A GOALKEEPING legend on the Isle of Wight, Dougie Stephens, has done what few have achieved between the sticks — enjoyed a continuous playing career straddled over seven decades.

To mark his achievement, Dougie, 67, of Newport Road, Lake, was at Shanklin FC to receive footballs signed by past and present colleagues, a special ‘Legend 7’ cake, a football top embroidered with each decade he played in and a folder of cuttings spanning 1969 to 2020, as well as emails from some of his countless friends in the football community.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dougie Stephens as a youth player in Ryde just before he made his debut playing for Sandown's senior side in the Hampshire League.Dougie Stephens as a youth player in Ryde just before he made his debut playing for Sandown's senior side in the Hampshire League.

Dougie will probably be best remembered for his successes playing for East Cowes Vics and Ryde Sports, but he played for a number of other Island clubs, from former Sunday league level on the Island to Division 1 of the Hampshire League.

With more than 1,500 senior games under his belt and a lifetime of great footballing memories, he now plays for Sandown Reserves in Combination 1 of the Island League — and is still loving it.

Isle of Wight County Press: Dougie Stephens today plays for Sandown Reserves, aged 67.Dougie Stephens today plays for Sandown Reserves, aged 67.

Dougie, originally from Birkenhead, attended Sandown Grammar School and made his senior debut for Sandown, losing 7-1 at Christchurch in 1969, aged 17.

It was a baptism of fire for Dougie.

But following spells at struggling Parkhurst Old Boys and St Helens Blue Star, he got noticed at Ryde United. Vics saw something in Dougie and snapped him up.

Expecting to play in the reserves, injury to Vics’ first choice stopper opened the door for Dougie, who remained first choice for six seasons.

At Beatrice Avenue, Vics won the Division 1 and 2 Hampshire League titles.

In winning Division 1, Vics were the invincibles of their day, going the entire season unbeaten, playing alongside legendary striker, Tony Grimwade, and winger, Gareth Williams, who went on to play for Aston Villa in Division 1, just before it became the Premier League.

“They were great times at Vics. That’s when I really came into my own,” he said.

Dougie also had success playing Sunday league football with the Chillerton Choppers for 12 seasons.

It was with the Choppers he famously scored a hat-trick in a 17-2 win over Bembridge.

Dougie, a full-time singer for 30 years and keen angler, added: “I’ve met some really good people through playing football.

“If I didn’t enjoy playing as much as I do, I would’ve given it up years ago.

“I was always prepared to drop down the leagues as I got older, but I always said, when I become a liability to a team, I would pack it in.

“Thankfully, I haven’t quite got to that stage yet.”

Dougie, who has won two Isle of Wight Gold Cups, plus a hatful of other titles, also played for Newport at Church Litten, Cowes Sports, Somerton, Lake Huron, SVYCC, West Wight and Wootton.

Dougie will be in action at West Wight Reserves in the second round of the IW Junior A Cup on Saturday.