Gavin Browne talks to Morecambe keeper Barry Roche about qualifying for a testimonial season at a time when players seemingly come and go from clubs across the country
In an era when footballers seemingly change clubs quicker than some people change clothes, Morecambe’s Barry Roche could be one of the last players in it for the long haul.
The 36-year-old keeper is in his testimonial season with the Shrimps, having joined them a decade ago from Chesterfield after starting his career at Nottingham Forest.
A difficult start to the current campaign was put aside at the Globe Arena last Sunday with the first event in the Irishman’s testimonial year.
A team of Morecambe old boys came up against a celebrity line-up representing the Once Upon A Star charity with the former Shrimps running out 7-1 winners.
It was a chance for the Shrimps supporters to show their gratitude to Roche and watch players including Phil Jevons, Danny Carlton, Wayne Curtis, David Artell, Gary McDonald, Henry McStay and Paul Mullin.
For Roche, it was the opportunity to fulfil hectic preparations and catch up with some old friends.
“It went really well and I really enjoyed it,” he said on reflection.
“It was quite a stressful time for myself and the testimonial committee because there were a lot of things that needed sorting out.
“I do have to thank the people who are on the committee because the hours they put in were absolutely ridiculous; it was non-stop for something like three or four months.
“For me though, it was brilliant to play with some of my old team-mates again.
“I hadn’t seen the majority of them for three or four years to be honest.
“Don’t get me wrong, you always keep in contact with them through social media, text messages and things like that but the really pleasing thing was their reaction.
“I rang them up and asked them all to be involved; without a second’s pause they all said they’d love to get involved and come back.”
Ten years with the Shrimps have seen the club consolidate their Football League status – even if last season’s final day escape was too close for comfort.
Roche’s man-of-the-match performance at Coventry City yielded the point Morecambe needed to stay up and relegate Barnet on goal difference.
There has also been a play-off campaign, more than 450 league and cup appearances – not to mention a goal for good measure.
That came in February 2016 when Roche’s injury-time goal gave Morecambe a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth and catapulted him to national attention.
That collection of memories has been made possible by Roche’s willingness to put down roots with the Shrimps.
Such longevity with one club is rapidly becoming a thing of the past with shorter contracts now being handed out by clubs or players looking for the next big signing-on fee elsewhere.
“The way things are going at the minute, it’s very rare that you’ll get anything more than one or two-year contracts being handed out,” Roche said.
“I’ve loved every minute of it and I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve been at this brilliant club for so long.
“When you come to a club, you don’t envisage you’re going to be there for that period of time.
“The biggest memory for me is getting in the play-offs in the second season but to say it didn’t go well is a bit of an understatement (Morecambe lost 6-0 in the first leg of their play-off at Dagenham and Redbridge).
“In terms of other games, there was beating Chesterfield 4-3 after being 3-0 down at half-time and beating Yeovil last season because of the pressure we were under.
“My favourite game from a footballing point of view was beating Crewe at Christie Park when we were 3-1 down with 10 men, only two minutes to go and we won 4-3.
“My best memory – and one that means most to me and a lot of people here – was beating Accrington Stanley for the first time.
“We were on the wrong end of so many defeats from them, so the first time we beat them was fantastic.”
Not that the testimonial celebrations have come to an end with last Sunday’s match; far from it.
A race night is planned for October 6 along with a ladies night (November 24), a question and answer night in March 2019, a ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ event the following month and a golf day on a date to be confirmed.
However, there is one other event planned which will give Roche the opportunity to meet and listen to one of his childhood heroes.
Former Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar will be the speaker at a sportsman’s dinner on February 22.
“I’m a Liverpool fan and I grew up watching Bruce Grobbelaar,” he said.
“This is massive for me; my committee rang me up and said ‘we can get Bruce Grobbelaar, what do you think?’
“I said ‘100 per cent, yes!’ Personally, it’s going to be fantastic but, hopefully, I think there will be a lot of other people who will want to come along and hear his stories.”
Anyone interested in any of the testimonal events can find updates through the season appearing on the Barry Roche Testomonial page on Facebook.