Paddy Miller had a Non League career that most would dream of.
His retirement last year at a young age of 29 shocked many, but who can blame him for stepping away after three promotions, an FA Cup First Round TV appearance and many other memorable moments.
He scored the unforgettable bullet header which secured promotion for Hyde United in 2018 and even scored a first half hat-trick in his final career match.
Miller played for some of Non League’s great managers including Paul Marshall and Rudy Funk, among many other top gaffers. He was also a key member of the too often forgotten Yorkshire Amateur side which stunned many by finishing third in the NCEL Division One table under Paul Lines in 2011.
Even though now out of the game, Miller is still held in high esteem by those associated with all his former clubs Yorkshire Amateur, Scarborough Athletic, Farsley Celtic, Tadcaster Albion and Hyde – apart from a Ossett Town turnstile operator.
This is Paddy Miller’s Non League Journey:
“At the time I was playing for Farsley’s academy and that’s when they had the reserve set-up as well. I was playing with there with lads like Joe Barden. Graham Hodder who was the manager of Yorkshire Amateur got in touch. Although I was only 16 or 17 my ambition to play for Farsley’s first team, but with the squad so strong and doing so well in the league, obviously the chances of that happening were minimal. Graham had been watching a few Farsley academy and reserve games and he offered me the chance to play men’s football at Yorkshire Amateur. I spoke to a few lads there who were senior and they said it would be the best thing for me. They said I’d get roughed up to start with, but it would be a better learning curve than playing academy football for another two years.
“It was tough. The club had absolutely no money. None of us got paid. By way of payment we got a bottle of Lucozade in the bar after a game. But it was one of those situations where we knew where we were at. The average attendance must have been 30 or 40 people across the season, apart from when you played the likes of Scarborough who brought a bumper crowd.
“Looking back, it was probably one of my most enjoyable times. We had a really young side with a couple of experienced heads who were 35-ish. The average age won’t have been much over 21 or 22. Graham said come down and enjoy it and he would play me centre-midfield. There was no pressure, it was all about staying in the Division and we did. It was the year where Glasshoughton finished bottom of the league and we finished second from bottom.
“If you look at the lads Graham signed during his management career, he signed a lot of lads who have gone on to have decent Non League careers. He was really big on watching academy games and local district games like Leeds FA. I know he was involved in the Barkston Ash FA district team. He was really big on giving young lads a chance as well. He was a big believer in age doesn’t really matter if you’re good enough. He wasn’t one who always went for experience.”
On To Scarborough Athletic (2009/10)
“The Ammers squad was really thin at this point with 15 or 16 lads and I remember us getting Scarborough at home in the League Cup (during the 2008/09). We had no strikers, they were injured so Graham asked me if I could play upfront. I scored a penalty and played quite well. We beat them and we played them in the league a couple of weeks later and they beat us 6-1. Ryan Blott scored five, but I scored another penalty whilst playing upfront again. Brian France pulled me after the game to ask me what my plans were for the following season. As a 16 or 17-year-old it was quite nice as I didn’t expect a big club like Scarborough coming in for me. Because of the fans Scarborough were always everyone’s cup final.
“That’s where it kind of took off from. I stayed in contact with Brian and when the season finished, I went to Scarborough in pre-season. I think Brian thought I was a striker initially because I had played both games against them upfront. We had a pre-season friendly and the captain at the time got injured. He was the left-back and Brian turned to the dugout and I was the only left-footed player so he said ‘can you play left-back son’? I said ‘I’m left-footed mate, I’ll give it a go’. That was it and I played left-back for Scarborough and absolutely loved it from day one.”
“I’ve always said that Brian was one of the best managers I played for. He was absolutely brilliant with me because he gave me an opportunity when it would have been easier to play an experienced person. Scarborough were never short of offers from players. There was always people emailing the club or getting in touch with them via phone.
