Horndean footballer has more time to invest in Non-League Racing syndicate and biggest sporting love after bringing end to playing career

Louie Martin is looking to find the winning formula in a sport of a very different kind after a victorious ending to his football career.

By Lewis Mason
Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 5:01 pm

With a busy family life taking priority, the 33-year-old has opted to hang up his boots and bring an end to what was his second spell with the ninth-tier Deans.

While he also plans to use the extra time freed up by stepping away from football to focus on his biggest sporting love - horse racing.

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Louie Martin, centre, holds a framed Horndean shirt signed by his team-mates as the management staff and players come together after his final club appearance

Martin is a massive fan and even oversees a syndicate - Non-League Racing - where he and some football friends from across the area, including AFC Portchester assistant manager Gav Spurway – lease runners from breeders which are entered in race meets all over the country.

So far, the group have had involvement with three horses, Diva Du Maquis, She’s Our Darby and Mini Crest, although the wait goes on for a first winner.

Yet Martin, a window-fitter by day, is now striving to get at least one winning enclosure experience after his victorious football farewell.

‘I'll be totally honest, there's one sport better than football and that's horse racing, that'll be where I'll be going on a few Saturdays now!’ Martin revealed.

Louie Martin, centre, with Horndean boss Michael Birmingham, left, and assistant manager Jason Mann

‘We haven't got a horse at the minute, but I run a syndicate. I've got quite a few good friends in horse racing and I run a syndicate which a few local lads are involved in. We've had three horses so far.

‘I think we're the most unluckiest syndicate in the world, we've had about four second (finishers) and five thirds - we haven't had that winner yet. I think it's better than football (horse racing), that's what will be keeping me busy now.

‘All our horses run in blue and yellow, Pompey colours, unfortunately - it's probably why they haven't done well! I'll be at all racecourses and local football grounds, put it that way.’

Across a playing career which saw him operate at Southern League and Wessex League level, there is one manager who stands as the best Martin has worked under - current Horndean gaffer Birmingham.

Louie Martin, left, with one of the former Non-League Racing syndicate horses, Diva Du Maquis, and AFC Portchester assistant manager Gav Spurway, right, who is also involved

Remarkably, Martin lined up in the same team as Birmingham, who was Gosport player-assistant manager at the time, when making his senior debut for Boro several months after he had been released by Pompey as a 15-year-old.

A brief spell playing under former Southampton and Pompey centre half Jon Gittens would arrive at Blackfield & Langley, while he was also part of the Moneyfields side current AFC Portchester boss Dave Carter guided to Wessex League promotion in 2017.

But Martin explained why, as well as being the 'best Wessex League manager' at present, there is another key aspect which stands out with Birmingham.

‘It was a nice touch from Birmy (captain's armband for final game),’ added Martin.

‘I've got a lot of respect for Birmy, I've played under some good managers - everyone knows he's one of the best in the league - everyone knows that.

‘But his man-management off the pitch is what stood out to me. You're coming home from work late or the missus is struggling - you've got a family member who's struggling - as long as you told him you weren't going to be at training, he'd be fine with that.

‘He'd always then call you the next day, asking how you were - that's probably why he gets an extra 10 per cent out of the lads.

‘Let's be honest, he is probably the best manager in the league, but his man-management is what stood out for me, 100 per cent.’