Chib Chilaka’s Non League Journey

Jewel in the crown: Chib Chilaka has had a great career and Brighton boss Graham Potter was one of his early managers

Brighton manager Graham Potter spent considerable amounts of his early managerial career chasing Chib Chilaka around trying to get to his signature.

Potter now has £20 million man Neal Maupay leading his attack, but back at the turn of 2010 Chilaka was his jewel in the crown, his goal machine for promotion-chasing Leeds Carnegie in the Northern Counties East League.

When Potter started his fabled journey through the Swedish leagues with Ostersund in 2010 they went their separate ways. Chilaka actually turned down the chance to follow him to Sweden where fellow NCEL player Jamie Hopcutt prospered and would later play against Arsenal in the Europa League. 

After a spell with Bradford City in League Two during the 2010/11 campaign, Chilaka, currently playing for Matlock Town, had to settle for a Non League career.

Not that there has been disappointment as he’s proven to be the man for the big occasions. 

His winning-goal in the 2012 FA Cup First Round tie victory at then-Football League side Torquay United is arguably the greatest goal in Harrogate Town’s history. 

More low key was his winner for Bradford (Park Avenue) in the 2015 West Riding County Cup final at Valley Parade – Avenue’s first County Cup triumph for 24 years since Jim Mackay led them to victory at the same venue. 

Whilst his Football League dream never came truly true, Chilaka became and remains a very reliable and predatory Non League striker.

This is Chib Chilaka’s Non League Journey: 

Early Beginnings 

Chib Chilaka started his Non League career at Bridlington during Tim Hotte and Gary Allanson’s only season as joint managers

“I played youth football for Rushden and Notts County and I signed my first professional contract for Notts County. I signed there for a year and the manager who signed me ended up leaving and the manager who came in, Guðjón Þórðarson, didn’t really give me a chance. Luckily I had a place at Hull University secured so after that year that’s where I went. I only played University football for the first couple of years and in the third year they ramped up their football programme and that’s when I first encountered Graham Potter. Graham came in during my third year and managed the University team and was building a sports programme for Hull University. I played for him in the Hull University team for that one year. 

Chilaka with Brid Town comrades Ash Dexter and Alex Rhodes

“I also played for Bridlington Town on a Saturday in my final year at Uni. I had a really brilliant season and I must have scored 30-odd goals. We finished really well that season and we were in the top four. We also got to the East Riding Senior Cup against North Ferriby. It was my first full year in Non League football so it was a good introduction. Gary Allanson and Tim Hotte were joint managers and people like Ash Allanson, Ash Dexter, Phil Harrison, Tom Fleming were some of the lads in the team. Tom Nicholson was the goalkeeper. He was at my Uni as well and I class him as my best friend in football. 

“My first strike-partner was Craig Palmer and he was a tough nut. He was your big old school number nine and I was your player wanting to get on the ball and do your tricks and take on defenders. He did a lot of the dirty side, but on the other side he was a brilliant goal-scorer. He scored loads of goals and was right up there with me. We struck up a good partnership as well so I enjoyed playing with him.

Leeds Carnegie (2009/10)

Chilaka was Graham Potter’s jewel in the crown during their Leeds Carnegie days

“Because my dad is a doctor, when I finished at Hull University, I wanted to go into medicine and I was moving towards that. But I got a call from Potts at the end of the academic year and he said ‘look I’ve been offered this role at Leeds Met University and they’re offering these sports scholarships. Come and do that for a year and play for the football and help build our profile, who knows what might happen’. As an ex-professional I knew he would have contacts and my hope was to get back into the pro game. It made sense to go there to play football and also get a masters degree and build up a relationship with Potts. I went there and studied business and played University football on a Wednesday afternoon and then NCEL football as Leeds Carnegie on a Saturday. 

“We should have got promoted into the Premier Division and the reason we didn’t was because we got deducted points. Paul Harrison had played five-a-side in Spain or something like that and we didn’t have international clearance for him. They actually got rid of that rule. It was a bit disappointing because we had a season full of season and I must have scored loads of goals, 35 maybe. It would have been nice to have lifted the league title, but it also shows you the impact Graham had. As well as myself he brought in some really good players, players who may have been released from pro clubs. We gelled really quickly and we played some really good football. We had Jason Mycoe, Andy Cooper, Brice Tiani to name three good quality players who have gone onto do well.”

