Plymouth Argyle: 'Formbook goes out of the window tomorrow'
IAN STONEBRIDGE scored 45 goals for Argyle as a striker of some ability but whose career was cruelly cut short by injury.
One of his best, and most memorable, came the last time the Pilgrims beat Exeter in a Devon derby at St James' Park.
That was in September 2001, when Stonebridge – then aged 20 – headed home a last-gasp goal for a 3-2 victory.
Stonebridge now works as the youth development phase (ages 12 to 16) lead coach at Argyle and is also the lead sport scientist.
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The 31-year-old has some simple advice for the current crop of Pilgrims as they prepare for tomorrow's Devon derby at St James' park.
He told Herald Sport: "The formbook goes out of the window in games like this. It's about earning the right to play and putting the effort in. I wish them well."
While Argyle against Exeter is not as high-profile as, say, Liverpool versus Everton, the Manchester derby between City and United, or Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur, it counts for a lot in Devon's two cities.
There is pride and bragging rights at stake, as well as three league points.
Stonebridge said: "To the people in this part of the world it's as important as it gets. It was no different for us playing in the derby games.
"Just because less money is involved and there is less chance of winning trophies, I don't think it reduces the importance of the games."
Stonebridge was a substitute for Argyle when they played Exeter at St James' Park in September 2001 and they used their win to propel them towards the Division Three (now League Two) title.
Former Exeter favourite Martin 'Buster' Phillips gave the Pilgrims the lead in only the fifth minute.
However, ex-Argyle defender Chris Curran soon equalised and Christian Roberts netted in the 17th minute to make it 2-1 to City.
It stayed that way until Pilgrims' striker Mickey Evans headed home in the 65th minute, to set up a tense finale.
Stonebridge was introduced as a substitute for Nicky Banger in the 76th minute and, as full-time approached, he sent the travelling Green Army into raptures.
Phillips sent in an inviting cross from the right wing and, in front of Exeter's fans on the Big Bank, Stonebridge powered home a header.
Stonebridge said: "That goal is certainly right up there for me.
"While I was fortunate enough to score a couple of important goals in our promotion seasons, the fact it was the winner in a local derby makes it especially memorable – and I think it was a half-decent header too!"
He continued: "At that point in the game, it could have gone either way.
"All I was hoping was to get one chance, and with Buster playing out wide that was going to come from a cross.
"I can still picture the ball coming in and I got a good run on it and got up high. You don't think about it too much.
"I got a good connection on the ball and it was great to see it go in the net.
"My abiding memory is me and Buster running in completely opposite directions after the goal.
"He was going back to his former hunting ground and was delighted to have played a part in the winning goal."
Stonebridge, who was forced to retire from football in 2007, gained a degree in applied sports science and coaching at UCP Marjon in Plymouth this year.
He thoroughly enjoys his involvement with Argyle's youth set-up under the leadership of Kevin Hodges.
Stonebridge said: "I couldn't really have a job more relevant to what I'm interested in.
"It's hard work and there are a lot of new rules that govern youth development under the Elite Player Performance Plan as it's known."
In addition to his duties at Home Park, Stonebridge works one-day a week at Marjon as a graduate assistant in the physical and coach education department. It involves taking lectures, practical coaching sessions and helping to organise learning resources.