David Gipp ducks and dives for a living and bangs in goals on a regular basis for Harold Wood in the Essex Senior League.

The independent trader might not be performing and scoring at the level the former Albion striker dreamed about as an apprentice at the Goldstone.

But Gipp, now 32, is only too pleased still to be playing.

He thought his playing days were over after suffering a double fracture of the right leg while playing in a cup final for his latest club in April last year.

"We were playing Rayleigh. It was in extra-time. I'd scored in the first half of it. This bloke caught me properly, a double fracture. The challenge caused my fibula and tibia to snap.

"It was a bad one, a very bad one. I didn't think I'd be able to walk again let alone play football.

"Eventually I had an operation and they put a pin in my leg, which is still there.

"It was slow, but eventually the problem eased and I was able to move freely.

Eleven months after the injury I was back playing.

"I played the last few games of last season. The pre-season went well and I've been playing regularly this season. I've got 12 goals already."

The diminutive striker, 5ft 7in in his socks, is happy with life.

"I'm a London lad, an east end trader and enjoy ducking and diving, selling this and that. At the moment I've got some CDs and tracksuits. I also deal in coats and shoes. I've got contacts and customers.

"Don't call me Del Boy because I don't go down the market and I haven't got a Rodney.

"I enjoy my time with my family with partner Tracey and children Jack, who is nine, and Megan, who is six."

Gipp has found time to pop down to Sussex this season to help old pal Ian Chapman, his former Albion clubmate now managing Whitehawk in the County League.

"I'm in touch with Ian regularly and he was short for a midweek game against Three Bridges. I thought I'd give him a helping hand and I even scored for him but we ended up losing. He hasn't asked me back. I wouldn't mind helping him again."

He and Chapman were apprentices in the late Eighties and both had high hopes at Albion. His pal became a regular, but Gipp found his way blocked. He was limited to just six appearances for the first team, four as a substitute.

"They had a lot of experienced strikers when I was there like Terry Connor, Mick Ferguson, Dean Saunders, Alan Biley, Garry Nelson and Kevin Bremner so there weren't many opportunities."

But he feels it would have been different if he hadn't been denied a goal on his debut.

"It was against Blackburn. I was 17 and I got a chance within 20 minutes. I got a ball from Terry Connor and shot. Ninety nine times out of a hundred it would have gone in, but their defender Glen Keeley managed to turn the ball over the bar.

"I'm convinced that if that had gone in my career at Albion would have taken off.

"My full debut was a 0-0 draw with Chesterfield. It was a crap game. My other one was in the League Cup against Gillingham. I hit the post and they had their goalkeeper sent off. It was another case of if it had gone in it would have changed things for me. Eventually we lost on penalties."

He was signed by Chris Cattlin and also served Alan Mullery and Barry Lloyd.

"I was taken on by Albion after I came down with London Boys to play a Brighton youth team at the Goldstone.

"Five of us were signed, including Terry Spinks, Paul Dobinson, Danny Carter, who went on to play for Orient, and Phil Lovell. With five Sussex lads and a goalkeeper from Jersey, we formed a good youth team and won the South East Counties League Cup. It was the first time it had been won outside of London.

"We had good coaches looking after us too like George Petchey and John Shepherd. In fact I saw John's son was playing for Lewes in the FA Cup this season. Dom was only a little kid when I was at Albion and it it made me realise how time has crept up on me!"

He estimates he netted 104 in 201 games for Albion youth and reserve teams but was eventually released. "These days if kids score a few they get a chance, but I didn't really get much of one, although I'm not complaining because there were a lot of good players around when I was coming through.

"But I loved my time with the club and theirs is always the first result I look for. It would have been great if it had worked out well for me, but I'm not complaining."

He was 20 when he moved to Barnet.

It was at Underhill he was managed by Barry Fry.

"What a character. But the thing I really liked about Barry was that you could have a big row with him and almost come to blows and then he'd say in the bar afterwards 'what are you drinking Dave?'.

"I've always stood up for myself, saying what I believe and you could say what you liked to Barry and he said what he liked. You knew where you were.

"At Brighton it was a bit clichy with the coaches agreeing with the managers but with Barry everyone could have an opinion. He still seems to be doing all right and good luck to him."

Gipp went to Wycombe, Chelmsford (twice), Wealdstone, Chesham (twice), Harrow Borough and St Albans. He also had a spell of Sussex non-league football at Southwick.

"I could never settle, but I wasn't a troublemaker as one manager I know suggested. I've always enjoyed my football, particularly scoring goals.

"I've been finding the net ever since I was a kid. I reckon I've scored 20 to 25 goals a season through my career. I suppose it is because I'm quite sharp in the box. I love scoring."

Gipp returned to the Goldstone to play for a Brighton XI against a Chelsea XI prior to Dean Wilkins' testimonial match against brother Ray's QPR on August 2, 1995.

He scored the first in a 2-0 win with World Cup striker Gerry Armstrong getting the other and also played alongside Liam Brady, Jimmy Case, Garry Nelson, Gary Stevens and John Keeley.

"How could I go wrong in a midfield that included Liam Brady and Jimmy Case?

"I'm a keen Arsenal supporter and Liam's always been a hero of mine from when I saw him play for the Gunners."

He still goes to Highbury when he isn't committed to Harold Wood His favourite player? Thierry Henry, another member of the striker's club.

Gipp might dream that he could now be partnering the lightning-quick Frenchman, but he is happy still to be putting one foot in front of the other let alone hitting the net in the Essex Senior League.

Mike Donovan mike.donovan@theargus.co.uk