Graham Potter 

Graham Potter during his Leeds Met University (now Leeds Beckett days)

“At the time you would have never thought Potts would have gone onto what he has achieved, but you could see that he was wanting a career in coaching and his university period was his early footsteps. 

“He wasn’t someone who ranted and raved. He rarely came into a dressing room shouting. He’d come in and ask questions like ‘so what do you think? Why are you in that position? How would you carry the ball there, why not play a one-two?’ He would make you think about the game in a slightly different way rather than feed you information. He’d then give you little details that can help in a team-talk or during a conversation when he’d pull you to aside. These things give you a massive difference. I’ve always liked working for people who make me think and make me challenge what I think about the game. His mindset and his way of working has probably propelled him to where he is now at Brighton. He changed the way people thought about the game. He’s definitely the best manager I have played under. Because he’s gone onto be the Brighton manager is not the reason why he’s the best. I’ve played under some great Non League managers, and those managers who are innovative and challenging and have different views and methods are the types of managers I enjoy working with. Potts is definitely one of those and I can see why he’s where he is. These big clubs nowadays want managers with innovative ideas and interesting outlooks on football.

“When we finished that season with Leeds Carnegie he went to Ostersund to manage them in Sweden and he did out reach out to me and said ‘it isn’t going to be the best of money and it is quite a cold place, but come over and see if you like it because you never know what might happen’. We had a really good relationship and friendship off-the-pitch, but as much as I liked to continue that on, I was desperate to get back into the pro game in England. That’s where everyone wants to be. Reluctantly I said ‘no thanks’ and went the other route. i tried to get back into the pro game and he went to Ostersund and achieved some unbelievable things. I massively applaud him and I’m really proud to have worked with him. I don’t regret not following him to Sweden because it wasn’t right for me at the time. I know I would have learned a lot off Graham and maybe my career would have taken a different path, but I don’t like living in regret and it was the right decision at the time. 

“I had one or two opportunities and that season is when met a guy called Taj who knows a lot of football people. He felt that I had something to offer in the pro game and speaking to him was the catalyst I needed to push myself. Taj is some I trust totally. You get agents and sometimes they are hard to trust. Taj is someone who doesn’t want anything, he just wants people to do well and have a crack at playing at a higher level of football. Since around this time he’s always someone who I can pick up the phone to and say ‘what do you think to this, does this sound right’? He’d always give me an honest and unbiased answer. I would say he is one of the few people who I will pick up the phone to ask advice.”

Leap to Bradford City in League Two

“It was a massive opportunity and it came through Taj. I had played for Garforth in pre-season and did well against Guiseley. I played for Guiseley and scored two goals in one game. The day after Taj gave me a call ‘look, Peter Taylor is looking for another striker. He’s got his two main strikers, but he wants another, do you fancy a trial on Monday’? So a few days after playing for Guiseley in a game, I was on trial at Bradford City. I just remember feeling like I had no fear or no pressure. I knew I would go there and express myself and enjoy it. It went really well and a lot of the pros came to up me and said ‘wow, really impressed’. Peter Taylor pulled me and said ‘you’re doing really well, keep it going, hopefully we will be able to offer you something’. I scored in a friendly against Rotherham or someone, but it was basically my last trial game. I was buzzing because it left a lasting impression and after that game Peter Taylor pulled me in and said ‘we’d like to offer you something’. Initially it was six months, but I spoke to Taj and he said ‘push for one year so I could get you foot in the door and know I’m secure for a year while you’re working hard trying to break into the team’. Peter’s a really nice man and he went and batted for me with the board and got me a year’s contract.

“I had a good friendship with James Hansen. I always remember Hansen always coming up to me after training and saying ‘you look sharp today mate, I wish we were in a better position where you’d have more of a chance and me and you could be up top together’. 

“Some people will say it didn’t work out, but I had a great experience. For me to come straight out of university and go straight back into the pro game and make my debut against Preston in front of 15,000 people at Valley Parade, for me that is a massive achievement. I know it wasn’t the springboard in terms of my career, but for that year you have to look back and say it was a fantastic experience. I learnt a lot about myself and the game and what it really takes to succeed. I wish I had another chance or had another year. Maybe if Peter Taylor had stayed for the full season he may have given me another year and another crack at it? One of the reasons I didn’t play was because the team was struggling at the time and he didn’t want to put too much pressure on me as a striker. That’s why I only played a handful of games. In my eyes it was successful because I had achieved something I didn’t know what I was capable of. It was a dream and I’m happy I got back into the pro game, but I would have loved to have had a longer go at it.”


