Appearing in a Champions League quarter-final? Winning the Barclays Premier League? Pocketing a £10,000 bonus?
Well, they’re all very nice but nothing compared to a goal against Southport at the Newmarket Road End, as far as Luke Chadwick is concerned.
Chadwick has never been the archetypal modern footballer. Turned off by the fame and fortune at Manchester United, he has discovered far more joy in briefly representing his beloved Cambridge United at the end of his career and helping them back into the Football League.
Luke Chadwick will line up for Cambridge United against former club Manchester United in the FA Cup
Chadwick has helped his beloved Cambridge back into the Football League and is rewarded with this tie
Chadwick celebrates with Roy Keane and Nicky Butt during a 2001 Champions League tie with Sturm Graz
Chadwick celebrates one of his two goals for United – at Bradford City in January 2001
‘It felt more emotional than anything I did at United,’ said the 34-year-old as he recalled scoring his first for Cambridge, last year.
‘I’ve never felt like that on the field before. It felt so surreal. Coming here for all those years and watching them, and seeing that Newmarket Road End…so to score there was special.’
Chadwick’s passion for his home-town club refused to fade during a career which took him from Old Trafford to Burnley, Reading, West Ham, Stoke, Norwich and Milton Keynes.
Wife Hayley would buy him the new Cambridge United shirt each Christmas and once, during his spell of more than 200 games for MK Dons, she decorated one of the rooms in their house with a black-and-amber design featuring the club badge.
‘I really didn’t want that to come out,’ he laughed. ‘It makes me look a bit strange.
‘She did a similar thing when my son was born, with a Winnie the Pooh mural on one of the walls in his bedroom, and it was incredible. ‘I said: “You could do a Cambridge one”, just mucking about.
10 years after leaving Old Trafford, Chadwick again found himself centre of attention this week
A sketch of Chadwick in Cambridge United colours drawn by club director Colin Proctor
Chadwick (right) helps move a goal during Cambridge United training this week
‘I went away at pre-season, came back and there it was. The wall was painted yellow and black and the badge was in the middle. It was really good, a nice thing to do. Romantic.’
Chadwick’s affections run deep for a team he first watched in the late Eighties before they climbed from the fourth tier to fifth place in the second in 1992, losing in the play-offs and missing promotion to the inaugural Premier League.
‘The original team I came to see was people like Lindsay Smith, George Reilly and Keith Branagan,’ he said.
‘The club really started taking off with Chris Turner in charge and John Beck, with Dion Dublin, John Taylor, John Vaughan, Phil Chapple and Michael Cheatham.
‘I could name one to 11. We went to Wembley when big Dion scored the winner. That was a great occasion.
‘My favourite was Gary Clayton. My dad got me a framed picture of him, signed, and he came to do my club team’s presentation. Great early memories.
‘I can’t find the picture now and it is one thing I’m always looking for. My mum must’ve thrown it out. I’d love to get it back.’
Chadwick in action for his home town team Cambridge in their FA Cup third round tie against Luton
Chadwick joined West Ham in 2004 and is pictured with former Man United star Teddy Sheringham
He spent a season on loan with Reading in Division One during 2002-03
Before joining Cambridge, Chadwick spent six seasons with Milton Keynes Dons
Despite his devotion, Cambridge showed no interest in signing young Chadwick. He went to trials at Bottisham Village College but they didn’t ask him back.
So he went to Arsenal where he played with Ashley Cole before Manchester United spotted him playing for Cambridgeshire Schools and a bit of Fergie charm tempted him north.
‘We’d played Nottingham Forest and my old man brought me back,’ said Chadwick. ‘My mum let us in the house and she said: “I’ve just had a call from Alex Ferguson.” It was incredible.
‘She thought it was someone mucking about. I felt like a million dollars. He knew every player by name from the Under 12s to the first team. He was just an incredible man.’
Chadwick overcame homesickness and progressed to the fringes of an illustrious first-team.
Roy Keane was ‘a fantastic man’, he said, David Beckham was ‘a really good guy’, the Nevilles were ‘enthusiastic’, Ryan Giggs was ‘something special’ but Paul Scholes was the best player.
A comparison of the costs between the Cambridge United and Manchester United line-ups
Louis van Gaal knows his United team will have to be on top of their game to avoid a Cup shock
‘Scholes could do everything,’ he said. ‘His vision, awareness and ability to play the right pass every time was incredible. The man was a genius.
‘I really enjoyed my time there. I just don’t think I really wanted it as much as you should. I wasn’t sure I was 100 per cent happy living in Manchester. I was always happier living at home.’
He once picked up a £10,000 bonus from a brief appearance as a substitute against Bayern Munich in a Champions League quarter-final.
‘You’re getting paid a lot of money to play football,’ he said. ‘I don’t know if I wanted that life. I just want to play football. I don’t want to be famous. It’s a great thing to do but happiness is more important, to be comfortable, living a life I want.’
Chadwick’s move from MK Dons to Cambridge last year completed his circle, adding great personal satisfaction to a long career.
The Abbey Stadium has been Cambridge’s home since 1932 but has witnessed few occasions like this
The ground will be full to its 8,000-capacity for the visit of Manchester United on Friday night
A view of the shower room in the away team dressing room at the Abbey Stadium
Fans have already been snapping up half-and-half scarves ahead of the match
His sons Louis (11) and Liam (nine), both play at the club’s academy and on Friday night his past and present collide at the R Costings Abbey Stadium in the FA Cup fourth round.
His fondest United memory was a goal against Bradford in 2001, after he was released by a pass from Beckham, and he still has his Premier League winner’s medal in a drawer with the medal from last year’s Conference play-off final, when Cambridge beat Gateshead.
‘It was a massive thing to get back into the Football League,’ said Chadwick.
‘I don’t really cry but when we won at Wembley, I couldn’t stop. It was so emotional. I felt crazy. Why am I crying? I’m not an emotional person. It felt so good.’