Alan Julian’s football career started with Brentford at a very tender age. “When my dad first called about my trial at Brentford I was 9, he was speaking to the head of the youth team, who at the time was Barry Quinn.
After I got accepted for the trial, my granddad then had a conversation for about 10 minutes about our pet cat with Barry! They must have wondered what on Earth they had got at their club”!
Alan’s first team opportunities were limited at Brentford with goalkeepers such as Paul Smith, Oli Gottskalksson and Stuart Nelson also at the club during his spell with the London outfit which restricted his first team opportunities. “I was at Brentford for 11 years. I had a great time, but in truth I was very ‘in’ and ‘out’. I think I played 16 league games, and I also played a further 5 or 6 cup games”.
Alan felt “the time had come in my career to play regular first team football” and therefore decided a move to another club was in his best interests. There were a number of clubs interested in Alan’s services but in February of the 2004/2005 season Alan made the move to North Hertfordshire for the first time.
Alan also made one appearance for the Northern Ireland U21 side against Switzerland in August 2004, keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw. ”It was a fantastic experience, I was very honoured and it was great to play with some fantastic players”.
Graham Westley eventually captured Alan’s signature on 4th February 2005. “Graham is a very ambitious man, and after hearing what he had to say my decision was simple.
It was a very easy choice, as playing regularly in a team that wanted to get promotion and be successful was my aim. There were a few clubs interested but I wanted to play as that was the most important thing to me at the time”.
When questioned about what part if any the then goalkeeper coach Lionel Perez had in his recruitment, Alan commented “I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you whether Lionel played any part, but working with Lionel was brilliant as he helped to really improve my game, that is when I could actually understand what he was saying because of his strong French accent”.
Alan made his debut against Scarborough at home on 19th February 2005 keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory. For the record, Darryn Stamp was the scorer for Boro that day.
Alan played an integral part in Boro reaching the Conference play-off final that season, playing 17 times during that initial half season keeping 7 clean sheets in the process, including the all important 0-1 away leg victory in the play-off semi-final against Hereford United at Edgar Street.
Alan’s first stint at Boro coincided with a successful period at the club, most notably reaching the Conference Play-off final at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke during the 2004/05 season, unfortunately falling at the final hurdle losing 1-0 to Carlisle United and reaching the FA Trophy final in the 2006/07 season, winning the first competitive match in the newly re-opened Wembley Stadium 3-2 against Kidderminster Harriers.
When asked to pick his favourite game in a Boro shirt, unsurprisingly these feats feature in his answer “It’s got to be the two semi-finals, Hereford away in the play-offs and Grays at home in the FA Trophy. Perhaps, if forced, I’d say the Grays game as we went in to win the trophy that year”.
Unsurprisingly that May afternoon in Stoke at the end of the 2004/2005 season is Alan’s biggest frustration whilst at Boro. “Apart from listening to Ronnie in the car every morning, it had to be losing the play-off final, that still hurts me today”.
Alan was also voted Supporters Association Player of the 2005/2006 season. “We had some very good players in the team at that time, so to win was a great honour”.
Alan is unsure about his clean sheet statistics whilst at Boro but is rightly proud of his time between the sticks “I’m not sure on the total, but I’m very proud of the eight in a row we got to equal the Conference record. I was very pleased about it as the record was held by Scott Barrett who was assistant manager at Boro at the time. I think I made 3 penalty saves, but my most memorable was against Exeter where I saved it, then the referee called for the kick to be retaken and I saved it again”.
Alan has happy memories of his time at Boro and the players that were his team mates at the time “I travelled in with Simon Weatherstone first of all, and then after he left it was Ronnie Henry, John Nutter and Jon Nurse. We had a few good times in that car; Jon Nurse trying to change a puncture; Ronnie turning up in his brand new car one day, which happened to be a Metro – You can imagine the squeeze with 4 of us in there, me being 6″ 3, and then also 4 kit bags!; Myself and Jon Nurse arguing about anything and everything, and then there’s Nutsy, who I actually feel lost without now, as I travelled in with him whilst at Gillingham too”.
As with other players interviewed by the history website from the same playing era Alan quickly identifies George Boyd as the best Boro player he played with, simply naming him and saying “enough said”!
“I keep in touch with a number of the lads, which is an unusual thing as so many players move around, so that’s nice. The team spirit we had is something I doubt I will ever experience again”.
