IF there is anything Paul Archer likes, it’s a good quiz question.

Providing he can remember his own name, that can be challenging sometimes these days, he should know the answer to ‘who was the first player to play in all six decades of the Braintree and North Essex Sunday League?’

His first club was Braintree YC for whom he played his first game when his brother Alan said they were short of players for a friendly which was just weeks after they had won the fourth division league and cup double, in the 1978/79 season.

He was only 14 but went along as the substitute and got on for about 15 minutes and loved every minute. He was smitten and went pre season training with YC for the 1979/80 season and played his first competitive game on the opening day of the season coming on as sub for Julian Ewers and scoring a goal within the first five minutes.

Paul has played this season 2020/21 and is in his 42nd consecutive season in the Braintree and North Essex Sunday League and wonders whether that is some kind of record…..possibly another quiz question.

He hasn’t kept a record of how many appearances he has made but he has scored 148 goals, once scoring five in one game, but thinks that 150 goals may elude him as he only makes the subs bench now and when he does get on the pitch it is as a cumbersome defender who has the speed of someone carrying a fridge.

The youngsters are far too quick these days; mind you, some of them are less than a third of his age.

A highlight from each decade would simply be his debut in the seventies, the cup final win on penalties with Braintree YC against Three Pigeons in 1983 after a 3-3 draw (the game had everything), winning the treble with Swiss Sports Reserves in 1996/97 (he was Peter Taylor to Ed Dobrowolski’s Brain Clough), captaining the 4-0 cup final win with Braintree Sporting against Cressing in 2007 masterminded by Jan Attrell and being named ‘players player of the year’ for Bocking Social Reserves in 2015/16 at the ripe old age of 51.

He has won numerous much-maligned clubman of the year awards and if any club wants a job lot he would be happy to negotiate a price. As good as the playing memories were, playing football opens up so much in terms of getting to know people socially that the off-field memories were probably better.

He feels so privileged that he has met so many good friends during his career and still has a pint or two after the game.

Paul is so grateful that he has not really had any major injuries although he is forever injured in some way or other and he is certain that he has the hamstrings of someone at least one foot shorter than he is.

He is also thankful to Ollie, Aidan and Matt at Unique Health and Fitness for keeping him fit over the last few years and working routines around his never-ending list of niggles.

Despite still really enjoying the training and playing he thinks the end is nigh as he recognises he is too much of a liability these days and is grateful to his current team, Notley Reserves, for humouring him.

However, his daughter has just had a baby boy and the thought of playing in the BNESL with his grandson might keep him going a bit longer…. that would mean a seventh decade!

He would like to apologise to all referees that he has had frank discussions with over the years and all the players he has had to ‘professionally’ foul, which seems to happen more often these days.

Finally he would like to thank everyone who is, or has been, a member of the Braintree and North Essex Sunday League committee over those six decades as without them the record would not have been possible - their hard work is appreciated.