Whatever happened to Luke Chadwick?

Luke ChadwickDerided by some as one of the ugliest men in football, Luke Chadwick was none the less a talented footballer. He was touted as one of the most promising prospects to come out of the Manchester United academy since the famed class of ’92. After initially playing in the youth ranks at Arsenal, Chadwick moved up to Manchester at the age of 14 to join the United academy and his speed, ball control and the ability to move the ball at pace made him one of the most highly rated youngsters coming through the youth teams.

At the age of 18, Chadwick made his debut for the United first team in a 3-0 League Cup defeat against Aston Villa in October 1999. The majority of his appearances for the Manchester club would come in League Cup games and he never managed to force his way into the starting eleven for important matches. To continue to gain further first team experience, he was loaned out to feeder club Royal Antwerp for the second half of 1999/2000 season and the start of 2000/2001 season. He was a very popular figure during his loan spell as he excelled on the right wing, scoring seven goals in 36 league games.

On his return to Manchester at the end of 2000, Chadwick became a regular on the bench during league games. He played 24 times and 2 league goals, and got a Premier League winners medal in 2001. Chadwick never had a long run in the first team though and he was put out on loan to Reading and Burnley in 2003 and 2004 respectively. At Reading, he played 17 games as the Royals lost out in the Play-off semi-final to Wolves, and at Burnley he was a regular during a season in 2004 where he scored 6 goals in 40 appearances.

At the start of the 2004/05 season he was given a free transfer to West Ham United as he searched for first team football. Under the management of Alan Pardew, who had been his manager during his loan spell at Reading, Chadwick was given a years contract to prove himself. His debut came against Reading and he scored his first goal for the Hammers in December 2004. Injuries hampered his progression at the London club though and after Christmas, he was not involved as much as he would like as West Ham booked their place in the top flight of English football with a play-off final win. Despite not featuring much in the end of season promotion battle, Chadwick was rewarded with a 2 year contract extension but he did not feature for the Hammers in the Premier League.

He made 36 appearances for West Ham but was loaned to Stoke City in August 2005. After impressing initially on loan, Chadwick was bought from West Ham for £100,000 in January 2006. He quickly again became a fans favourite at the Britannia stadium as his pace, ball control and dribbling ability made him a dangerous player from the right wing. His popularity increased further with Stoke fans after scoring a wonderful goal against Walsall in the fourth round of the FA Cup, which was voted the goal of the round.

After initially impressing once again though, Chadwick’s form faded once more and Norwich City came in for the right winger. A loan deal was agreed in November 2006 and two months later was signed permanently for £220,000 despite the fact he was injured. Chadwick had scored on his debut against rivals Ipswich but was injured during the match and was kept out until March. Yet he signed a two and half year deal in January 2007, and it was hoped that the former Manchester United right winger would be an ideal signing after he returned from injury. Once again though, after his return in March, he struggled to regain fitness and injury problems plagued his stay at Carrow Road leading him to make only 18 appearances in his two year stint at the club.

Chadwick now finds himself in League One at the MK Dons. After another initial loan spell which saw the right winger help the Milton Keynes side start the 2008/09 season with a bang under Roberto Di Matteo as they challenged for promotion to the Championship, Chadwick was once again struck by injury in November last year and was forced to return to Norwich City. Six weeks later however, Di Matteo signed the winger in the January transfer window on a free transfer and he has become a regular in the MK Dons first team under both Di Matteo and returning manager Paul Ince this season. He scored six goals in 26 league appearances last term and has already played 19 times this year, scoring two goals. It looks like finally that Luke has found both form and fitness, something which has been absent for a fair few years.