“In my first season there, the target from the outset was to get promoted. I think at times we thought we were going to run away with it, but we didn’t. There were teams like Bridlington and Rainworth who were really good. The first game I played competitively was Nostell Miners Welfare away and we probably took them lightly. I started off at left-back and it is rare that I’m nervous in football. I was 17 or 18 and Brian put his trust in me straight away. I wasn’t used to playing in front of big crowds and there were 300 or 400 there that day. I had a bit of a nightmare and it wasn’t one of my best performances and I came away a bit deflated. We also lost 2-1. I’ll never forget, on the Sunday, Brian phoned me. At first I thought he was ringing me to say ‘it is not going to work out’. I was honest and said it wasn’t my best performance, but he said ‘don’t worry about yesterday, I wouldn’t have started you if I didn’t think you were good enough, it will come right’. That’s the type of person he was.
“We didn’t start the season well as we then lost to Guisborough in the FA Cup. We lost the game after Lincoln Moorlands, but then we kicked on and had a good run of form. We finished fifth, but we always had quality in the team and with the quality we had we should have done better.”
Back to Yorkshire Amateur for unprecedented push for Promotion under Paul Lines (2010/2011)
“Towards the end of the (2009/10) season I had an ankle injury and I struggled to get back into the side. I had no problems with that as the lad playing in my position was doing well. Brian said to go out to another NCEL team and Paul Lines took me back to Yorkshire Amateur.
“I was living with my mum and dad at the time and they live a five minute drive from the ground. I was at College or Uni and I didn’t drive so it worked out perfectly. We still didn’t get paid and I remember picking up so many yellow cards that season that I ended up owing quite a bit of money.
“People underestimated us because of how the club had done over the years. The club had never challenged. It was a really good season and Paul Lines used his contacts really well and he built a really good team. You’re looking at the likes of Curtis Bernard upfront. He was on fire. We had a young lad called Ben Roth who was around at that time. We had Dempsey Smith who went and played for Garforth. Justin Bowler was left-wing, You had Fernando Moke and Chris Hitchings playing. Danny Forrest was upfront. Because no-one got paid, we were all friends and that helped us. The team spirit was massive and that’s why we did so well.
“We missed out on promotion by two points to Barton Town. If we had beaten Askern on the last day, we’d have gone up. Askern were a mid-table team and we were expected to beat them. It was 0-0 in the last minute and we sent the goalkeeper up for a corner and they broke clear and scored.
“Our form was very good that season. We went 17 games unbeaten in league at one point and going into the Askern game we had gone three games without conceding. It was a fantastic achievement, especially considering the budget. Staveley and Barton finished first and second and they both had really good set-ups.
“Looking back, the Barton game on August Bank Holiday was the decisive game and probably the game what got them promoted. We lost 3-1 and Dean Windass scored a hat-trick. Back then, he’d only just come out of pro football so he was really fit.”
Rudy Funk’s Scarborough (2011/12)
“Brian (France) fell ill that (2010/11) season and in pre-season I had planned to play for Yorkshire Amateur game. I played in a charity match for Brian and that’s when Rudy Funk was now in charge of Scarborough. After the charity match, I didn’t know him at the time, but Denny Ingram pulled me to one side and asked me if I wanted to come back. With Scarborough’s ambition of wanting to win the league, it was a no-brainer. Rudy being Rudy, as soon as Denny said that to me, he started hugging me and calling me baby and telling me to come round to his house.
“Rudy’s quite a character and that’s putting it lightly. He wore his heart on his sleeve and said it how it was. You didn’t always agree with it, but he was a passionate guy and his record at Scarborough is exceptionally good. He’s one of the most successful managers they’ve had. But he sometimes took it a little too far.
“I remember when we signed a player called Jimmy Ghaichem. We played Brighouse away or somewhere like that and we either got beat or we had drawn. We didn’t play well anyway. Jimmy had just signed and he came on for two or three minutes towards the end of the game. Rudy wasn’t pleased with him and told him ‘if you play like that again, you can go back down the M1’. We were all a bit shellshocked. But if any of the lads had a problem and picked the phone to Rudy, he’d always take the time and he always said if you were in his dressing room you were family to him. Some people took to him and some didn’t, but his record speaks for itself. He set out to get Scarborough promoted and he did.”
