There have not been many former Stratford Town players who have gone onto to gain International recognition at the European Championships and their own top 10 download release track without even kicking a ball at the finals! However the story of Will Grigg is remarkable for many reasons and some younger supporters maybe surprised that Will started his career at our club.
On 3rd July 1991 William Donald Grigg was born in Solihull into a keen Aston Villa supporting family. At Solihull School, Grigg was identified as a footballer with great potential and he was signed by his local club Birmingham City at just 7 years of age. However he left the blues after being refused the chance of a scholarship at 16 years old just 10 months after breaking his leg.
This would prove to be a testing time for Will and he turned to Solihull College to find a way to get a career in football, eventually signing on a level 3 sports course in September 2007 with a chance to prove himself in non league football in the Midland Alliance at Stratford Town.The Metro Newspaper on 23rd August 2018 puts forward the perspective that the spell at Town got Grigg “fit and firing” and Will acknowledged the role of the club in his interview ” I really enjoyed it, it made me tougher. Being thrown in at the deep end was perfect to see what it was all about.” In fact at Solihull College Grigg met Micky Moore who was in charge of the Football Development scheme at the college in addition to being the manager of Stratford Town.
On 15th September 2007 Grigg made his debut at Hednesford Town FC in the away 0-0 draw in the F A Cup Qualifying round at Keys Park in front of a crowd of 380. The significance of the first appearance of Will Grigg was not lost on Sports Reporter Mick Clewes of the Stratford Herald who made the following observation “Sixteen year old Will Grigg looks destined for a great future as he stood up to the rigours of this standard of football before manager Moore withdrew him halfway through the second half to a rousing reception from the appreciative crowd”.
At this time town were playing their home games at Damson Park in Solihull whilst the new Knights Lane stadium was under construction prior to the stadium opening in the spring of 2008.
Grigg played in the home replay with Hednesford before being taken off in the 58th minute but his contribution was unfortunately not enough to prevent Stratford Town’s exit from the FA Cup. On 29th September 2007 Grigg scored his first goal for Stratford Town in the game with Biddulph Victoria. The Birmingham Post and Mail quoted town manager Micky Moore after the game ” Will’s someone we’ve being looking at for sometime. He has a great deal of potential and we’ve never been scared to give players their chance – no matter what age they are”.
In the next match Grigg made only a brief appearance for the town in their top of the table encounter away at Friar Lane & Epworth but made a big impact as a substitute in the 63rd minute of the comprehensive 5-1 win. On 4th October Bryan Hale In his match report in the Stratford Herald gave the following account of Will’s contribution, “with the game now over as a contest Micky Moore withdrew the hard -working Rawlings and sent on 16 year-old Will Grigg who again impressed with his enthusiasm and willingness to run at defenders. Town went close to extending their lead when both May and Grigg had efforts blocked. Shortly after Jae Martin came on for a welcome appearance and almost scored with virtually his first touch when Grigg set him up with a shooting chance. With three minutes remaining Town made it five when Grigg sent over over a low cross which the unmarked Ruck was able to side foot in from close range.
On 7th October Grigg scored for town in the 2 – 0 win over Racing Club Warwick in injury time. The Herald reported “Grigg latched on to a great assist by Jerome Grandison and although the Warwick contingent felt the young former Birmingham City academician might have been offside, he took the pass in his stride before sliding the ball past Dipple’s challenge”.
Such performances reignited the interest of Birmingham City, West Brom also made further enquiries but Grigg was much more enthusiastic about the interest shown by Walsall and in the summer of 2008 signed a scholarship.deal with the Saddlers.
Grigg left Stratford with the best wishes of the club and went on to enjoy a great start to his successful professional career. It is always fascinating when a non league player makes the switch to play as a full time professional in the Football League.
Town supporters are currently following the developing careers of Will Grigg, Ben Stephens and Dylan Parker at Football League clubs. It would be great to see them play again if Wigan Athletic, Macclesfield or Walsall fancy a pre-season fixture next summer at Stratford?
Words and clippings kindly provided by Martin Kenny