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32SPRING 2010Fraser hung up his gloves... and his washbag!OUTSIDE THE BOXIn our series of features with retired keepers, talks to Fraser Digby - a former Manchester United apprentice who fulfilled his dream of playing in the Premier League the hard way.Ok mate, see you in the bar." As Marc Bircham, Paul Furlong and the rest of his teammates left the Loftus Road dressing room, Fraser Digby stared straight through the steam into an uncertain future. Rangers' embarrassing defeat at the hands of Vauxhall Motors from the Unibond League not only signalled the end of their FA Cup exploits for another year, but for their 36-year old keeper, it meant the end of the road as a professional footballer."I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just knew that was it." said Fraser " It went to penalties and I had the chance to be the hero. But they beat us and that was that. The club was skint, my contract was up and I knew I didnt want to drop down the leagues. So it was pretty obvious, it was over."Today, 7 years on, the memories of more than 500 league appearances remain clear. That final match comes to all pros one day. But that inevitable day did little to quell the panic he was feeling.Red DevilFraser had come a long way since his days "Image courtesy of Dave Evans/Swindon Advertisera regular feature on life post retirement

SPRING 201033as a ballboy at Bramall Lane. "I used to play centre half for my school and went in net for my cub scout team. I had a trial for Sheffield Boys as a defender and did ok, but one of the coaches there had seen me play in goal so threw me the gloves and in I went." Four years later, Fraser was shot-stopping at Manchester United's training ground, one-on-one with the likes of Mark Hughes, Gordon Strachan and Jesper Olsen. It was here under the wing of United's goalkeeping coach Eric Harrison that Fraser adopted a philosophy which, he says, has served him proud - and would be the best advice he would give to a young keeper starting out in the game." Eric told me to shut up and listen. He said pick up anything I could from those who had been there and done it. Because I was keen to learn, the likes of Chris Turner and Gary Bailey were very helpful to me. Later on I returned to Man Utd on loan for a couple of months and faced Bryan Robson, Ryan Giggs, Paul Ince and of course, Eric Cantona. I remember my first day back with them. The quality there was phenomenal and that's why they are so good. You had to be on tip top form to survive."For 18 years, Fraser went on to benefit from the mantras of some of the biggest names in the game; Atkinson, Ardiles, Hoddle, Venables and Coppell all contributed to help Fraser perform to the best of his abilities.He played regularly for England Schools, England Youth and later England U21s. So a life between the sticks was presumably top of his careers form? "No, not really. The problem was I went straight to Man Utd from school. Luckily I'd got 9 o'levels under my belt but I had no idea what I wanted to be. I did day release doing electrical engineering, following in my Dad's footsteps. I just hated it. In the nick of time, Swindon came in for me and the football really took off."Robin ReliantFraser's arrival at The County Ground in 1986 coincided with the start of the most successful period in Swindon's 130-year history. In front of a meagre 3,000 fans, The Robins began the ascent from League Division 4 to the dizzy heights of the Premier League in seven action-packed years. " The fans had never seen anything like it. After the play-off win against Leicester, we paraded round the town on an open-top bus. We were like Swindon royalty," he recalls. And it was that connection with the local community which was to serve him well once he'd hung up his gloves."Since retirement I've managed to keep in touch with a lot of the contacts I made during my playing years. That's been really important to me," said Fraser who still lives in Wiltshire along with his wife and three sons. "I worked for the club, becoming their commercial manager and more recently I've been involved in several projects all relating to sport and the local community. The goodwill from the people around Swindon has been a huge help."He went on to become a consultant for Sports Solutions GB, helping clubs develop new ways of making money and improving links with their local communities." Cirencester Town is a good example of the work we do. We helped them move from a cramped town centre location to a 17-acre site out of town. Now they're going from strength to strength." ( club now has a thriving 1st team, junior, academy and ladies section, whilst their ground also brings in income from hosting seminars, corporate training days and the occasional wedding."We've helped them become a key part of the town. All the kids come and train in one place, whilst the parents watch in the clubhouse, over a pint and a packet of crisps. It's been a great success story."More recently, Fraser has also joined forces with the property corporation IP Global, providing opportunities for those We were royaltylike Swindon Image courtesy of Dave Evans/Swindon Advertiser