3 November 2001 – Ford Gets Good Mileage
On 3 November 2001, Rochdale midfielder Tony Ford played his 931st Football League match, a record for an outfield player.
The first step of that lengthy journey came in 1975, when, at 16 years old, Ford made his first-team debut with Third Division Grimsby Town. He stayed there until 1986, making a total of 355 league appearances. He then spent time with Sunderland (1986), Stoke City (1986-89), and West Brom (1989-1991) before returning to Grimsby for three more seasons (including a short loan spell with Bradford City).
In 1994, he moved to Scunthorpe, but was released in the summer of 1996. At the time, he had made 739 league appearances and it appeared that would be the end of his run. He moved to non-league side Barrow, but returned to the Football League later that year when new Mansfield Town boss Steve Parkin made him an assistant coach. He took advantage of the opportunity by making another 103 league appearances.
In 1999, Parkin moved to Rochdale and brought Ford along with him, continuing in his role as assistant coach. He made another 89 league appearances there, with the last coming in a 2-0 win over Torquay. He was 42. Three days later, he moved again with Parkin, who had taken over as manager of Barnsley. But from that point on, Ford limited his own role to coaching and retired from playing.
His total of 931 league appearances remains a Football League record for an outfield player, second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton's all-time record of 1,005.