“Braintree was part-time. I had a guy who was sort of an agent. I had said that I wanted to try and stay in the pro game and we couldn’t really find anything in League Two. He said ‘Braintree need a striker because one of them had done his knee ligaments’. He convinced me to go down there and give it a go, bearing in mind I had lived up north pretty much all my life. It was Conference football, but I was playing second fiddle as their other striker Sean Marks was their main talisman. I wasn’t going to dislodge him out of the team, it would have taken a really big effort. It got to January and I was on the bench a lot and I just wanted to play football. I had a conversation with the manager and he was happy to let me sign for Harrogate Town in the February (2012).

Simon Weaver’s Harrogate Town (2012)

Chilaka with his Harrogate Town colleagues in Ireland

“Simon was in the early part of his management career and when we all start our careers, we’re all learning and finding our styles. That’s what I think he was going through at the time and he was still finding out what kind of manager he wanted to be. He liked to make a lot of changes game-to-game. He was working out what system he wanted to play. He was still deciding whether he wanted to be a shouter or raver so some games he would be quiet, some games he would shout a lot. One thing that stands out with Simon, even now, that’s his passion. He is very passionate about developing and building himself as manager and his team to go as high as possible. His passion and love for the game always filtered through. I got on well with him and I remember playing against him for Leeds Carnegie so he was aware of me. That’s when the relationship started and he was brilliant with me. I had also a brief loan spell with Harrogate when I was at Bradford. Simon was always a big fan of me, right from the first time played against him.

“Even though I was dropping down a league from Braintree, I didn’t think it was a step back. I thought Harrogate have great ambitions, great up-and-coming manager, lots of support financially and a growing fanbase that had cottoned onto what Simon and the club were trying to do. For me it was a case of ‘go to Harrogate, do well and you’ll be back up to the Conference with them in the year or two’. I went there with full of hope and confidence for the future.

“We had a great team with some great lads. The season was full of ups and down, with the FA Cup run being the obvious highlight. In terms of the league, we finished six points off the play-offs. I always think if we hadn’t had the distraction of the FA Cup that we would have maybe got into the play-offs. We also had major pitch problems because the record-breaking rain levels had caused problems when they had been working on the pitch during the summer (of 2012). I think it was the Hastings FA Cup and they had problems getting it on, but I remember that I slid for a ball and I slid over some stones or something. They could never seem to get the pitch right that season and it is why we ended up playing a few games at the Keepmoat. So there was a few factors why we were distracted and made us slip out of the play-offs.

“I thought we had a really good group with lads like Dave Merris, Alan White. He was a great leader and a really tough old school no nonsense centre-back who always reminded me of Roy Keane. We had those sort of characters at the time. I thought another year with one or two additions and I thought we could have something the year after. Unfortunately at that the end of that season Simon said he wanted to rebuild the team and quite a lot of us left, despite it being quite a successful season.  

Harrogate Town’s Greatest Goal (November 2012)

Chilaka playing for Harrogate Town

“Harrogate Town were still on the ascendancy a a club and in the Conference North so it was a huge scalp. I think Torquay were doing well in League Two at the time as well for us it was a massive achievement.

“On top of all that, the win meant the club went further than it had been before by getting into the second round of the FA Cup, and that remains so even today. So collectively it was a huge achievement for myself and Harrogate Town at the time.

“For me it a huge badge of honour or pride. Every player wants to look back at their career and look back at when they have won things or had special moments and that is definitely one of my big career highlights. I always look back on with it with pride and fond memories as there was a lot of TV coverage and we were on the BBC. It was a really special time, not just for myself, but for everyone involved at Harrogate Town. I guess that it is one of the things that put them on the map and on their way to where they are now.

“I remember going down on the Friday and staying in the hotel. We did a training session on the Friday and then on the Saturday we had a nice pre-match meal at the hotel and we were really together. We were a close-knit unit and that’s one of the reasons I think went as far as we did in the FA Cup. Everything was done correctly and when you tick all those boxes, it make a difference.

