After leaving Crawley Town, experienced goalkeeper Stuart Nelson is returning with his young family to his Gloucestershire roots.
Stroud-born Nelson,39, who has racked up more than 500 professional appearances in a stellar 19-year career is aiming to find a club in the Football League closer to home after making the switch from Essex to Gloucestershire.
In the shape of his life, Nelson hopes to go into coaching when he hangs his gloves up, but his next move is to remain between the sticks.
He said: “I’m really focused on remaining a player as I have too much to give in the playing capacity whether that be no1, no2 or no3. I’m not looking to stop anytime soon while I’m still in the shape I’m in. And with my experience, desire and mindset I can bring a lot to any dressing room.
“I’ve done my coaching badges so they are there when I need them in the future. I will only look to coaching when I can’t physically play.”
Nelson, who is a former Archway School student, has played for 11 different teams during his career, having started at Cirencester Town before joining Millwall in 2000.
After spells with Doncaster Rovers and Hucknall Town, Nelson joined Brentford in 2004, where he made near 150 appearances for the Bees under Martin Allen. In 2007 he made the short trip across London to join Leyton Orient.
Nelson left Orient in 2008 to join Championship outfit Norwich City who he stayed with for one year before joining Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen. After a year in Scotland, Nelson returned to England to play for then League One side Notts County, where he established himself as the first-choice goalkeeper under Paul Ince.
After being released from Notts County in 2012, Nelson agreed to a two-year deal with Gillingham. The Gills won the League Two title in Nelson’s first season. In Nelson’s second season with Gillingham, he won the Player of the Season award and signed a new two-year deal. Nelson went on to make over 200 appearances for the Gills before leaving the club in January 2018.
Nelson signed for Yeovil Town in 2018 and made 43 appearances for the Glovers during a two-year spell before joining Crawley last November.
Explaining his decision to return to the west country from Essex, Nelson said family ties have proved to be the mitigating factor.
He said: “It’s really quite simple, my family’s happiness is the most important thing to me and I will always do everything I can to make them as happy as they ever can be.
“One thing the last 18 months has taught me is that life definitely is too short. I now have three young children and it’s tough for my wife while I’m away with football – all my family live in Gloucestershire and this way she’ll have the support network of all my family that are in the county.”
“It’s going to be brilliant for my children to have their cousins, aunties and uncles, grandparents, and a great grandmother so close that they will be able to see them all the time. For me, it was time to think of them first over my career as they’ve followed me around everywhere – especially my wife before we had kids. She moved with me to Norwich, then Aberdeen, then Nottingham and Kent before we returned closer to her family in Essex.”