Paul Dodsworth may have started out life as a defender on the books of Norwich City, but he has found the scoring touch for Stoke-by-Nayland.
The 29-year-old has made a huge impact as a striker in the Colchester and East Essex League Premier Division by bagging five consecutive hat-tricks, notching a total of 19 goals in those matches.
But had he not suffered a career-ending injury at the age of 19, he could have been turning out for the Canaries at Old Trafford on Saturday, attempting to stop Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa.
“I haven’t seen anything like that before,” said Stoke’s joint manager Adam Waspe. “I think he’s always wanted to play up front when he came back from his injury.”
Dodsworth signed on for Norwich City at the age of eight and remained with the club until he was 19.
However, his promising career as a defender was cut short when he was diagnosed with Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome and had to retire.
After a break from playing altogether, Dodsworth returned four years ago and his since played for Cranes Sports, Ransomes Sports and Grundisburgh, before signing for Stoke at the start of the campaign.
“I wanted to come back and play with all my mates,” said Dodsworth, who works as a building contract manager for M Chisnall and Sons in Hadleigh. “Because of the injury I sustained, I have to be really careful.
“When I phoned the surgeon to tell him I was playing again, he wasn’t best pleased.”
Despite believing his injury was caused by being overplayed by Norwich while growing quickly, Dodsworth said he was grateful to the Canaries for helping him with his rehabilitation, even after his contract had come to an end.
Of the 31 goals he has scored this season, 19 have come in the last five matches, with five against Foxash Social A, three against Kelvedon Social and Horkesley and four in matches with Castle and Cinque Port — the latter taking place on Saturday with Kieran Dilloway netting the other in a 5-0 win.
Stoke remain in the hunt for league title glory, as well as three cup competitions, the first of which — the Amos Cup — they will try to win when they take on Boxford at Long Melford’s Stoneylands ground on Wednesday (7.30pm).
They also travel to Boxford in the Colchester and East Essex League Cup third round on Saturday (1.15pm).