Simon and Stuart just want to play – the Moore the merrier!

Talented Island goalkeeper Simon Moore took his first steps to footballing stardom at Brading Town, before joining Southampton youth academy. But he was released by the Premier League club for being too small.

Now standing nearly 6ft 4in tall, Simon has been with top flight outfit Sheffield United for nearly four years, following successful spells with Brentford and Cardiff City.

Talking about the enforced lay-off from football due to the coronavirus pandemic, Simon said: “It has been very strange not training with the rest of the lads for the past few weeks, but people’s health is far more important, not just in football but in everything. We continued going into the club for training initially, but were then told to train on our own for a couple of weeks, and as yet no one still doesn’t know when we will be playing again.

“We are all in limbo, but the club has given us fitness programmes to work with at home, along with diet sheets, so when we do return we will be in the best possible condition. There is a lot of self-discipline in the game anyway, but probably the worst thing has been sitting around, rather than be out there keeping more active. I’m not one for computer games, I prefer the golf course, and I get bored very easily. I see a few players have put videos on social media doing ‘keepy-uppies’ with a toilet roll, but being a keeper I’m not sure I could do that sort of thing! But the bottom line is that if we have to stay in for a few weeks to help save lives, then obviously it is well worth doing.”

Simon continued: “I managed to get back down to the Isle of Wight to see my family for a few days before the ‘stay at home’ policy, and that was important for me, because at times like these, it is good to be close to your family. Being a footballer has a lot of perks, but the hardest part is definitely being away from your family for long spells. The most important thing is to make sure your loved ones are all right. I still keep in touch with a lot of people on the Island, including Steve Lawton, the Brading manager, to see how they have been doing this season.”

Sheffield United, known as The Blades, are back in the Premier League after gaining promotion last season, a feat which Simon describes as ‘a massive achievement’. They have exceeded all expectation by moving into seventh place in the table before the lay-off. Simon said: “I know a lot of people had us as favourites to go straight back down, but I think we’ve proved them wrong. The lads have put us in a brilliant position to chase a place in Europe, and that would be an incredible achievement.”

But he admitted: “Personally it has been a bit disappointing for me because I’ve not had a lot of game time. It was a proud moment to make my Premier League debut against Manchester United, which is something you can only dream of as a kid. I’m sure I will look back on that many times in years to come. Unfortunately I’ve been injured for the last couple of months, but I’m back in training now and getting back to full fitness.”

Simon has one more year left on his contract with the Blades, and is currently understudy to first choice Dean Henderson. He said: “As a keeper you know there’s only one position on the pitch, and it’s just my luck that I have potentially England’s No1 in front of me.Everyone wants to be playing every week, and I’m no different, so we shall just have to see what happens when the new season begins. A lot could change in the summer, but whatever happens, inside four years I’ve had two promotions with Sheffield United, and played in the Premier League, so that can’t be bad.”

Just like his elder brother Simon, goalkeeper Stuart Moore began his rise to football prominence in the youth system at Brading Town. He then joined Portsmouth for a short while before signing for Championship outfit Reading in 2013. Initially as a raw 17-year-old, he went on loan to a number of non-league clubs over the following four years, then had loan spells with Peterborough and Luton before joining Swindon.

He signed for MK Dons in 2018, but his contract at the League One club expires in June, and with the current football season not expected to be completed before then, he is one of numerous out-of-contract players around the country who does not know what the future holds.

Recalling his early years on the Island, Stuart said: “I always went to watch Brading when my dad was manager, and I looked up to Steve Lawton, the current manager, who was a great keeper. He was also my youth team manager for a while, so I’ve seen the best and the worst of him!

“I really enjoyed those days playing with my mates at Brading, probably more than anywhere else, and Steve really kick-started my career.”

During the ‘stay at home’ restrictions, Stuart has spent time back on the Island at his parents’ house while trying to keep himself as fit and active as possible with rigorous training programmes provided by his club.

Speaking about the lay-off, he said: “It’s a pain training on your own, but you have to stay very disciplined. At least I’m not having to do as many long runs as the outfield players, which is some consolation. Going out on a run is my daily exercise, so that suits me quite well, especially being on the Island. There are far worse places to train!”

Stuart admits this has been a frustrating season for him, with restricted first team appearances for MK Dons. He said: “I would like to be playing more, and I thought I might go out on loan in January, but then I broke the little finger on my right hand during training, and that took longer to heal than expected. I wasn’t really back in full training when this postponement came along, but at least it has given my injury time to heal properly, and it feels a lot better and stronger.”

Stuart has not discussed any new contract with MK Dons as yet, and said: “Because no one knows when the season is going to end there is a lot of uncertainty. It depends whether my contract ends in June as planned, or it is extended if the season goes on longer than that.

“It is more difficult in the lower leagues, because clubs do not have the income of Premier League teams, so wages might have to be cut for some players, but no one really knows. I am still only 25, which is young for a goalkeeper, but I just want to play as many games as I can. I feel I have become a better keeper over the years, but I just want to gain more experience as my career continues. “Wherever I am playing next season I want it to take me further in my progress. My aim is to play as long as I possibly can, and then be able to look back and have no regrets.”

Stuart’s first senior game was on loan from Reading for non-league Hungerford Town in an FA Cup tie against Weymouth. He added: “I never minded going out on loan because I was playing games, and learning my trade. I’ve made mistakes, and keepers are always in the spotlight as the last line of defence, but I have been strong enough to come back from them. The whole experience has been a great learning curve. Hopefully next season will be the settled season I’ve been waiting for and I’ll be playing plenty of games.”