Dan Toronczak’s Non League Journey

Danny Toronczak scored 143 goals during his first spell with Ossett Albion, including 41 during the 2005/06 season

Can any Non League footballers who started at Liversedge say they have a tortoise named after them or that they finished their career playing upfront with Michael Owen?

Dan Toronczak is the only person who can put his hand up for both claims. But there is far, far more to his Non League career than the way it surreally ended with him being hero worshipped by fans of a club he had never even played for. 

The striker was one of the most feared in the NPL having scored 143 goals in just 235 games during his original six-year spell with Ossett Albion.

That was during the heyday of Eric Gilchrist, the man who first gave Toronczak his chance in Non League Football at Liversedge and was a huge influence on his career. Those Albion days were unforgettable, with a league title, a memorable FA Cup first half hat-trick against Ossett Town and a nomination for the FA Cup player of the round being the key highlights. His form for Albion even attracted the attention of Peterborough United at one stage when he was 27.

Apart from the huge high of a promotion with Mark Brier’s Brighouse Town, Toronczak career petered out with short stints at various clubs including Mossley, Belper Town, New Mills, Clitheroe before Gilchrist tempted him into one last hurrah with Albion for the final ten games of the 2010/11 season. 

It was his two goals in his ‘final ever’ game – the 7-2 defeat at Skelmersdale United – that denied their hosts the NPL Division One North title and won it for reformed Chester FC on goals-difference on the last day of the 2010/11 season.

The two goals, one from a yard out, are so cherished by Chester fans that it has led to the stuff of dreams…

This is Dan Toronczak’s Non League Journey: 

Danny Toronczak who played for Ossett Albion, Brighouse Town, Liversedge and several other clubs

“As a youngster I used to train at Huddersfield Town in their centre of excellence’s, that how far it goes back as it was the pre-academy. You’d train once a week and play in the odd game, but I never got signed by them.

“So after leaving school at 16 I ended up going into coaching and got a job in Huddersfield working for Kirklees Council in a community scheme run by a fella called Dai Jones. I did all my badges then.

“Through another coach I ended up going down to Littletown down Beck Lane to play for them in the West Riding County Amateur League for three years or so from when I was 17 to 20. I was a centre-back to begin with and in that first season I got pushed upfront. At 20 I was probably a bit late going into the semi-pro scene. My mate Simon Wilkins had already been at Liversedge and Ossett Town, but had come back from a nasty injury so I got him down to Littletown for a season. He just said I needed to play higher. Derek Francis was the Eccleshill manager at the time and he told me to go up there. Simon said he’d come with me and suggested going to Liversedge the week after. We did Eccleshill for a couple of weeks and Derek wanted us to sign, but we went to Liversedge the week after. I just turned up for a couple of the sessions, I didn’t know anybody so that’s when I first met Eric and his assistant Tony Passmore. I played in a few friendlies and did alright. We played Huddersfield Town ironically and I think we drew 1-1 and I scored. Eric just said after that ‘right you’re signing’. 

Liversedge’s 1999-00 team: Eric Gilchrist (Manager), Andy Yates, Richard Bibby, Dave Thomas, Chris Birkinshaw, Danny Toronczak, Simon O’Hara and Tony Passmore (Assistant Manager). Front Row: Andy Dodsworth, Paul Sweeney, Richard Dyson, Kevin Blanchard, Michael Carter, James Glover, Paul Slater and Andy Kenton.
Former Ossett Albion and Liversedge manager Eric Gilchrist was a mentor for Danny Toronczak

“Eric was my main manager in my Non League career. I counted up the years I played and nine or ten of them were under him. He gave me my chance and believed in me. I wasn’t a young kid, but I hadn’t played at that level before and he gave me an opportunity.

“I did really well in my first season (1998/99). I got 20-odd goals and Eric had built a team from nothing really because the season before he had come in halfway through and they had stayed up on the final day. He recruited a few players like Craig Lawford, Mick Carter, Rob Dunerdale, experienced lads mixed in with some younger lads and we did really well. He had no budget, no money was involved and you were competing with big teams like North Ferriby, both Ossett teams, Garforth Town. Brigg Town were a strong side too. We finished sixth.

“One or two teams came knocking for me that summer. Frickley were one, but I wanted to continue with ‘Sedge. In the second season we did even better and I ended up with something like 50-odd goals in two seasons with them which wasn’t a bad start. We also finished fourth.

