I was part of Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’ – now I own a boutique hotel and you’ll find me pulling pints behind the bar
IF you happen to be passing through the quaint town of Dronfield on the edge of the Peak District, you might want to stop off at the Manor House Hotel, owned by Kevin Gage.
On a busy night at the boutique hotel, chances are you will probably find the former defender behind the bar helping out the staff with his typical hospitality with the locals.
For Gage, who hits his landmark 60th birthday next April, it is a world away from the early 80s when he was part of Dave Bassett’s ‘Crazy Gang’ at Wimbledon and helped them climb from the fourth tier to the top flight in 1987.
A player who went on to play under Graham Taylor at Aston Villa, before linking up again with Bassett at Sheffield United.
Gage said: “I always had ambitions of going into business when I quit playing.
“While I was at Sheffield United we opened a health and fitness centre which we ran for nearly 20 years.
“It opened my eyes to the intricacies of running a business successfully.
“After that we went into leasing free houses. It sounds a cliche, ex-footballer leases a pub and all that. But these places we leased were much more than that.
“They were gastro pubs where food and hospitality is as important as the drink.
“That led me into now owning the Manor House – an 11-bedroom boutique hotel with bar and cafe lounge in the High Street in Dronfield, a beautiful town which lies in the valley of the River Drone between Chesterfield and Sheffield.
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“I’m very grateful that I have such a great staff that allows the place to almost run itself.
“It’s important to me that the staff are in charge, but you’ll still find me occasionally behind the bar for a couple of hours helping out.
“When Howard Kendall replaced Dave at Bramall Lane in 1995, he made it clear that I wasn’t one of the players as part of the team he was building.
“To be fair, I wasn’t getting younger so I understood Howard’s thinking.
“I moved to Preston and everything was going fine until the first game of my second season I suffered a serious knee injury with my cartilage that put me out of the game for six months.
“The travelling was becoming difficult and the switch to Hull in 1997 was more convenient than anything else.
“Hull’s old Boothferry Park ground by that stage was dilapidated and the facilities were like returning to the old days at Wimbledon and Plough Lane!”
As an adopted Blade, Gage has been the club’s VIP match-day compere for many years but has voluntarily stepped aside — while agreeing to jump in for any emergencies.
He also loves the involvement as a pundit and co-commentator on Sheffield United TV.
He said: “For a kid who didn’t have a ‘club’, I have never been more passionate about a team than Sheffield United.
“You get a bond when you join as a player but I have fully embraced the Blades since retiring.
“I now live and breathe Sheffield United and while it’s been so hard this season, our win against Brentford last Saturday was a massive step forward.
“Yesterday was always going to be a big ask at Chelsea — but hopefully our form can turn.
“It would be wonderful if bringing back Chris Wilder as manager will see a change of fortune for the rest of the season.
“For me, 17th place at the end of this season would be like winning a trophy or getting a Champions League place!”
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