Stuart Ryder was born on November 6th, 1973 at Sutton Coldfield. He recalls his formative years from his schooling at King Edward VI Grammar School in Lichfield to reaching Walsall FC..
" It was frustrating for me as the main sports there were rugby, hockey and cross country so we played football at break times. However, there was house football to consider from Year 4 onwards. However, due to lack of players, I did play games against 6th Formers from my Year 2 onwards. Out of school there were kick abouts with friends from the estate I lived on in Lichfield. I played for Lichfield Social Club, Colron, Elford Boys and Brownhills Community Colts before joining Tamworth FC's youth team (managed by Bill Jones) and then the reserve team under Mick Brookes. I had a trial at Torquay United along with Darren Moore however I was rejected. I played against Walsall Youth team and after being watched by Paul Taylor & Eric McManus (Youth Development Officer) who signed me on a YTS scheme which I joined in the second year."
Stuart progressed well at Bescot and on November 3rd, 1992, came on as substitute at Barnet for Mike Cecere in the 58th minute. Also making their debuts that evening were Richard Parker and Chris Demetrios. He played in the last 22 games of that season that included the disappointing two play off semi final games against Crewe. That run of games saw him partner Dean Smith who Stuart labelled as " A good guy who helped me along and was a steadying influence."
Towards the end of that season Stuart noticed that his general health not as should be. "My legs felt as heavy as lead, I felt as if I was dragging my legs along and felt really tired. I went to my doctor on the Monday and learned I'd got tonsillitis and glandular fever." Thankfully the recovery was quicker than it could of been and he was able to return and make 26 appearances in 1993-4.
Stuart was a valuable member of the 1994-5 promotion winning team clocking up 39 games and scoring five goals. Regarding the lead up to the final game of the season he recalled, "After the Saturday home game against Scunthorpe it was on to Scarborough on the Tuesday and we went into the final game at Bury on the Thursday. It was a tense time going into that final game but Jimmy Walker, coming in for a start for the first time that season, pulled off a worldie which calmed things down. It was an amazing night."
Then followed a most joyous and traumatic period of his life. "At the end of the season we all had a few days in Tenerife celebrating our promotion and on returning home was looking forward to the summer break when I had a call to join up with the England U21 squad who were playing in a tournament in France. I thought it was a wind up. But no it wasn't I was asked to go as a replacement for Sol Campbell. So instead of resting over the summer, I started training in a field back home with my Uncle in an attempt to condition myself for the trip with England."
"I was suddenly in the company of players like David Beckham, Phil Neville, Julian Joachim and Dean Richards. It was a great experience but found myself struggling for the last 10 to 15 minutes in games due to fitness." He played in three of the four games, against Brazil, Angola and the semi-final with France. The management duo were Ray Harford and Ray Lewington.
Returning home and getting ready for the new domestic season, he was still suffering a bit to get back to peak fitness following a groin strain. He was playing a reserve game against Carlisle United and suffered a terrible injury thanks to a reckless challenge from Walsall-born Steve Hayward sustaining cruciate knee ligament damage. He was immediately red - carded and manager Chris Nicholl at the time described it as, "A terrible tackle. The lad's studs were high and its a devastating blow for the whole club because Stuart is such a well - liked boy."
The road to recovery was certainly long and there was no timetable at all. "I spent a lot of time with Tom Bradley at Walsall and at the Rehabilitation Centre at Lilleshall in the company of other footballers like Chris Sutton, Ian Pearce, Vince Overson and Martin Taylor. We supported and motivated each other." It was certainly a long road of recovery for the player who was out of action for that and the following season and only came back towards the end of the following season at first team level.
Chris Nicholl left the club that summer, and when asked to compare the different styles between his first two managers, Big Chris and Kenny Hibbitt, Stuart observed, "Kenny was more of an emotional motivator type of boss like a Barry Fry person whereas Chris was more into organising and planning. A bit more reserved but you knew not to upset him! I got on well with him. I considered myself a good pro so got along with both Managers."
Jan Sorensen arrived for what turned out to be his last season. He made 11 appearances that were spread out over the whole campaign. "By then there were the likes of Ade Viveash, Ian Roper and Derek Mountfield and as it was the end of my contract I was released." Stuart takes up the next chapter of his career, "There was a call from Kevin Wilson who was Assistant Manager of Northampton Town for a trial there. Things seemed to be going okay but there was no offer. However Mansfield Town came in for me and I was signed by Steve Parkin. Due to Mansfield's financial position and budget cuts I was released with a few others after playing 22 games. I had a decision as to what to do next in my career and it was to leave the full-time game at that level.
My next move was to non-league where I played for Nuneaton, Stafford Rangers and Hednesford Town. I retired in May 2004 following my last game at Villa Park for Hednesford Town versus Canvey Island in the FA Trophy Final which we won 3-2. I remember the Sports Argus did a feature on my finishing playing."
" Some time later I went in for my coaching badges. I went in for a Level 1 course as I wanted to start from scratch and then moved onto my Level 2 and UEFA B Licence at which point I started coaching ladies football. I had a season with Solihull Ladies and a period at Coventry City Ladies before coaching Burton Albion Ladies based at St Georges Park. However, it was too taxing what with training matches and doing my day job so had to take a step back form coaching. I have also done some 1-2-1 coaching with youngsters when approached by their parents."
There was one incident Stuart remembered, " I fell out with football and spent some years without even watching the game before my Dad went to a social event at a working man's club and won two tickets for a Walsall game. He immediately offered them to me so I went along with a mate and I didn't expect to be recognised at all as it had been so long but I was, it was surreal."