“I didn’t have any Football League clubs looking at me at the time. There was one a little later on which I’ll come to and is a funny one. From my point of view when I was younger I probably didn’t have a lot of confidence. When I was training at Huddersfield, I even had England Schoolboy trials, but I was never an extrovert type of player. I always hid within myself. When I look back now, I don’t think I pushed myself and that’s a bit of a regret on my part. But when you’re young you don’t realise. My confidence just grew in those seasons at Liversedge.

“I once scored six times for Liversedge when we beat Harrogate Railway 10-0 away from home. It is remembered as Paul Marshall resigned as Railway’s manager, but the club persuaded him to stay on. It is a bit of a sliding doors moment as it was three years before their FA Cup exploits. 

“The funny thing for me was that everything I touched that day flew in and then Eric subbed me off after about 65 minutes. I couldn’t believe it, but he said he was resting me for the Tuesday game. I was like ‘I’m going to get nine if I carry on’. I was carrying an injury at the time so that’s maybe why he took me off.

“Eric got the Ossett Albion job after my second season and he took pretty much all the Liversedge team over to Ossett. I know he was a Wakefield-lad, but I was little upset because I felt we were building something there. I think if we’d had another season or two as a team we could have done something. Liversedge as a club over the years have never really had any outstanding teams. They have good sides doing well now and again and this year they have done well. But in those couple of seasons I was there up to that point it was their strongest ever team. I had got attached to the club and the people at the club as well so I didn’t want to go with Eric. I said no when he asked me.”

Ashton United and Guiseley (2000/01)

“I had offers from a couple of teams, but I decided to go to Ashton United. It was a step-up to the Northern Premier League and Gerry Quinn was the manager. I knew Gerry because he was actually my PE teacher at school and it was an opportunity to push myself.

“Gerry’s management style was completely different to Eric’s. Eric was probably one of the only managers around at the time who liked to play out from the back and try and build the play. Gerry was very direct. He liked it knocked down the channels and into the striker’s feet and then into the wingers’ feet so they could cross it into the box. It did and it didn’t suit the way I played.

“There’s a few misconceptions about my style of play. Everybody says ‘he’s 6ft 4, everything in the air, he’ll look after it and bring other players in’. At that point in my career that wasn’t my game. I was actually a very pacy player and I could get in behind players. I preferred it on the floor. Most of my goals came from someone in the midfield putting it through gaps. 

“Gerry signed quite a few Yorkshire lads at the time like Jamie Miller, James Riordan, Mike Jefferson so there was quite a few from Huddersfield travelling over. I enjoyed it and it was a good club. I was only there half-a-season, but I settled in.

“Gerry liked to rotate the side so you’d find yourself playing one week and you might score, but the next week you’d find yourself on the bench. It was pretty much if you started you’d do 60 or 70 minutes and then you’d sub off. It would be vice-versa if you were a sub as you’d do 20 minutes.

“We were battering teams as we had a good side and to be fair to Gerry he was a top manager. You only have to look at his past exploits. His style of play was completely different to Eric, but it got results.

“We used to train in Chadderton and around January-time Gerry pulled me after training and told me Guiseley had put seven days in on me. They were in the same league, but they were struggling. He said it was up to me whether I stayed or went. I asked why and he said he was about to sign Craig Gommersal, a striker from Dewsbury. He said ‘you can stay, but let’s be honest five doesn’t go into four does it’. Gerry used to like having two strikers playing and two strikers on the bench. I didn’t feel I was being forced out, but the maths didn’t add up.

“So I left and I regretted it. It was the first time in my career where I regretted making a decision. I should have stayed and bided my time if I was out of the side. Ashton just missed out of promotion as they finished third and they might have got to a cup final too, whereas Guiseley were literally going nowhere and were battling to stay in the league. 

“Neil Parsley was the manager with Phil Sharpe as his player/assistant manager, but it was pretty short-lived for me. They had signed myself and another striker called Phil Denney to play upfront. It was ok playing with him as he was a great lad, but nothing clicked between us on the field. He was a very similar player to me. The team was also struggling so chances weren’t really coming. It wasn’t a great experience. 