“When you’re playing against a team you’re not expected to beat, it is a free hit. Everyone goes out and expresses themselves knowing they have prepared well and if your luck is on your side, you beat them. Torquay had quite a few chances in the second half, but we hung on and they couldn’t break us down. After I scored earlier on, it just gave us something to hang onto and I’ll never forget the final whistle and the realisation that it had actually happened. It was a great feeling for myself, all my team-mates, the management and everybody at Harrogate who supported us.

The Goal

“At the time I was playing in a sort of 4-3-3 formation so I was actually playing on the right of the three as I seemed to find some really good form down that side during the season. Normally I’m more of a central striker or I’d play upfront in a two with myself and Paul Beesley who was my strike-partner at the time. We formed a click as a three. We attacked and I had come inside centrally. The ball broke out to one of our players who struck it and I think it was a shot, but it landed to me and I was central to around the edge of the box. It came to me and I thought let’s see if I can turn which is sort of my trademark and get a shot off. I thought if I can get a shot off and its on target, who knows what could happen? Lo and behold, the ball scuffled into me and I turned and hit it low and hard. I think it took a deflection, I’m not going to take all the glory away from myself though. The slight nick took it away from the goalkeeper and it nestled in the bottom right of the goal. It took a while for me to realise it had gone in. But once it went in everything went crazy after then. But you quickly have that moment; ‘right now we have something to hold onto, massive focus’. I don’t know if I had another shot in the game’. It was about getting in position in the formation and making sure we were hard to break down. I wouldn’t say it was the best goal of my career in terms of technicality, but it is probably the biggest goal in terms of the occasion and what it meant for the club and us a team-mates and myself individually in terms of a personal achievement.”

Hastings FA Cup Regrets 

“The second round typifies what football is and why we love it and sometimes hate it. You go and take the biggest scalp so far of your career in the biggest cup in the country and then you come up against the lowest ranked team in the competition. You think we have every chance here and an even better chance than we had in the first round against Torquay. That’s no disrespect to them, but we had a great chance to go even further in the Cup, but it didn’t happen. They took us to a replay and on both occasions we under-performed and maybe took them for granted thinking it would be easy. Credit to Hastings because they were absolutely brilliant over both games and we couldn’t get round them. It is a big regret, but you have to beat what’s in front of you and we didn’t. We missed out on playing Middlesbrough at the Riverside. When you think back and individually as players we all have aspirations to play higher and at the time I thought to myself ‘if we could just get a game at Middlesbrough, do well, hold them for a period, maybe score or have a good performance as you never know who’s watching’. You can propel yourself with those types of games and showcase what you can do. So there was big regret on that part and on part of the club because it would have been great for them to go further in the Cup. Financially the club would have done better and it was gutting to know we had missed out on playing such a big club.”

2013-2016 – Bradford (Park Avenue)

Chilaka feels he was able to express himself during his time with Avenue

“It was a settled period. As unsettled football is, I do value being settled and being able to get my feet under the table somewhere and to build a rapport with a team and fanbase. The fact I was able to do that at Avenue means a lot to me. I think that’s why it ended it successfully. 

“The first year was tough and getting to grips with John Deacey’s style of football was not easy. He played a total football philosophy which was different because there was a lot of long ball football in the game at the time. Deacey and Mark Hume were adamant that we play total football and they would only sign players who could play. That includes the centre-backs. James Knowles and Adam Clayton, as good as they were defensively, they could play football. It was tough getting an understanding that it was a requirement. Maybe around Christmas time, Humey approached me and said ‘do you want to go on loan to Ossett to some games’? But again I spoke to Taj and said ‘what do you think because I think I’ve done alright and I know I’m in and out of the team, but I want to stay and fight my place and show that I can do it’. Taj said ‘don’t go if that’s how you feel. Ossett is a step-down, why do you want to do that? Avenue is a new team for you, stick it out and see how you go’. I went back to Humey and told that I was staying and fighting for my place. I scored in the next game and that was it. For the rest of the season I scored a few goals and I did really well. That really cemented my place in the team and built my rapport with everyone.

“The second season is where it really went well. I finished as top goal-scorer, I won all the awards at the presentation night – the fans’ player, managers’ player, players’ player, top scorer. 

