PILGRIMS IN PROFILE: Paul Ellender

Christian James looks back at the Boston United career of a club legend who felt both the highs and lows...

Paul Ellender in action for United in 2007.

He was a man who played for Boston United in four divisions and six cup competitions across eight years, racking up 287 appearances at 82 grounds, facing 94 different teams.

He played for the Pilgrims on all bar one of the days of the week (Thursday), in front of crowds more than 13,000 fans and fewer than 150; in the FA Cup third round and second qualifying round.

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His name? Paul Ellender.

Paul Ellender took his fair share of bumps and bruises for the cause.

Bought for a club record fee from Scarborough on the eve of the 2001-02 season, Ellender played before, during and after of the club’s Football League years, bookending his half-a-decade in the fourth tier with a season in the Nationwide Conference and Blue Square North.

That wasn’t quite it for Ellender’s Boston career through.

After 10 months away, ‘Ellie’ returned to see out the end of the 2008-09 Unibond Premier campaign as the Pilgrims secured safety on the final day.

Ellender’s career began at Scunthorpe United, although his first senior appearance was for county rivals Gainsborough Trinity.

In Blu Square North action.

Having played in the Blues’ Unibond Cup win over Boston in 1997 he captained them to an FA Cup first round tie at Sincil Bank the following season.

The centre back attracted attention from Altrincham, who signed him alongside centre-back partner Chris Timons.

The Robins were Northern Premier League Champions in 1998-99, Ellender’s only full season at Moss Lane.

Scarborough paid £70,000 him in November 1999 and the Seadogs went on to finish 10th in the Conference while Altrincham were relegated.

Battling against Shrewsbury.

The following season proved to be Ellender’s last at Seamer Road as Boston United and Football League Oxford were both chasing his services.

The BBC reported the chance to remain living in Scunthorpe swayed the centre-back to join the Pilgrims, and he made his debut in a home defeat to Margate on the opening day of the 2001-02 season.

The following weeks would see Ellender start all bar one of the opening 18 fixtures, mainly in the number six shirt, with Ross Weatherstone often at four.

Having also dabbled with 11 at Forest Green and seven away to Margate, a Tuesday night in Doncaster saw the centre-back return to the number he would keep throughout the club’s Football League years: four.

Paul Ellender in FA Cup action at Bournemouth.

Having made 38 appearances in the Conference-winning season, scoring twice, Ellender lead Boston into the Football League, but soon lost his place in the starting XI due to injury.

Not fully fit and not being selected, the club captain was reported to have handed in a transfer request after playing just once in 24 games.

But things changed. After coming on in a 2-0 win at Exeter in mid-February, the centre-back enjoyed a remarkable run of starts from there on in, lining up for 62 of 67 games up to the end of the following season.

Ellender impressed enough in 2003-04 to be voted the club’s Player of the Year.

The midpoint campaign of the club’s Football League spell again saw Ellender maintain a largely untroubled starting place, missing just eight of 53 games (largely due to suspension).

The same did not happen the following season.

Paul Ellender ahead of the 2003-04 season.

A two-month spell in the autumn of 2005 saw Ellender firmly out of favour as the defender started one game in 11, in the LDV Vans Trophy, and made just one further appearance off the bench, in the FA Cup at Swindon.

Despite recovering his starting role for nine games across the New Year by the time February came around, Ellender was loaned out to Chester City.

Back at York Street an injury against Northampton ended Stewart Talbot’s season early and persuaded Steve Evans to recall his captain from the Deva Stadium in time for seven consecutive starts at the end of the 2005-06 campaign.

Ellender returned to the role of consistent starter in 2006-07, missing just four games in all competitions, making more appearances than any other outfielder (keeper Andy Marriott played every minute).

The only sending-off of his United career arrived in September 2006 at Hartlepool (unsurprisingly for two bookings), scoring his eighth and final League Two goal in the Pilgrims’ first away win of the season at Macclesfield in mid-November.

Sticking by the Pilgrims after a two-division drop in 2007-08, Ellender made a further 44 starts, including his 250th for the club at home to Alfreton in December.

September had seen him net a second own goal of his Boston career for Buxton in the FA Cup (to go alongside one for Mansfield in 2004) as the club finished 11th and saw its future finally secured.

Having left to join Alfreton Town in the Summer of 2008, during which the Pilgrims were demoted once again, Ellender rejoined for the final two months of the season to see United to safety on the final day against Cammell Laird.

A 16th goal of his Boston career arrived against Marine in March, and he collected the 81st booking of his Boston career before leaving for the final time in 2009.

He moved on to Retford, who for a sustained period lead the Unibond Premier League before falling out of the play-offs (which Boston would ultimately win) after a poor run in the spring of 2010, Ellender having faced the Pilgrims at York Street in a 1-0 win for the visitors.

He then represented North Ferriby United the following season.

In games featuring Ellender the Pilgrims had an almost even record: won 111, lost 109, drawn 78 with a goal difference of +6 (402-396).

He played in just 38 away wins (12 of those in the Conference-winning season) but only lost 38 of 147 home games, facing in the process the likes of Hull City, Swansea City, Bournemouth and Leigh Genesis.

He scored 16 goals, two own goals, kept 75 clean sheets - at a rate better than 1 in four games - and secured legendary status at the club.