Craig Stanley says captaining Aldershot Town was the proudest moment of his professional career – and is backing Andy Scott’s men to make a quickfire return into the Football League.
The 31-year-old played every minute of the club’s Skrill Premier campaign last season yet has now joined a long list of summer departures from the Electrical Services Stadium after failing to agree terms over a new contract.
But the former Hereford United and Morecambe midfield ace bears no ill-feeling and is instead thankful for the chance to resurrect his career after suffering a horror leg break in pre-season two years ago.
“I’m not downhearted, it’s football,” Stanley accepted. “I was on a good contract with the club last year from the League Two days and I knew I would have to take a significant pay cut if I was to stay here for another season.
“I was more than willing to do that, but it’s tough for players these days – unfortunately the kind of figures the club were talking about were just too much for me.
“They were talking a 50-60 per cent cut and unfortunately I just could not afford to do that.
“It’s a real shame because I was enjoying my football at Aldershot and captaining the club was one of the proudest moments of my career.
“But things move on in football and I’m sure with the players Andy has at the club and the players he’s looking to bring in, the club can make a climb back up the table and challenge for promotion.”
Stanley’s horror leg break, sustained at Woking, meant he missed all but the final five games of the 2012-13 League Two season but was one of only seven players retained by the club following relegation last year.
But despite donning the captain’s armband in every one of Aldershot’s league games last season, and 53 appearances in total, Stanley wasn’t without his critics at the Electrical Services Stadium – not that it bothered the Shots’ hard man.
“I get critics everywhere I go so it was water off a duck’s back really,” he explained. “Players who score more goals than me may get the plaudits, but the way I play the game is not always everyone’s cup of tea.
“But if you look at my CV, I’ve played over 450 games in ten seasons and the manager played me in every minute of last season so I must’ve done something right?
“I’ve always had critics, but at the same time I’ve always had fans who appreciate my efforts and at Aldershot it was no different.
“I want to say a big thank you to the fans and staff at Aldershot, who helped make my time there so enjoyable and who supported me, especially through my injury. I’ll never forget my time there.”
Stanley has already been linked with a move to big-spending Eastleigh but the midfield ace insists no decision has been made on his future and is in no rush to tie up a new deal.
“There has been interest which I’m weighing up,” he added. “Whatever happens will happen in time, but it won’t be just yet.”