Chib Chilaka collects one of his awards from Bradford (Park Avenue) vice president John Helm in 2015
Chilaka embracing total football guru John Deacey
Chilaka striking the winner against Garforth in the 2015 West Riding County Cup final
Chilaka celebrating
Chilaka with Chris Howarth and Jamie Price with the County Cup trophy
Chilaka with the trophy

“I also scored the winner against Garforth in the West Riding County Cup at Valley Parade and that’s another big highlight. They had held us all game and it was 0-0 with not long left and you’re thinking ‘here we go again, am I going to miss out on winning something again’? But we hung in and the ball just fell to me and I just thought ‘just hit it’. I hit it well and it went into the bottom corner and we won 1-0 to win the County Cup. It is probably the only competitive goal l I scored at Valley Parade! Typical it comes years after playing for Bradford City! 

“Then in the third season it is when Martin Drury took over. There was investment in the club and we signed a lot of players. I started off well and the total football philosophy was still there, but once as we lost a few games, the lads got a bit nervous and shaky. Because Martin was only 30, one of the youngest managers ever, some of the lads older lads in the team maybe questioned him. For me, he’s another manager who is innovative and have fresh ideas and I absolutely loved working under him. He’s a really smart guy and I’m really pleased to see him go onto working into the Football League. 

Chilaka scoring for Avenue at Harrogate Town

“We tailed off, but we still had some big results. We beat Harrogate twice, I scored a couple of times and that’s what sort of led to me going back to Harrogate for the following season.

“Those three years I would say are my happiest time in football, especially the second and third year. It was a time when I was enjoying my football and playing my best football. I was playing in a team playing total football and I was scoring goals. I also had a run where I was playing a full season for the first time since my Leeds Carnegie days. I had been on the bench at Bradford City, Braintree, had in-difference at Harrogate, but finally at Avenue I had got to a team where I was the main striker and I would play week-in-week-out. I could fully express myself. 

“We had quality players like Paul Walker and playing with players like him constantly took my game another level. I had to make sure I was good enough to play with them. It made me improve my game. 

“I loved the fans and they were like an extra player. They really took to me. Once you’re scoring goals, fans love you more. They had a lots of chants about me and when you go in the clubhouse everyone comes up to talk to you. It all added to my time there and why I loved it so much and why I was gutted to leave. I’m sure if I ever go back there for whatever reason, I’m sure I’d familiar faces who remember my time there. I’m hoping to do that soon.”

Return to Harrogate Town 

Simon Weaver had been fed up of Chib Chilaka scoring against him when he re-signed him for Harrogate Town in 2016. Picture: Caught Light Photography

“Simon is constantly learning. He reads books all the time about leadership and various other subjects and by the time I had returned in 2016, he had become the manager he is today. At the time I worked for a company called TalentStream and they were based in Harrogate and I met Simon during my lunch break. We sat in the pub across the road and had a chat. He had contacted me and said ‘look, you’ve been a thorn in my side for the last three years at Avenue because you keep scoring against me, I think it is the right time for you to come back. We’ve constantly building and you’ve gained the experience we need up top’. I think he’d had kids now and he didn’t before and he was different when we spoke. You could see an assuredness and he knew the type of manager he was and you could see the man he had become. Just talking to him was a breath of fresh air. I must have been late back to work because we spent a good hour chatting away, not just about football, but about life and things in general. You could see a difference in him and that added to me wanting to go back and work with this person who has fresh ideas and is really ambitious and passionate about football. You could see it oozing in his every word.

“It was the season before they went full-time, but what they did was they went semi-full-time. We used to train on a Monday morning, Tuesday evening and Thursday evening. I had to negotiate with my employers that I would go and train at Harrogate on a Monday morning. I don’t know how I convinced my boss at the time, but he is actually a sponsor of the club. I’d train Monday morning and then get changed quickly and then scuttle off back to work. I loved it. We had the 3G so the pitch was amazing, the facilities were constantly improving. We had the physio, the sports psychologist. We had everything. It was a fantastic club on the up and I am someone who has always loved training so to get that extra session in on a Monday, it fell like being back in the pro game. That’s one of the things what I attracted me to it. 

“The season was tough. I started it well and I built up a good partnership with Jon-Paul Pittman, the Grimsby legend. It was looking like we’d really hit it off, but form, bad results means the team starts changing. I was in and out of the team and I went on loan to Gainsborough towards the end of the season.

“Because we were struggling for results, Simon Ainge went upfront and scored an absolute shed load of goals and turned himself into a striker for a season. That was even more of a nail in the coffin for me as everything he touched turned to gold. He had a fantastic run after Christmas until the end of the season. Even after I left he was still scoring loads of goals.