Rudy Funk’s Edible Homemade Chicken Curry
“We had won a home game 2-0 and Rudy came in and told us to sit down and said ‘That performance was like a homemade chicken curry’. We’re all looking at each other and thinking ‘where’s he going with this’? He went on and said ‘it is edible and it is alright, but you’d rather a takeaway’. I put my top over my mouth trying not to laugh. He singled me out and asked me what I was laughing at. I responded ‘gaffer, I’ve no idea what you are on about’? He’s then half-angrily, half-confused said to Darren France the assistant manager, ‘Darren, tell him what I’m on about’. Darren backed me up and said ‘gaffer, I haven’t a clue what you’re on about’. It was just strange some of the stuff Rudy came out with me, but that was the way he was.”
Two Weeks at Ossett Town (2012/13)
“At the time I had been in-and-out of the team at Scarborough because Rudy had brought in a different left-back called Gareth Clayton who was a very good player. I get on well with Craig Elliott and he had got wind that I wasn’t playing. Craig always wanted me to play central midfield because he’d seen me play there when I was younger.
“I went training and enjoyed it and I played my first game for Ossett. I think we won 1-0 at home and then we played at Harrogate Railway, but I was dropped. Craig said it was because we had a cup match coming up and he wanted to have a look at a couple of lads.
“I went to watch the cup match the week after and I got to the turnstile and the person on it didn’t believe I was a player and was trying to charge me to get in. I said ‘I’m a player, I played last week’. He wasn’t having any of it. I thought it was crazy. I had gone from playing at Scarborough where the fans were great with me and I really enjoyed it to going to Ossett and they didn’t believe I was a player.
“Denny got back in touch with me and they really wanted me to come back. It was a strange one as I literally left for two weeks. I explained to Craig that I expected to be playing and Scarborough wanted me to go back and that they wanted to win the league. Craig was great and he knew I was being honest with him. When I turned up for my first game back, I got a bit of stick from the lads. Rudy had asked me to send back my tracksuit by post, like you do in Non League. My parcel had been delivered, but it had been unopened so Rudy handed my parcel back to me when I got there!”
Memorable Scarborough Moments
“My first goal in the Bridlington-Scarborough derby during the season we went up was one of my best goals for the club. That game had everything and it finished 3-3. The other one was when I came off the bench against Nostell. I had just come back from Ossett Town where I had been for literally two weeks. I came off the bench and scored two. Rudy strangely put me on the right wing and it worked. I scored a free kick and a one-on-one. I think we were 3-1 down and we won 4-3 so that was a stand-out game in that season.”
Title Winning (2012/13) Season
“You look at some of the results we had and with the squad we had with the likes of Denny Ingram, Ryan Blott, Ollie Banks who is now at Tranmere, Pete Davidson, David Brown, Tommy Adams, Jimmy Beadle, Bryan Hughes, Tony Hackworth, if we hadn’t won the league it would have been a massive underachievement. That team was probably good enough to get in the play-offs in the league above, if not good enough to win it.
“We ended up with 99 points and we were a bit annoyed about it as we wanted to get to 100. But if you look at the teams behind us: you had Brighouse who finished two points behind us with 97 and Bridlington Town who finished with 95. All three of us were very strong teams. The target was to get promoted.
“The Brighouse game is the one that stands out the most, it has to be. When you talk to anyone associated with Scarborough, they always say the Brighouse Town away game is the best away day they’ve had. I think we took over 900 fans to it. The first 45 minutes were a bit nervy. I should have scored from five or six yards, but Tom Taylor who is one of my really good friends, tipped it wide. I still bring it up with him now. I don’t know how he saved it. Blotty and Jimmy Beadle scored in the second half. That didn’t sure the league up for us. We didn’t celebrate in the dressing room, but we knew 90% of the job was done once we beat Brighouse as it gave us some breathing space and put pressure on them. We still had Retford at home and Glasshoughton away and we ended up winning it against Retford.”
