COLCHESTER United legend Steve Foley has been taking a trip down memory lane after unearthing his old playing contracts - including the first one he signed as a budding schoolboy.

The Clacton-born former long-serving U’s midfielder, coach and caretaker manager has spent the best part of half-a-century in the game and still works within Ipswich Town’s Academy.

The 64-year-old has been looking back on his proud and illustrious career after attending the funeral of former U’s scout John Chandler.

The ex-Ipswich Town physiotherapist, who spent 13 happy years working under Sir Bobby Robson during the halcyon days at Portman Road, passed away on September 29.

It was his signature that appeared on Foley’s first schoolboy terms, signed in 1968.

“John was a wonderful man and when we found out he had passed away, my wife and I dug out my old contracts,” said Foley, who is Town’s development coach and also head coach at Thurlow Nunn League side Needham Market Reserves.

“I knew we had them somewhere and she had a feeling his name appeared on my very first one.

“She was absolutely right and it was lovely to see and hold that piece of paper again - the contract that started me off on my journey into professional football.

“John was the one who first spotted me, as a scout, and I’ll always be grateful to him for putting me on this road.

“John was a great bloke - absolutely top-class - and he was the one who gave me my big break.

“He took me on and I can remember cycling from my home in Clacton to training in Colchester. Imagine doing that now!

“It was such an exciting time for me and I took the contract to John’s funeral (which took place at Colchester Crematorium on November 1). I showed it to his son and he was so pleased to see it and hear my story.

“In the process we found all my other old contracts, which I’ve kept in a file.

“In addition to the schoolboy forms I signed with John, I’ve also got my first pro contract from July 1969.

“My salary was just £8 - and I had to give £4 of that to my mum!

“It’s amazing to think about and look back on and I feel so grateful to have spent a lifetime in football.

“It’s the dream of so many young people - I hear it all the time in my current role - and I feel so proud and privileged to have earned a living from the game all these years.”

Foley made nearly 300 appearances in the Football League, playing as a midfielder for Colchester.

He began his career as a trainee and stayed at Layer Road for ten years, scoring 54 goals in 283 games. Later on he joined the U’s coaching staff, working with the young players, and spent several spells as caretaker manager during the 1980s.

He also spent a decade on the coaching staff of Norwich City before moving to rivals Ipswich Town.

He joined Norwich in 1996, appointed by manager Mike Walker, who had worked with him at Colchester, and spent ten years with the club in various roles when his coaching contract was terminated in May 2006.

Lawford-based Foley then joined the coaching staff at Ipswich and continues to work with young players within the Blues Academy and at Needham.

“I still love what I do and desperately want to help these young lads enjoy a career in the game like I have,” he said.

“I want to give them a chance and a break - just like John did for me in 1968.

“We’ve got some very good lads coming through at Needham.

“That might not be borne out in results at the moment but the talent and potential is undoubtedly there.

“Three of them have already had trials at Ipswich.

“I’d love to be the one to set them on the road to a pro career and in 50 years, I’d love someone to look back on my input and speak favourably of me - as I do with John.”