. I couldn't do it without them."