A TALENTED goalkeeper who turned down Chelsea so he could carry on working as a greengrocer insists he has no regrets after hanging up his gloves.
Steve 'Top Cat' Costin was once courted by Dave Sexton when the legendary manager was in charge at Stamford Bridge, but carrots and cauliflowers proved more of a pull than Osgood, Hudson and the King's Road.
Instead, Costin played local level football in Hounslow for more than 40 years, but at the age of 58 has now decided to take a well-earned retirement.
He said: “I was at Cranford Community School and had played for the borough, the county, for London, and made my England Schoolboys debut against Wales at Brisbane Road in 1974.
“At that stage I could have had my pick of clubs, people like Dave Sexton at Chelsea were watching me and making enquiries. We got a lot of calls, but every time one of them phoned up my dad, who wasn't into football, told them I already had a job and put the phone down.
“We had a thriving greengrocer's business on Greenford Broadway, which was one of the best in the country at the time and brought in a lot of money, so I went for that option instead. There wasn't a lot of money in football back them.”
With Saturdays spent on the greengrocers stall, Chiswick-born Costin, who has always lived in Hounslow, got his fix from Sunday and midweek football instead.
He started out playing at the Sunday side of Osterley FC, whose Saturday team were Alan Devonshire's first port of call in management, while playing on Wednesdays for Western International Market, and in later years turned out for Southside Veterans.
Costin said: “Osterley used to play at Wood Lane, and I remember Stan Bowles played for us one year, and he came up and told me I was better than Phil Parkes, who was QPR's keeper.
“In fact, I was once playing in a cup final for Western International Market at Western Road, Southall's old ground, and Gerry Francis sidled up behind my goal with his old man. He started saying 'Steve, come and play for me at QPR'.
“We were 1-0 down at the time and I wanted to focus on the game, so I told him to eff off. Later I got a clip round the ear from his dad, who was also a professional footballer for Brentford, as he told me 'you don't tell Gerry Francis to eff off'!”
Costin's last ever game was a recent charity match between Southside Vets and Hounslow United Vets, featured in the Chronicle, in which he saved a penalty with his first touch but spilt the ball straight back to the taker to score.
“I saw that as a sign that it was time to pack it in,” he added. “Looking back, it was tempting to take one of those offers to turn pro, but I was happy working with my dad while playing midweek and Sunday football. I have no regrets.”