“I had probably gone 10 or 11 games without scoring for them when we played Gretna away. I remember training on the Thursday and Neil Parsley pulled me in after training and did a bit of a ‘get me going’ kind of speech. He was saying things like ‘it is a fresh start, this is what we’re going’ etc. It gave me a bit of a boost. I went up there full of it. Literally two minutes into the game I went 50/50 on this through ball from Simon Trevitt, who used to play for Huddersfield, with Gretna’s goalkeeper and all my ankle ligaments went. I had gone all the way up there and after less than five minutes my season was over. It was around the beginning of March.

“I went to watch a few games, but what upset me was that nobody from the club bothered about me. Nobody rang me so there was no way I was going back. The problem was in those days you signed a two-year registration. That meant I was tied to them for the following season. I must have spent weeks in the summer trying to get it cancelled, but for whatever reason I couldn’t get hold of anyone at the club. I had already spoken to Eric. Ossett had got promotion to the NPL so I’d said yes to him, but I needed to get the registration cancelled. It must have taken until three or four weeks before the season started until Guiseley finally agreed to it. It left a bad taste.”

Reunion with Eric Gilchrist (Summer 2001)

Dan Toronczak playing for Thackley

“He’s the most influential manager of my career. I can’t say enough good things about him. I don’t what it was, but something with his management clicked on me as a player and what he wanted me to do on-the-pitch. I’ve never had that with any other managers I played under. I’ve played under 13 or 14 managers and there’s been some good managers as well as Eric, but in terms of a manager getting the best out of me, he’s top of the tree.

“He’s a motivator and he was very organised. He used to know everything about the teams we were playing against because he’d go and watch them three times over the previous three midweeks. He’d know all their strengths and weaknesses and he’d tailor it down to individual players as well. Eric should have managed higher and I don’t know what offers he got. I know there were some, but to be fair to him he stayed loyal to Ossett. In the end he maybe stayed too long.  

“I can’t speak highly enough of him and I think I scored in the region of 275 goals in my career and most of them were under him. Like you do in life with people, we had our ups and downs. 

“My first season (2001/02) at Ossett we actually struggled and we must have used over 50 players. I was in-and-out and I even went on loan to Thackley that season because I wasn’t playing much. Like at Guiseley when you’re struggling you don’t get many chances and if you miss when one comes along you’re the scapegoat. There was always someone new coming through the door before every game so the team wasn’t settled and we rightly so we got relegated.

“I had gone to Thackley around February to get some games in. We had gone to Eastwood for a midweek game and I was on the bench and I didn’t get on. I rang Eric to see if he could get me out on loan and he agreed. Andy Taylor the Thackley manager rang me the next night so I went there for a few months. I enjoyed it and scored a few goals. I got a hat-trick during my first game against Glasshoughton. Eric recalled me when we were more-or-less relegation, but it was for the Ossett derby on Easter Monday and I saw the season out for Ossett. 

“When it came to the summer, Andy wanted me at Thackley, but Eric wanted to stay with Ossett in the NCEL which is what I decided to do.”

FA Cup glory and Ossett Albion’s NCEL Premier Division title-win of 2004

Ossett Albion celebrate winning the NCEL Premier Division title thanks to three goals
Ossett Albion’s 2004/05 site

“We didn’t go straight back up that season, but we had a strong season and we beat Sheffield FC in the League Cup final – a game I scored in which was nice. Eric had started again with a new side and slowly built it up again for the following season.

“We had Andy Carney the goalkeeper, the Dodd brothers Dave and Gareth in defence. People like Craig Marsh, Gary Duffty, Adam Fretwell and a very young Nicky Clee who must have been 16 or 17. 

“Mick Norbury came in from Emley or somewhere like that and he was a big influence on my career. At that stage of my career I had played with a lot of different strike-partners, but he was a different kettle of fish. The things I learned from him was invaluable. We struck up a partnership where he’d knock the ball down and I’d knock the ball in. Nobody could get near him. He knew where my runs would be and he could lay it into me using his head, chest or feet. He was fantastic. 

“I have played in a few Ossett derbies, but the FA Cup replay in September 2003 was the best. It was in the first qualifying round and Calendar and Look North got hold of it. The FA Cup came to training as well. The first game was at Albion and hundreds of people were there and it was a red hot day. But was the poorest game ever as it finished 0-0. It was pathetic. I remember missing a couple of chances as well. So it went to a replay at Ingfield in the midweek. I got a first half hat-trick which literally killed the tie. I’d like to know how many minutes I scored it in, but it will have been half-an-hour. We tore them apart. I remember Adam Fretwell playing me in for the first goal and I lifted it over the goalkeeper’s head. The second goal was from a corner, a tap-in from a yard, but you take them. The third came from Gary Duffty playing me in and I shot it across the goalkeeper. I don’t think Ossett Town were going through a great time, but I wouldn’t take that away from what we did as we were in the league below them. We not only beat our local rival, but we beat a team from a higher league in the FA Cup.

