Cherries: Stewart wants one over on Mossy

23 April 2011 07:00
LAST week, they were the best of friends, this week, the best of enemies.

A rare divide in the tight-knit world of the goalkeepers' union will today see Neil Moss pitted against close pal Gareth Stewart.

Appointed goalkeeping coach at Yeovil Town in January, Stewart will be in the opposite dugout when Cherries face the Glovers at Huish Park.

Stewart, who spent nine years on the playing staff at Dean Court and a further two-and-a-half on the community side, also doubles up as Yeovil's reserve glovesman.

Their friendship goes back a long way with Stewart still working part-time for Moss's Between The Sticks Goalkeeping School.

It's weird, said Stewart, who made 164 league appearances for Cherries between 1999 and 2008. We met for Sunday lunch last week and, when we meet again, I'll be wanting to put one over him!

While Stewart's association with Moss may have stood the test of time, his affinity for Cherries has diminished. Released by Kevin Bond in 2008, he describes his long spell at Dean Court as indifferent.

Stewart added: When Mossy came back in 2002, you wondered whether a guy from a Premier League club would only care about himself. From day one, nothing could have been further from the truth. He was never like that and is still not like it now. He befriends people he works with and is a personable guy. He will always have an opinion but he will always value yours as well.

When I played, he was never negative towards me. I'm sure he wanted to get back in but I only ever heard him say positive things. When I was released, I needed people I could depend on. Mossy was at the front of the queue.

Stewart, who suffered more than his fair share of injuries, was restricted to three seasons as Cherries' first choice and will be remembered by some as the man who was between the sticks during their fateful relegation campaign of 2001-02. His heroics in the play-off near-miss during the Jermain Defoe season of 2000-01 often get forgotten.

I've got a lot of good memories, said Stewart, who is still only 31. But, if I'm honest, I've probably got as many bad ones with respect to injuries and managers, certainly towards the end. I wasn't sad to leave.

The high was getting promoted after relegation. Relegation wasn't nice but the experience has stood me in good stead.

Following his exit, Stewart dropped into the non-league ranks with Dorchester and combined playing part-time with coaching on the community side at Dean Court and also at the club's centre of excellence.

And had things been different, he could have returned to the club at the start of this season, with former boss Eddie Howe instead opting to sign namesake Jon Stewart from Portsmouth.

Stewart said: I heard Jal (Shwan Jalal) needed pushing and, with Dan Thomas being young, he didn't really have the experience. I had a few weeks' training to put myself forward as a capable understudy at the very least. I think it was a surprise to them how well I did and it nearly happened.

I'm probably glad it didn't happen. I'm at a different club with a different challenge and have got the opportunity to mix the roles.

Asked whether there would be any divided loyalties for today's clash, Stewart replied: I thought I would have but I know where my loyalties lay. It would be great to see them go up but I can't have any feeling for Bournemouth in this match.

Source: Bournemouth_Echo