Call me Biff. Some years ago – never mind the exact date – a certain Joseph Shelley first stepped out onto a football pitch. At that precise moment the young boy carrying little more than a pair of boots and a ball would scarcely imagine how long a career he would have on the rectangular patches of green grass. Now at the ripe age of 40, Shelley’s footballing tenure has taken him across the county, rippling nets far and wide.
And now he settles in Whitehawk, bringing his experience and goalscoring ability to The Enclosed Ground. It’s showing, too. Seven goals already on the campaign (feat. six pens) gives this versatile talent a head start in the goal charts. Oh, haven’t you heard? Biff. Doesn’t. Miss.
But first, the question on all of our minds: why Biff?
“Sooo, my younger brother used to call me ‘Jobiff’ instead of Joseph – that’s my real name. So, since about the age of three, I’ve been known as Biff! Everyone calls me Biff: my mum, my dad, people at work…even my nan!”
Well, there you have it. Who’d have thunk it, eh? Many a passing question duly answered. Think it’s time for the football related questions…
How have you found things since your move to Whitehawk in the Summer?
“I’m enjoying it, really – love the lads, love Shaun [Saunders], fans are decent so yeah, really enjoying it!”
Obviously you’ve enjoyed a rather long career, would you be able to discuss this for us (in the shortest way possible, of course!)
“I started with Lewes when I was about 13, then gave up football for about two years before I was around 16 / 17 years old where I played adult’s football with my dad. I then signed for Clymping – got them to the county league. Left there and went to East Preston for a few years, won a few leagues there. Went to Horsham…won a few leagues there. Littlehampton, won a few leagues there, too! So we’ve done really well, to be fair. I’ve had a long career, quite a tired guy!”
Would you say you are the perfect example of someone who just plays football for the sheer fun of it?
“I love it, absolutely love it. It’s my lease. If I didn’t play football I don’t know what I’d do! Probably go crazy, or just run marathons or something because I just love it, love doing anything athletic.”
So…how long do you think you can keep playing for?
“All the time i’m injury free! All the time I’m doing myself justice on the pitch.”
It’s been a blistering start to the season for you, but had you set yourself any personal aspirations for the campaign prior to its beginning?
“I’m on penalties – it seems to help us win plenty of penalties so that’s nice, hopefully I won’t miss! Aspirations wise I want to win the league with Whitehawk, I want to get them promoted to the league above, and help them do well up there as well – those are my aspirations.
It’s a great group, a new group as well – a lot of our players have played together before so I think we just kick on, move on.”
Got everything you needed? Well, if not we’re sure his gentle-natured self will always be around after the game for a chat. And for that young Biff playing football with his dad on muddy pastures across Sussex, here he is now years on bringing a smile to a packed Din End. Fine vintages come and go, but for Shelley he’s one that never loses his sweetness.