“When we went up it was between ourselves and Eastwood Town for the title. Ourselves, Eastwood and Brigg Town went up, but we won the league on goals-scored as both ourselves and Eastwood got 76 points and finished with a goals-difference of 39. We won the league with 76 goals to Eastwood’s 73. I would have said Eastwood were the favourites to win it too.”

Ossett’s Penalty King…to Eric’s Surprise! 

Toronczak never missed a penalty for Ossett Albion

“We went through a period of time where we were missing a lot of penalties and I never took penalties. I’m sure it was Pickering at home and I got fouled in the box in the 92nd minute. We had missed the last three and I just said ‘I’m having this’. I remember Eric shouting ‘don’t let Danny take it’. Don’t ask me why! If you ask him now, I don’t think he watched me take that penalty, I think he turned away. I scored and after that I took all the penalties for Ossett and I don’t think I missed one. In his programme notes for his last home game against Woodley Sports, he wrote about certain players and he put ‘Danny Toronczak the best penalty taker I have ever seen’. But he didn’t want me to take the first one ever!”

Most Memorable Ossett Albion Goal

“We had been on a sticky run and the game what turned the season for us was when we went to Buxton in midweek and drew 2-2. We were losing 2-0 just half-time and we were getting pelters from their fans as we were meant to be the best side in the league. In the second half I got one back and it carried on into injury-time and a lad called Sean Hazelden, a centre-back, got the ball off Andy Carney and I remember pulling away from the centre-half and calling for it. Sean literally launched it and it just dropped over the defender and I was about 25 yards out and I noticed the goalkeeper Jonathan Scargill, I think he was called, off-his-line. When the ball went over the defender’s head I just whacked it and it looped miles in the air and just dropped into the net as the ‘keeper was back peddling. It was the 93rd minute and I remember going mad. There was a big pile-on and I ran up to their fans which probably wasn’t a good idea. It was immense. In the tunnel we were swinging our shirts around. We probably celebrated a little too early, but it was a turning point. We were jumping about in the showers and it was a turning point where we realised that needed to be focussed for the rest of the season.

“I missed the last part of that season because I went down with appendicitis and had to have an operation. I went down with it two hours before we were due to play to Armthorpe on a Saturday. I missed four or five games and I came back for the final game against Borrowash at home. 

“From a team point of view it was best season because it is the only time where I have won a league in my career. Personally I’ve had a lot of better seasons when I scored a lot of goals. We just clicked with the team spirit as we had a cracking set of lads and some real characters. I think the team spirit won us the league as much as anything else.”

Last Three Seasons with Ossett Albion

“I was disappointed with how my career had gone in the NPL with Ashton and Guiseley so I was determined to prove to people I could do it at that level. I probably had a few doubters who said ‘he’s a good NCEL player, but he can’t step up a level’. That’s certainly what I thought people thought of me. I wanted to change people’s minds.

“I remember going into the 2004/05 season with Ossett in the NPL fairly confident. Eric might not remember, but we had a good chat before one of the games and I remember him asking what my targets were. They were to play regularly and get one or two goals. I had got about 30 in the NCEL when we won the title so I was aiming for 15 or 20. We started off really well and I was scoring goals from the start. 

“Gerry from Ashton came in for me that season. They had gone into the Conference North. I had no intentions of going, but he offered me a deal that Ossett couldn’t match. But I wasn’t interested because I had found a team and a group of lads who I was happy playing for and with. Things were going really well so there was no reason to leave. I wasn’t contracted so Ashton just put seven days in and I did speak to Gerry. Eric rang me up the night after and offered to double what I was on and put me on a contract. So I signed my first ever contact. I never chased money or went knocking on managers’ doors demanding x amount. I was just happy to play for whatever I was given. I think a footballer is worth what a manager thinks.

