Jamie Cureton thought that his time had gone. The only player to have scored in every division from the Premier League down to the ninth tier had been out for more than 10 months with the first knee injury of a career that began with a top-flight debut in the same month that Pulp Fiction was released.
More than 1,000 games and approaching 400 goals later, the desire to continue was undimmed. But when the 46-year-old tore his right meniscus and the recovery from surgery in early summer took longer than expected, he began to question if it was time to move into management permanently.
The decision to keep playing, even at a grade as low as the Essex Senior League, had already come at a sacrifice. In 2019 he left a coaching role in Arsenal’s academy because it was clashing with training sessions at Bishop’s Stortford, where he was player-manager.
What gnawed at him most while restricted to the latter half of that role he now has at Enfield was not the decision to leave one of the world’s biggest clubs to focus on non-League. It was that he would not be bowing out on his own terms.
His final game had been a defeat in which he did not score but as autumn arrived the strength in his knee improved after hour upon hour of studious gym work and on Tuesday, to no surprise of anybody who has watched him closely over the past 27 years, Cureton found himself scoring twice in 45 minutes for Enfield in a 3-0 win away to Hoddesdon Town in the Herts Senior Cup.