Beginning as a trainee with Manchester United, Alan Tonge played the only games of his Football League career as an Exeter City player. Featuring in fewer than twenty league games for the Grecians, Alan moved back to the north west and became a lecturer in further and higher education.
Playing for Bolton Lads Club whilst at school, Alan signed schoolboy forms for Manchester United around the time Alex Ferguson joined the club. Becoming a trainee in 1988, and signing professional in July 1990, Alan never appeared in the first-team and moved to Horwich RMI ahead of the 1991/92 campaign.
After just a few months at Horwich, Alan signed for Exeter City in December 1991 initially on a non-contract basis. Making his debut against Wigan Athletic on 8 February 1992, and retained for the following season, Alan never established himself as a first-team regular and left the club at the end of the 1993/94 season after making nineteen league appearances.
Alan's contract for his last season at Exeter.
EXETER CITY FOOTBALL CLUB
St. James' Park, Exeter EX4 6PX Telephone: (0392) 54073 Fax No: (0392) 425885 Training Ground(0395) 32784 Centre Spot Social Club: (0392) 50292
Mr. A. Tonge,
4th May 1993.
EXETER CITY FOOTBALL CLUB OFFER OF FURTHER RE-ENGAGEMENT
In accordance with the provisions of Football League Regulation 69(2), I as Secretary acting with the authority and on behalf of such Club, now give notice that the Club hereby offers you a further re-engagement for a period of 1 year from the 1st day of July next on the following terms:
(1) General Provisions:
The provisions of the present Agreement shall be incorporated in a new written Agreement to be entered into between you and the Club for the proposed period of one year from the 1st day of July next.
(2) Financial Provisions:
(a) Your remuneration during the period to be
£250 per week from 1st July 1993 to 30th June 1994.
(b) In addition to the above basic vage, you would be paid
Incentive bonuses (details for 1993/94 season to be agreed).
Directors: C Hill (President) G Vallance Chairman.
This proved to be the end of Alan’s professional career and, after briefly playing for Elmore, he returned to the Manchester area. Playing on in non-league football for another four years, Alan retired from playing in 1996 due to a back injury and received an insurance pay out. Obtaining a degree in Leisure and Sports Science in 2003 he soon qualified as a teacher, and working as a lecturer in further education, Alan later gained an MPhil on the topic of “exploring the use of imagery function amongst elite level UK professional footballers” before moving into higher education. As of 2023 he was working for UCFB (University College of Football Business) in Manchester and undertaking PhD research “exploring critical moments, identity and meaning amongst professional football players”.
Speaking in May 2020 to the Exeter City website Alan recalled his time at the club:
“I honestly didn’t know where Exeter was. My dad put a map together for me because I was driving a little Fiesta at the time and off I went down the M6 and the M5. It was some of the best times of my life. I really enjoyed it down there, met some great people and managed to try and get my career moving again. Alan Ball, the manager, was very similar to Sir Alex in the fact that he hated losing and he could blow his top when he wanted to. People talk about Sir Alex and his hairdryer treatment but Bally could go ballistic as well. They both set high standards. However, I think, sometimes what Bally didn’t realise was that we had dropped down a couple of levels. We weren’t World Cup winning England players or Premier League players. I think sometimes when you look at managers and why they don’t succeed sometimes that could be one of the reasons why. Sometimes they can’t relate to the lower leagues players and they expect too much.”