Great sussex servant Knee hangs up his boots

Mark Knee in his Worthing days
Mark Knee in his Worthing days

A stalwart of Sussex football has decided to hang up his boots.

Mark Knee played for eight clubs across Sussex, including Bognor, Whitehawk, Horsham and Worthing.

He spent the longest period of his playing days at Worthing and is believed to be the record appearance-maker for them, playing more than 470 games over a decade at the club.

Knee, who was 40 in October, said he would love to know exactly how many games he had played.

The highest division Knee played in was Conference South (now the National League South), but he says he could have played in a higher division.

The full-back went on to win the County League with Horsham, but eventually numerous injuries caught up with him.

Knee played for the majority of his career at left-back, but has also played as a forward.

The defender started his senior career at Steyning Town aged just 16, but moved on to challenge himself to progress his career, going on to play for Lewes.

He moved on for his first stint at Worthing, where he helped them win the Sussex Senior Cup and make it to the FA Cup first round proper in 1999 before they lost 3-0 to Rotherham, who at the time, were in the Football League division three.

In 2004, Worthing were promoted from the Isthmian League division one south.

The left-back then played at Bognor and Horsham, the latter team being runners-up in the Sussex Senior Challenge, losing to Lewes.

Knee said: “Most of my time was spent at Worthing, but I felt the time was right to move to Bognor to test myself at a higher level.”

He later won the double with Whitehawk in the 2011-12 season when they won the Isthmian League division-one south and the Sussex Senior Cup.

Knee then had a second stint at Worthing and played for Peacehaven & Telscombe and Horsham, where his last achievement was winning the Southern Combination Football League in the 2015-16 season.

Asked who was his favourite manager to play under, Knee said: “There has been a few. My fondest memories were with Sammy Donnelly, when he gave me my first chance at Worthing. Dominic di Paola was the manager I finished up with. It was more like playing with your friends.

“The more technical managers were at Bognor. I really came on as a player, playing at a higher level.”

The full-back played with so many good players in his career. Knee commented that Stuart Tuck was his favourite team-mate from their time together at Worthing.

“I broke my leg and then he came in as a replacement for me at left-back,” Knee said. “And then when I came back from that, then I played alongside him, he gave 110 per cent and really helped the young players along.”

He kept pushing to try to keep playing but he called it a day before the start of this season as there was too much ‘wear and tear’ to his knee cartilage.

Asked about his love of the game, Knee said: “When growing up, my father was well into football, and he used to play and coach for Steyning Town, so he came along to the games when I was a young lad.

“So, I had it all the way, when growing up. I enjoyed the social side of it, and the fact that it was a good way of keeping fit.”

Knee’s dad gave up playing football in his early 30s, so Knee knew he wanted to prolong his career for as long as possible.

MICHAEL HELLYER