Sheffield United: Blades set to face Isle of Wight international

Last line of defence: Simon Moore, who has won four caps with the Isle of Wight, in action against Sheffield United last season

Last line of defence: Simon Moore, who has won four caps with the Isle of Wight, in action against Sheffield United last season

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THEY might not have captured the public’s imagination like the London Olympics, writes Jame Shield. Or, as Simon Moore admits, be quite as grand as they sound.

But the Island Games, especially those hosted by the Finnish archipelago of Åland four years ago, will always hold a special place in the Brentford goalkeeper’s heart.

“Not many people know that I’m an international,” Moore told The Star yesterday. “I’m from the Isle of Wight and I represented them in the competition a while back.

“Our team was drawn from the four best clubs on the island and although the tournament doesn’t get a huge amount of publicity, they’re a source of great pride for a lot of the people back home.

“The standard was a lot better than you’d expect and it was a brilliant experience. The pitches were superb and the people over there were so friendly.

“At the end we had a closing ceremony where all the athletes from different disciplines got together for a parade. Golfers, archers and sailors, it really was quite special.

“I’d never been in that type of environment before and, looking back, the fact you had to stay focused and prepare properly put me in good stead for what was to come.”

A few months after returning from the games, which enable territories such as Alderney, Greenland, Minorca and Sark to showcase their athletic talents, Moore was putting pen to paper on a full-time contract at Griffin Park.

Like his team mate Sam Saunders, who used to work shifts on the London Underground before being offered a break by Dagenham and Redbridge, the Sandown-born youngster took an unorthodox route into the world of professional sport.

Tomorrow, during Brentford’s pivotal League One encounter against Sheffield United, Moore will be the visitors’ last line of defence. Not so long ago, however, he was financing his duties with Wessex League outfit Brading Town by doing the nine to five in a bank.

“I always wanted to be a footballer but I wasn’t earning a living from it,” Moore, who also represented Farnborough and Basingstoke, said. “In fact, I was paying to play rather than being paid. We had to stump-up annual subs and match fees. Stuff like that.

“I had a few different jobs including one in the branch where my mum and dad worked. I was really lucky because they knew what my dream was and they encouraged me to go for it. They provided me with so much support and I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.”

“I’ve worked outside of football. I didn’t come up through an academy and, although I’m not knocking that system because it provides so many opportunities, the fact I’ve done something else means I’ll never ever take it for granted,” he added. “I just feel so lucky, so privileged, to be doing what I’m doing. No matter what football throws at me, to be involved and earn my living from it is a dream come true.”

Brentford, second in the table, will move five points clear of fourth placed United if they repeat November’s victory over Danny Wilson’s side.

Moore, aged 22, endured a slow start to his career in the capital but, following an injury to Richard Lee, has cemented his position in the starting eleven this term and hopes to be a permanent fixture in the Championship next.

“When I came I was third choice but, to be honest, I was so pleased to get the opportunity that I’d have jumped at the chance to even be fifth or sixth,” Moore said. “I had to bide my time and played for spells in the first team but this season has been my best so far.

“So I’ve got to keep working hard and trying to improve in everything that I do.”

*Twitter: JamesShield1