Stevenage have had a lot if success in recent seasons “I am not surprised at all, as some of the football we played under Mark Stimson must surely be the best the Conference has ever seen and the ambition and determination Graham had was infectious”.
Alan had a great rapport with the Boro faithful commenting “I would say that Boro have the best fans I have ever played in front off. There were a few people that used to stand behind the goal that would do nothing but encourage the lads, which was nice to hear”.
He holds Boro close to his heart and would like to be remembered by the Boro supporters “That I always gave everything I had on the pitch. My Boro years were the best time of my career, great club, great supporters, and great players”.
|Name||Alan John Julian|
|Place of Birth||Ashford, Surrey|
|Boro Shirt Number||1, I have also been 13, 23 and 31 in my career. When I played for Northern Ireland I was number 12.|
|Superstitions||I do have a few although I have cut down on them over the years. We will be here forever if we go through them all, but my most noticeable one would be when I kiss my hand and touch my posts and the cross bar, because once the ball goes past you, the frame of the goal is the only thing that can save you!|
|Influence on career||My dad|
In the 2008/2009 close season, Alan decided to join ex- manager Mark Stimson and former Boro team mates at newly relegated (to league 2) Gillingham, signing for the Kent based club on 21st May 2008.
Alan reflecting on his decision to leave Boro commented “Every footballer wants to play as high as they can. It was very hard to leave Boro as I loved it there, but I wanted to just play as high as I could”.
His transition to a new club at a higher level was made easier by the familiar faces he was joining “It’s always nice to walk into a dressing room and see familiar faces, it helps you settle”.
The 2008/2009 season was a good season for The Gills with promotion back to League 1 at the first time of asking, courtesy of a 1-0 playoff final victory over Shrewsbury Town. Alan’s appearances however were restricted to 6 in his first season keeping 3 clean sheets.
The following season Alan made over 30 first team appearances for the Gills, keeping 8 clean sheets in the process but his efforts could not prevent Gillingham suffering relegation to League 2 once more.
The 2010/11 season saw Alan play over 40 times in League 2 keeping 12 clean sheets with The Gills narrowly missing out on a playoff spot.
Despite being first choice keeper for the majority of the season Gillingham released him at the end of that season.
Looking back at his time with the Kent based club “We got promoted in my first season there, and then having the opportunity to play in League One at the likes of Leeds, Southampton and Norwich was unbelievable.
I was also there for one relegation, which was very very hard to take, but looking back over my time at Gillingham; I have played at some fantastic stadiums and learnt a lot about myself during the time I spent there”.
Graham Westley, the Boro Manager that had originally secured Alan’s services for Boro in 2005, signed him again during the 2011/2012 pre-season as Boro prepared to take their place in League 1 for the first time. “It was very easy to rejoin, as it was a manager I loved working for and a club I love”.
“There weren’t too many changes to the feel of the club which was nice, although you could see steps were being taken then to improve, such as the training ground”.
Alan made a handful of appearances 4(1) during his brief spell back in Hertfordshire “It would have been nicer to play more, but we ended up getting to the play-offs which was an incredible achievement for the whole squad”. Alan was released from the club when his contract expired in May 2012.
When asked, which manager had the greatest influence on his career Mark Stimson or Graham Westley, Alan was non-committal commenting “It’s very close between Graham and Stimmo, as I learnt so much from both of them, as they have very different methods and approaches to the game”.
Interestingly, the manager he believes had the greatest influence on his career was Martin Allen “because he told me I wasn’t good enough, which was a big motivation to prove him wrong. Graham Westley taught me how to become a winner.”
Post Boro (Again)
After leaving Boro, Alan joined Newport County in the Conference during the 2012/13 pre- season. At the time of writing Newport are placed 4th in the table with a number of games in hand over clubs above them. Alan sees synergies between his current team and Stevenage commenting “Our Newport team has different qualities to the Stevenage one, but I would say both teams have/had a very high work rate which breeds success”.
Alan is still young in goalkeeping terms and is still hungry for success “The Short term aim is to win promotion this season and then take it from there. In football it’s very hard to look too far into the future. Being a goal keeping coach is something I would love to do when I eventually hang up my boots. I’ve learnt so much over the years and would love to pass that on to the next generation of keepers”.
The Stevenage FC History Website would like to thank Alan for all his time in completing this interview and wishes him all the very best for the promotion push this season and his future footballing career.