What happened to…Stefan Moore

Stefan Moore, St Neots strikerBack in 2002, Aston Villa beat Everton in the FA Youth Cup Final 4-1, hammering an opposition that featured a certain Mr W. Rooney on their team sheet. The strikers for Villa that day were a pair of brothers, Stefan and Luke Moore, who Villa fans thought were just as talented, if not better than the Manchester United and England superstar was back then. While Luke’s career hasn’t exactly gone according to plan, at least he still plays in the Premier League for Swansea City. As for Stefan, well he’s an absolute goal machine still. Unfortunately, those goals are scored for St Neots Town in the United Counties Football League.

Moore actually made his professional debut for Chesterfield, who he joined on loan in 2001 to gain some first team experience. Villa recalled him after just three appearances from that loan spell to get him involved in the first team squad and by the summer of 2002, Stefan was firmly in the frame for regular football. He appeared in the Intertoto Cup, before making his Premier League debut in September, scoring a belter as well against Charlton Athletic. As we all know, Moore wasn’t the only young starlet to score a sensational goal after breaking into the first team in 2002, but that’s where the comparisons with Rooney have to stop.

Injuries then wrecked the rest of that promising campaign and Moore struggled to get into the starting line-up the next season, making just eight Premier League appearances and scoring one goal against Blackburn. An ankle injury put paid to the 2003/04 season and all of sudden, Moore’s prodigious talent was in doubt. Villa manager at the time, David O’Leary, decided to send his talented striker out on loan to give him first team experience and Moore spent time at Millwall and then Leicester in the 2004/05 season, failing to find the net at either club. The writing was on the wall for Moore and he left Villa and his brother behind in the summer, signing for QPR.

While Luke began to make his mark at Villa Park, bagging a hat trick against Middlesbrough, Stefan was struggling to make things work at Loftus Road, managing just three goals in 39 league appearances at the club. Having spent time on loan at Port Vale and not managing to have any impact on proceedings there, he signed for Walsall in 2008, a couple of months before his brother completed a £3.5 million move to West Brom. Moore then pulled out his customary trick of scoring on debut, but things simply didn’t work out at the Bescot Stadium, his strike against Luton turned out to be his only one for the club and after just five appearances, his deal was terminated.

Moore’s journey into the nomadic world of non-league football began after an unsuccessful trial with Melbourne Victory, a tell-tale sign that his career was sliding down the drain. Australia is the common destination for washed up footballers, just ask Francis Jeffers or Michael Bridges. Kidderminster was his first port of call though, where he lasted just 14 games for the Harriers, before he signed for Silhill 4th XI in the Birmingham and District AFA League Division Five to maintain his fitness. Five goals in two games showed he still had the ability to trouble defenders and he soon joined Halesowen Town in the Southern Premier League. Proving he was far too good for that lowly level, Moore scored 39 goals in 44 games for the club in the 2009/10 season, prompting interest from a number of clubs, including two football league sides.

For whatever reason, any proposed move never came off and Moore fell out with the Halesowen board after accusing them of a lack of ambition and ineptitude. He moved to St Neots in the United Counties League, continuing his sensational goal scoring record in the lower leagues, having notched 62 in his 75 league games so far.

Moore’s tale is a harrowing one for any young footballer who makes the breakthrough as a promising young player. Villa fans always talk about the two brothers Stefan and Luke, with a misty look in their eyes, remembering the pair of home grown strikers who were supposed to fire them to Premier League glory. Injuries did affect Stefan’s career, but his dramatic fall from grace is rather inexplicable. There are no obvious disciplinary issues and his passion for the game is clearly still what it used to be, considering he still plies his trade in the lower leagues when many others would have simply quit. At the age of 28, he now runs a taxi firm, balancing his off-field commitments with his scoring feats for St Neots, but you imagine that Stefan Moore would have expected quite a different life when he and his brother fired the Villa youth team to victory all those years ago.