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November 17, 2012
Star Sport


Close call for 'Stew Peas'

'Stew Peas'

Defender wanted to see family, but could have been barred from England

Out of favour Reggae Boy defender Damion Stewart is still counting his lucky stars after narrowly escaping a fate, which could have resulted in him being barred from entering England, and spell a premature ending to his career in that country.

Stewart played his first game for new club Notts County last week, after a harrowing nine-week wait for a work permit came to an end. The 32-year-old had been training with the club since leaving Bristol City in August and had a scheduled trip to the island planned, in order to visit his family during his time off. However, the defender was told in no uncertain terms, the day before he planned to leave for the island, that there was a strong possibility he would not be allowed back in the country.

"I was about to leave the next day!" Stewart told UK publication This Is Notingham (www.thisisnottingham.co.uk)

"I was never worried I wouldn't get a permit, because I've played here for seven years, but it was hard not being able to go and see my family."

Stewart would not have been the first Jamaican player to be denied entry to the United Kingdom after having work permit issues. In March 2008, Reggae Boyz custodian Donovan Ricketts was famously stopped by immigration officials at the Heathrow Airport and sent back to New York after being told he did not have the correct paperwork. Ricketts' club Bradford were subsequently told that a new work permit for the goalkeeper would not be granted. It signalled the end of Ricketts' four-year spell in England, as the shot-stopper later moved to the United States Major League Soccer (MLS).

Stewart, who is hoping to stay at the club beyond the current January deal, first joined Notts on loan from Bristol at the start of the year. The defender made 17 league appearances for the club, as they finished in seventh place and just missed out on the play-offs in League One on goal difference last season.

The player has not appeared for the national team since playing against Panama in June of this year, with the centre-half pairing of Watford's Nyron Nosworthy and Adrian Mariappa, who recently moved to premier league club Reading, being the preferred option.

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