By Nigel Powlson
THE release of three long-serving players meant that it wasn’t just the end of the season but also the end of an era at the Pirelli Stadium this week.
Brewers stalwarts Aaron Webster, John McGrath and Andy Corbett are all being released after notching up more than 1,200 combined appearances.
All three have been major components in Albion teams that have seen the club rise from the second tier of non-league football to the brink of League 1.
All three will join the ranks of Brewers legends and will be remembered for their passionate commitment to the club as well as their skill on the field.
Aaron, always a player to wear his heart on his sleeve, seemed close to tears at Andy Corbett’s testimonial on Tuesday. A Brewer from his teenage days, Aaron always seemed to take the disappointments the hardest but appeared to get the greatest joy from the triumphs. Often the last player to leave the pitch at the end of a game, Aaron’s “dance” often marked another major success for the club.
Aaron has spent 15 years with Albion in total, notching up 589 appearances – only Captain Marvel Darren Stride has pulled on a Brewers shirt more times. Aaron’s technical ability made him stand out in his teenage years as a bright prospect and it was Albion’s gain when trials at bigger clubs didn’t turn into the moves up the ladder his talent probably deserved. Instead, he became an important part of Nigel Clough’s plans to take the Brewers into the Football League, even if Aaron did seem to receive a regular tongue-lashing from assistant manager Gary Crosby from the touchline!
Able to play in a variety of positions, Aaron settled into the left side of defence but was still one of Albion’s most feared attacking threats. Aaron has always had an uncanny knack of getting his head on the end of set pieces and consequently notched up more than 100 goals for the club.
John McGrath joined the Brewers in 2007 and quickly became a fans’ favourite despite being signed from our bitter rivals Tamworth after they were relegated from the Conference. John’s wholehearted performances and his lung-busting runs from box to box were such an inspiration that it seemed only fitting and natural that he would eventually wear the captain’s armband.
His central midfield partnership with Michael Simpson was outstanding at non-league level and was the key to Albion’s promotion to the Football League. The former Aston Villa trainee remained an integral part of the Albion side as we established ourselves in our first three League seasons.
It was cruel luck that injury robbed John of a chance to cement himself at the heart of the midfield again this season.
Andy Corbett has been a loyal servant to Burton Albion for just under ten years and is finishing his career with the club with a deserved testimonial which included Tuesday’s game against Nigel Clough’s Derby County.
It was Clough who signed Andy from Nuneaton, originally as a striker. But such was his versatility that Andy became the go-to-man to fill a variety of roles. Asked to deputise at full back, he quickly learned the trade and made the position his own.
Andy’s fitness levels and energy have been legendary during his time with the Brewers and Nigel Clough once joked that for the team photo he was going to have everyone’s head superimposed on Andy’s body.
A real clubman, Andy always gave his all wherever he was asked to play and in whatever circumstances and has retired on 399 appearances putting him well up alongside the Brewers most famous players of all-time.
Importantly too, all three players have been firm favourites with the fans and it will seem an odd team sheet without their names. All fans will want to wish them well and thank them for their service and commitment.
Their departure from the Pirelli marks the end of the last links with the current playing squad and Albion’s non-league roots – truly the end of an era.