IT WAS the dream Jordan Stoddart could not escape.

After pandemonium at the Ricoh and days down at St George’s Lane with dad Phil, how could the Worcester-born-and-bred lad turn down the chance to don blue and white?

The simple answer is he couldn’t.

Arriving with a Southern League pedigree from Cirencester Town in November 2017 – he had started all bar one match for a team doing well at the level above City’s before switching – brought about enough expectation.

City, vying for promotion at the time, had needed a centre-half even without Alexandru Albert heading in the opposite direction to Stoddart.

Worcester, new to the Midland Football League, had played some nice stuff but looked porous at the other end. They needed a head it, kick it, no-nonsense type and Stoddart was that man.

Granted, results were always not fluent but City remained in contention with the hometown hero largely impressing in his 24 appearances.

The proverbial famously hit the fan in March with the announcement homeless City may have to go fully amateur to fund a new stadium project – big names left and took any credible promotion aspirations with them.

Stoddart stayed and hopes were high after a steadying of the ship over the summer that culminated in a supporters’ trust-led takeover.

A 15-match unbeaten run – 17 if you count a two-part FA Cup tie that was decided via a penalty shootout – fuelled anticipation with Stoddart proudly donning the armband at the heart of the backline.

That run ended on October 27 with a 1-0 defeat at home to Sporting Khalsa ahead of what would be a bleak winter and four weeks before the darkest day of Stoddart’s spell – City’s 6-1 stuffing by Westfields.

Few would argue that stayed with many of the class of 2018-19 but Stoddart was hit harder than most, becoming a scapegoat for fans.

He was dropped for the return against Khalsa two weeks later and despite a quick comeback was then sidelined by a hamstring complaint picked up at Coventry United just before the turn of the year.

A straight red card scuppered his comeback in a cup tie at Studley in the middle of January and 10 days later he was gone, answering the call of Redditch United two levels above.

But it was not just Southern Premier football that lured Stoddart away, it was just as much about escaping the goldfish bowl of being a Worcester lad at a club frustrated by where it found itself and the backlash that created.

“Being a Worcester lad it was hard to take,” said Stoddart.

“It was not just (aimed at) the Worcester lads, it might have felt like that at times but everyone had it. Maybe the Worcester lads took it that bit more personally.

“I am still a supporter of the club, always have been and always will be. I will always want them to do well and maybe there were points last season when I took on too much on my shoulders.

“I think that affected others, not just me and made us put too much pressure on ourselves.

“You want to do your best because it is your city, you want the fans to love what they are watching and to make them proud.

“At points last season we were disappointing and that was down to all of us but you do hear people and the things that get said. You try to take no notice of it and get on with what you love doing, playing football.

“Sometimes it doesn’t go well and people pay their money. If they have opinions then fair enough but it can be hard not to take it to heart.

“Being from Worcester, working in Worcester, people come up to you and ask you things. You are never out of it.

“At times that got a bit much for me personally. I spoke to Snapper (John Snape, City manager last season), we had a good chat and I didn’t leave on bad terms, I just felt moving on was something I needed to do for myself because I was thinking about it all too much.

“When you want it that bit more the harder times are so much more painful and I think that stayed with me.

“I was getting down on myself and felt like I had to come away from everything to concentrate.”

The turning point last season was quite definitive with the end of the unbeaten run exacerbated by the Westfields debacle and loss of goalkeeper Dan Jezeph to suspension for the rest of the campaign.

“I think people were quick to forget where we were at the time,” Stoddart continued.

“We went 15 games unbeaten at one point but through a couple of bad losses and some bad decisions it went sour very quickly.

“I would never have a bad word to say against the fans, though, they are great and there for you whether things are going well or not.

“It is not all the fans that give you stick, it never is. When you play you can hear more from certain people, you don’t hear the majority and tend to pick up on the ones and twos.”

But while things did not always go according to plan, there was no ambiguity in the answer when Stoddart was asked if he had any regrets over joining.

“None at all,” came the defiant response.

“It was always an ambition of mine. I always used to go with my old man and remember being at the FA Cup games.

“We went up to Scunthorpe – I think I even missed (playing) a game to go to that – the one at Kidderminster, I was at Coventry as well.

“It might not have been the situation I wanted at the time but I couldn’t turn it down. A lad from Worcester wouldn’t and anyone who knows me knows the door would never be closed from my point of view.

“Maybe a few of the fans wouldn’t want me there again but I have no regrets about coming down from a higher level where I had been doing really well.

“That was my decision and I wouldn’t be where I am now without doing what I did.”

As for the future, Stoddart would “never say never” over a return to City but acknowledged he would need to tweak his outlook.

“I’d probably try not to take things to heart so much,” he added.

“I wanted to do well, I wanted the team to do well, I wanted to please everybody, I wanted to do things behind the scenes and make sure all of the lads were alright, that we were all at training and together on the pitch, I wanted to make sure the fans were happy.

“My missus would tell you, there were a lot of weekends where I didn’t even talk.

“People think you don’t care, that you just go on the lash and forget about it. It might not look like it but many people don’t just write it off.

“I wouldn’t change a lot, I would just concentrate on myself and my own game more. When a lot of the bigger players left I took it on myself too much to make sure we were doing well.

“The one thing I have taken from coming away is focusing on doing my own thing and being my own player.

“I am with Redditch now, I had a couple of offers over the summer but having met Ian King (manager) I liked what I heard.

“It was not an instant thing, we had a couple of chats and I went away and thought about, talked to one or two others but I am there now.

“We started a couple of weeks earlier than everyone else. It is a young team but there is a lot of potential.

“I had a good end to last season with Smudger (Paul Smith, then manager at Redditch) and am feeling good. Hopefully I can have a good season and City can as well, I will always look out for how they are getting on.

“Ash (Vincent, City manager) is a good bloke, he stepped in when Snapper was ill last season and has a good backroom set-up behind him.

“The lads there are class and they have added well so I think they can push on and do well.”