“The most disappointing thing about my time with Ossett is that when we were in the NPL we never pushed on. We were always around mid-table and too inconsistent. I think we were probably two quality players short of challenging. We had some fantastic footballers. Adam Fretwell is probably one of the best midfield players I have ever played with. The stuff he could do with the ball was brilliant. He’s another one who would constantly set me up with through balls and always be looking for me to go in behind. We had a great side. I would imagine that the budget didn’t stretch that far as we weren’t massive payers. But you look at the season where I scored my most number of goals in a season and the fact that we finished mid-table shows we weren’t great defensively.

“I got 41 goals in the 2005/06 season, my best season, and that’s the year from what I gather Peterborough United looked at me. Ron Atkinson did that Big Ron Manager programme with Peterborough on Sky and he also used to do things for Real Radio. What I do know is that there was question asked about me by Peterborough and they had been watching me. When they found out I was 27, that was that, because I was too old. I was past it. They were definitely watching strikers from the lower leagues because they signed someone called Lloyd Opara from a lowly Non League club. So I was probably just another player they looked at. By then I probably wouldn’t have signed for them anyway because I was 27 and I had a family and a stable and good job as a teacher. Would you have swapped that for a one, two, three tops, year football career?”

FA Cup Player of the Round nomination 

The match report from the game which led his Toronczak’s FA Cup player of the round nomination

“It is another proud moment and it came after we beat Workington 2-1. I scored both goals in literally the last ten minutes of the game. We were 1-0 down early on and they absolutely battered us because they were a couple of leagues higher. To say I got nominated for the player of the round award, I probably didn’t play very well! I finished second in the public vote as I ran out of people to ask to vote for me! I remember all the lads going round all their work places. I was at school getting all the kids to vote for me and sending the link round the staff room. My family, parents were going to all their work places too to get people to vote for me.”

Leaving Ossett 

“I left Ossett at the end of the 2006/07 season and that was probably with the downs with Eric. Eric fancied a change with the team and there was no offer for the following season until after the final game when the secretary handed me a letter as I was leaving the ground. I had been getting 30-plus goals every season, apart from one season where I had a knee injury. I was on contract so I was still getting paid and I offered my money back to the club so they could pay for my operation and get back playing for them.

“At that moment in time I felt a bit miffed why he had waited so long to offer me a deal. I wasn’t looking for a pay rise, I just wanted to sign on again. It seemed like it was time to move on. I had done six years there and it felt like time for a fresh start. 

“I played with so many good lads at Ossett and people like Martin Allison, Dave Dickinson, Dave Watts spring to mind and it was sad when the side broke up. 

“Eric wanted to do that and that’s a manager’s prerogative. But he had two good seasons after and from an outsider looking in I was gutted about it that I wasn’t part of it. He wanted to try new players and maybe rightly so because when you look at my career after Ossett, apart from my season at Brighouse, it didn’t really come to much.”

Frustrating Period 

Joe Thornton is powerless to stop Mossley striker Danny Toronczak from haunting Ossett

“Eric had released our goalkeeper Andy Carney and he had gone to Belper so he had been onto me before Eric offered me a deal. That’s where I went and I played for Belper, Mossley and Clitheroe all in one (2007/08) season believe it or not, for various reasons.

“At the start of the 2008/09 season, I went on holiday so I was missed a few games for Clitheroe. When I came back they had Anthony Johnson, the current Chester joint manager, and Carl Lomas upfront and they were scoring goals for fun. I couldn’t argue, I didn’t deserve a place. So I spoke to the manager Neil Reynolds and I sorted out a loan move to Silsden to get myself fit. 

Toronczak has the better of Kyle Cook and Mark Ryan during his return to Ossett Albion for Mossley

“I wanted to stay with Silsden, but I got called back to Clitheroe before a game with Halifax. So I went to Halifax and I was left out of the squad which I couldn’t believe. That was it and I decided to leave and I went to Salford, then Mossley and New Mills. That season when I look at it I had five clubs, I just couldn’t settle, simple as that. I had definitely lost interest. Going back to Eric, there was no manager who knew how to play me. That’s not me being big-headed. People thought ‘this lad scores goals, let him get on with it’. That’s not how I played. I played in a system where I played with players who provided those goals.

“The New Mills move was the only time I have gone anywhere for money. I was offered absolute bucket load of money. They were offering a basic of £200 and that’s when they were in the North West Counties. It was crazy and that figure is without the goal bonuses. They were throwing it about. When I went there I realised how far away it was. It was taking two hours to get to get to home games and then there was the midweek games and I just thought it wasn’t worth it. 