“I’m 100% sure they will get into the Football League. I’m gutted they haven’t as yet done it this year. I’ve been watching closely thinking ‘this is their year’. They started off badly, but when they picked up they went on a run of wins where they blew everyone away.”

2017 to Present Day – Shaw Lane, Hyde, Mickleover, Grantham and now Matlock 

Chib Chilaka had a happy time with Hyde

“There’s been lots of ups and downs in the last three years. 

“I started off alright at Shaw Lane and I built up a good relationship with Craig (Elliott). Craig left and we had two more managers (Paul Quinn and then Chris Willock) before the end of the season. All in all it was a good solid season with a nice FA Cup run. I didn’t come on for the Mansfield game, but I played a fair part leading up to those games so I was disappointed not to come on. But that’s football. We also got to the Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup final and we beat Penistone Church 4-3. I had scored a hat-trick in the previous round and the manager Chris Willock benched me for the final. I came on and I think I set up the winner and he pulled me the side afterwards and apologised for putting me on the bench. Fair dos to him. Someone who had been injured had come back into the team and I was the only player he could drop to accommodate him. So for me the season ended on a high note and me and Chris still speak and I’ve nothing against him. He’s a top man.

“I then moved to Hyde and it is one of the best clubs I have played for, and one of the best clubs anyone will play for in Non League football. It is so organised, they have great people and a great fanbase. It always reminded me of Park Avenue with the way their fans were. Honestly one of the best years I have had in football was at Hyde United. They play on 3G and again young and innovative managers. At the time it was Darren Kelly and his assistant Dave McGurk who is now the manager. The two of them along with their staff as well, I can’t speak highly enough of them. They were running a great operation and I can see that club ascending with the right backing like the way Harrogate Town has. It has that DNA in it.

“I started the season just ended at Mickleover because I had moved back to Derby. My family live in Derby and I had to be in the midlands for my job. I went straight to Mickleover and signed for them. I maybe played five games and we started off the season well. The manager wanted to bring in Lee Hughes as he had been targeting him for years. He had to make way on the budget to get Lee Hughes in and it was my head on the chopping block. Fair enough. 

“I went to Grantham and scored on my debut against Matlock so started off well. I don’t like speaking badly of people, but there was a lot of swapping and changing in the team. I had been speaking to Steve Kittrick right from pre-season and he really wanted me at Matlock in pre-season. But at the time I had agreed to sign for Mickleover and I’ll never go back on my word, I’ve always been like that. When I was in and out of the team at Grantham I rang Kitty and said ‘I probably should have signed for you from the off and if you’re interested, I’m happy to walk away from Grantham and if I’m going to sit on a bench, I’d rather sit on one for a manager who knows me and is going to give me a chance’. That’s when I signed for Matlock and I regret not going earlier. As difficult as it has been, a lot has happened, but I couldn’t have been at a better club to get through these things. They have great fans, great people running the club and I have found my love again for football after a few seasons of uncertainty. We have new management in Paul Phillips and Dave Wild and they’re so ambitious and passionate about football. I speak to Dave Wild everyday and he sends me programmes to do. They have brought in lots of staff like scouts. In terms of goals-to-games, I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve scored a few goals so it has fairly successful in that sense. But the league form wasn’t great, hence why Kitty left and Philo coming in. With the passing of my good friend Jordan (Sinnott), it has been a tough few months.”

Jordan Sinnott 

“The day he passed away was one of the toughest days of my life. I hate to re-live it in my head, but it really was. It is worse when you think what the family went through and what they are still going through. I’d not really experienced anything like that before.

“He couldn’t had a better send-off. It was a beautiful way to send-off such a great lad. The football world came together and honoured such a really talented lad and show comfort to his family. It showed how loved and respected he was. It was so spectacular and it was emotional, but the right way to send off our mate. As tough as it was, I’m so glad I was there with the Matlock lads and to support Jordan’s family and friends.”


“I don’t have any real regrets. Why should I? I’ve not played in the Premier League, but for someone who has gone to University and then come out and played in the Pro Game and played decent levels of Non League football, I feel I have done well so far…”

If you have enjoyed this interview and the Non League Journey interview series, please watch the video at the bottom of the page and 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 once again to our players’ lives in the future, without having financial worries. As each day goes on, a substantial number of our players become further isolated so we need to be ‘ready for action’ when restrictions are lifted.

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. You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.

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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