FAN-favourite goalkeeper, Paul Strudley, has said goodbye to the beautiful game as he officially retired after winning the North Hants Senior Cup with Basingstoke Town FC.

'Stoke's number one is hanging up his gloves and is "looking forward to a bit of rest" after a career spanning 25 seasons, culminating in one final piece of silverware in his last ever game.

Strudley was between the sticks in the North Hants Senior Cup Final which saw 'Stoke launch a second-half comeback, to defeat Romsey 4-3 at Andover New Street.

READ MORE: 10 man 'Stoke beat Romsey to lift North Hants cup for second year in a row

Basingstoke Gazette: Paul Strudley lifting the North Hants Senior CupPaul Strudley lifting the North Hants Senior Cup (Image: Steve Gridley)

Speaking after the match, the 41-year-old said: "It was a real weird feeling actually. Someone actually asked me in the changing room 'does it feel like your debut?' and I said 'it does a little bit' I was a little bit nervous. But you just try and play it as a normal game in the end, but it was a funny feeling.

"But no it was nice and I'm just pleased to get through it unscathed."

Strudley joined the 'Stoke in 2020 having previously played for Hungerford Town, Hartley Wintney, Reading Town, AFC Wallingford and Reading FC.

During his time with Hungerford, he helped the Crusaders climb to the Conference South. Similarly, at Hartley Wintney, he enjoyed successive promotions to the Southern Premier.

Basingstoke Gazette: Paul Strudley and 'Stoke manager Dan BrownliePaul Strudley and 'Stoke manager Dan Brownlie (Image: Steve Gridley)

Strudley’s first senior debut was back in 1999 for Reading Town in the Combined Counties League.

He immediately cemented himself as a fan-favourite with 'Stoke. Chants of "Super Paul Strudley in goal" can often be heard around the Winklebury Sports Complex, and it is no surprise that Strudley collected a mountain of honours during his time with the Dragons.

Part of last season's treble-winning squad, Strudley has notably obtained accolades such as the 2021/22 Supporters Away Player of the Season, North Hants Senior Cup Finalist and Winner, Isthmian South Central Championship and Hampshire Senior Cup Winner.

News of his retirement came from an announcement on the club's official website, on Friday, April 19.

In a statement, he said: "I feel extremely lucky that my body and my family have allowed me to play for such an extended period and I have also been fortunate to make many many friends along the way.

"Big thank you to all the centre-halves that have protected me over the years and to the centre forwards making my goal kicks look good; thankfully you can now stand on the opposite side of the halfway line."

Speaking after the final game of his career, Strudley admitted it was "not really" a difficult decision to retire, after a successful footballing tenure.

He said: "I've been very lucky to play for a long time, my family has supported me with that, I think my wife must love me from that perspective, 25 years I think it is that I've managed to play, so it wasn't a tough decision but I think you always miss playing, from certainly the people I've spoken to, I think that's going to be obvious, but I've been very lucky and I've achieved lots of nice things so [it's] time to do something else I think.

"I don't think the bug ever leaves you so I think I'd love to do something in the game - what that is I'm not sure to be honest - at the moment I think I'm just looking forward to a bit of a rest.

"Certainly I'll be keeping my eye out for results and certainly I will come and watch a few games, hopefully with my family

"Hopefully we've made some memories and I'm going to take many memories from my time at the club."