“The only thing I really remember with a smile from New Mills is that they had Matt Smith playing for them. I’m a big Leeds United fan and he was coming through. He must have only been 18 or 19 at the time. He didn’t look like a professional footballer then! He’s done very well in his career and he was a lovely lad.”

Mark Brier’s Brighouse Town promotion bandwagon

Toronczak was a member of Mark Brier’s promotion-winning Brighouse Town side

“I started fresh around September-time (2009) with Brighouse Town under Mark Brier and I got my love for football back. They had just been promoted up to the NCEL Division One and in terms of levels it was the lowest level I had played at. But Mark rang me and he’s a really infectious guy. He was the closest to Eric in terms of how he wanted his teams to play and the enthusiasm he had for the game. I really liked playing for him.

“Nathan Cartman was there and he had been recently released by Leeds. Daryl Leech was at the back. Wayne Crossley, a local lad, was a really solid player. We finished second and got promoted. We would have won the league if Tadcaster hadn’t won their final game against Hemsworth. I was one of the Brighouse contingent who went to watch that game. Tadcaster had to win and Hemsworth were winning at one point, but they kind of died out. Once as Tadcaster equalised, that was it, there was only going to be one winner.

“Like Tadcaster, it was the start of Brighouse’s journey up the pyramid. Brighouse in particular have built their club the right way. They have had no real investment and for me too many club have had ambitions to go too far too quickly. But teams like Brighouse have done it the right way. It is a friendly club and I really enjoyed it there.”

One last hurrah with Albion

Danny Toronczak in action during his last hurrah for Ossett Albion

“I was 33 or 34 at this point and it is bizarre that I’m remembered by a lot of people for what I did in what was meant to be be my final game.

“I started that (2010/11) season with Emley under Darren Bland who had been with me at Ossett for a bit and is a great lad. I should have stayed at Brighouse, but I wanted to play for Daz as he’s a mate. It turned sour after a couple of months as the club didn’t want to pay me so that was that. 

“I decided to pack in playing. I’d had enough of politics because I’d had it at one or two other clubs where chairman and directors were getting involved. As far as I was concerned I had retired after Emley. It was early March when I decided to go watch Ossett play Clitheroe as I had obviously played for both teams and wanted to see old friends. Eric asked me what I was doing there and he said ‘I haven’t seen your name anywhere, have you not been playing’? I told him I hadn’t played for three or four months. So he said ‘come and see me after the game because you can sign on for us for the rest of the season’. I played the last ten games for them and I got five goals.”

Chester FC Legend

Toronczak the tortoise

“Because I had retired up to ten games earlier, it is really bizarre how this story unravelled. It is unbelievable.

“We were bottom of the league and we were terrible really. Eric had stayed too long and no-one was really bothered going into the last game. We were going through the motions. We knew Skem could win it with an eight goal swing as long as Garforth beat Chester. 

“I’d already said before the game that ‘this is it, I’m done’. I told the lads, Eric and the committee. I just wanted to enjoy my last game. Skem scored fairly early on and I equalised midway through the first half. We actually held our own against them in the first half, but in the second half they absolutely pummelled us. It was goal after goal after goal. 

“I don’t think I touched the ball more than twice in the second half and one of those touches was the second goal. 

“We got done 7-2 and Chester got beat 2-1 at Garforth. Skem got their medals for finishing second and that was that, we all went home. It wasn’t until I got home and switched my phone on that I realised the significance. I must have had over 100 messages on my phone.

“I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I went on Twitter and there were these Chester fans calling me a hero and offering to buy me beers. I still didn’t twig what was going on until one of the directors Jeff Banks sent me a private message saying ‘I don’t think you understand the magnitude of what you have done because your two goals have got us promoted. If you hadn’t scored that second goal Skem would have gone up as champions and we’d have been in the play-offs. You’re forever a hero at this club’. I just said it was stupid, but he was adamant and he said I was to be invited down to a game during the following season so the fans could say thank you.

“All these messages kept coming for days and people were trying to add me on Facebook. It was crazy.

“I did go to a game the following season against Buxton or somebody and they got me on the pitch at half-time. They announced me over the tannoy and pushed me onto the pitch. The stadium erupted and all the fans were clapping and cheering. To them I was this hero who had helped them win promotion. 

“I’m the hero who only literally touched the ball twice in the second half! The goal in the second half was from about one yard out. I don’t even know how the ball ended up in Skem’s half. Richard Tracey may have gone up with the goalkeeper from the cross and it literally bounced to me and I bundled it over-the-line from a yard out.

“Even ten years on the Chester fans haven’t forgotten me. I could tweet something now about the weather and there’ll be a reply saying ‘Chester hero’.

“Things got even more surreal a few years ago. A Chester fan tweeted me saying ‘thought you’d like to meet my new pet’ and he sent me a picture of this tortoise. He said ‘I wanted to ask you first, but can I name it after you’? I said yes and he named the tortoise ‘Toronczak’. Unfortunately I’ve never had the opportunity to meet the tortoise.

“It showed you how much that day (in 2011) means to people. Football Clubs are a big part of people’s lives and Chester had gone bust the year which will have broke a lot of their fans’ herts. The fans had rallied round and restarted the club and if it hadn’t been for those two goals they wouldn’t have gone up. The emotions they must have been going through at Garforth when they lost must have been intolerable. They took 2000 fans to that game.” 

‘Retiring’ after playing alongside Michael Owen

Upfront for Chester during the 2018 fundraising match

“A couple of years ago, Chester were going through some difficulties and the TV presenter Colin Murray who is a Chester fan announced he was going to do a fundraiser game – Chester All Stars against his mates. About a week before, Jeff Banks asked me if I was free that night because they’d like me to play in the game. They were announcing the players on Twitter every day and there were some great players going to play. Danny Higginbotham, Jason McAteer, Neil Mellor and then Ian Rush, Michael Owen and Danny Toronczak. I think I got more likes than them! 

“I went across for that and there were over 2500 people there. That was the one and only time I put on the Chester shirt. I walked into the dressing room and most of them were ex-Chester players. They were looking at me thinking ‘who’s this idiot, has he come to put the kit out’? A couple of them twigged who I was and I played it down and they told me to go out and enjoy myself. I did and I played in the second half against some of those players I mentioned. It was nice. In the last 20 minutes Michael Owen switched sides. His dad played for Chester so he went from the All Stars side to the Chester side. I played the last 20 minutes with Michael Owen upfront. I’ve not played a game since so to play alongside an England International legend, it is not a bad way to finish my career. I don’t think Michael Owen has either mind! I can take retiring on that note.”

Present Day 

Toronczak going up for a header with Farsley’s Lee Connor during one of his final games for Ossett Town

“I said I was going to retire after that Skem game, but Eric phones you up and he tempts you again. So that’s why I went to help him out at Ossett Town and Liversedge. 

“I don’t miss it. When I finished at Liversedge (in 2013) which was a nice way to end because I started there and finished there. I actually plan to finish with Non League football because I wanted to have some time out and then maybe get into coaching or management. I did plan to be around it, but it hasn’t really worked out. 

“I do coach my son’s team, but the thing when I packed in my son was starting to play football. I wasn’t to prolong my career by sitting on benches and travelling around the country when my little boy wanted to start playing football. That’s what I put my time into. Ironically I got dragged into managing his team in the first year. They’re going to be under 13s next season and I’m scouting for Burnley so I’m keeping busy in Football, but Non League Football.

“I’ll never say no to getting back into it because I still have plenty of friends and contacts who are in the management game. But I’m a season ticket holder at Leeds United so I go there every odd Saturday with my sons.

“My eldest son wants to get fixed up with a club. He’s just turned 18 and he’s a goalkeeper. He’s been at Ossett United doing the BTEC course and that’s coming to an end. So if anyone wants to take him on for training then give us a call as he’s keen. 

“I’ve watched a few games. I’ve been to Liversedge a few times and to Ossett United. I didn’t initially go when they merged, but I’ve been recently. I follow results and I follow all my old teams, I just don’t have the time to go to many matches.”

Danny Toronczak was interviewed by James Grayson 

If you have enjoyed this interview and the Non League Journey interview series, please consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page.

NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams so when the green light to return is given, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.

We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.

Like most organisations, we have been affected financially by the Coronavirus and we have incurred losses which we cannot recover. We have not been hit as badly as other organisations, but we do need raise £2000 to put us back at the level we were at in mid-March and enable us to make a difference to our players’ lives in the future, without having financial worries.

Any amount raised above £2000 will be put towards new projects (when the world returns to normal) designed to further benefit people with disabilities and learning difficulties.

Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.

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