“At Scarborough, it is the first time I met Browny as we ended up getting in a car school together. I knew of him and his football background. He’s now become a best mate and we’ve been at a few different clubs together now.”
Farsley Celtic (2013/2014)
“I had played for every age group from under 14s upwards and it was always the club I wanted to go back to and give it a good go. Mark Jackson and Pars (Neil Parsley) brought me back and I’ve known Mark since I was five-year-old as he’s good friends with my cousin’s husband.
“I went back as a left-back and they said it would be me and Ryan Serrant challenging for that spot. Obviously Ryan is still a really good player, but he’s probably one of the best left-backs I have played with. I quickly saw how good he was and how hard it would be to shift him out of the team. Throughout pre-season he and me were alternated, playing 45 minutes each and we got along. There was healthy competition and it probably made me a better player.
“Farsley had been trying different people at centre-half, but the year before I had been playing centre-half at Burton Bishop College and we played against Mark Jackson’s Leeds City College team. I spoke to Mark and I believe it was before Thackley away in pre-season and he said ‘do you want to give centre-half a go’? I said yes and I also thought it would be my way into the team. I saw how good Ryan Serrant was and I was pretty honest with myself as I knew I probably wouldn’t play above him. So that’s when I started playing centre-half and I was probably a better centre-half than a left-back. I had most success as a centre-half and if someone said ‘what position are you’? I’d probably say centre-back.
“That year was a big learning curve for me in terms of growing up. I was 23 or 24. I had people like Simeon Bambrook, Aaron Hardy, Robbie O’Brien and Mark and Pars as managers. These were people who I massively respected in that dressing room. Me being a centre-half, I think my game came on a lot that season purely because of Mark Jackson. As an ex-centre half he took a lot of time to coach me about positioning. I still made a few mistakes and I knew I needed to up my standards. I remember Mark saying to me that I wasn’t a young player anymore and he was right.”
Tad All Over (2014/2015)
“I didn’t know Paul Marshall then, only from playing against Taddy when I was at Scarborough. He’s obviously a good friend now. Tad was still in the Northern Counties Premier and the ambition was to get promoted. It didn’t work out in pre-season with Bradford (Park Avenue) and you (Non League Yorkshire) did a piece about me leaving them and after that, people knew I was available and I had a few offers. At the time I didn’t want to drop down to the NCEL. The season before at Farsley I had got supporters’ player of the year in the NPL Division One and I thought I had done really well at centre-back. Paul Marshall was on holiday at the time and it was at a time when people were really getting into Twitter. Paul meant to send me a private message asking if he could call me, but he got it wrong and he tweeted it publicly. I replied having a joke with it!
“(Owners) Matt and Jimmy Gore then got in touch and said ‘Paul’s away, he’s expressed that he wants to sign you, can we meet for a chat’? I said I would. I didn’t plan on signing and I didn’t have a car at the time so I had to get my dad to drop me off at a hotel in York. My dad went to a pub nearby to wait for me. I remember saying to my dad on the way ‘I can’t see me signing here’ and obviously I had a couple of offers from the NPL. I came out of the meeting and my dad said ‘how did it go’ and I said ‘good, I’ve signed and done the photograph’. The plans for the club blew me away along with the passion from Matt and Jimmy Gore. We spoke about the philosophy Paul wanted to play. Obviously he was away on holiday, but they were keen to get the deal done. I knew some of the players as well and I think because of the bad experience I had with Bradford (Park Avenue), it was one of them where I just wanted to get back to enjoying my football again.”
The Tad Theme Song
“One of the first times I met the lads was in a recording studio in York. I didn’t know many of them at the time and the gaffer Paul phoned me and said ‘we’re recording a song, we’re not training’. It was a good laugh, but we got some stick for doing it. I remember the Shaw Lane video of their version of Tad All Over after they beat us and I remember Joe Thornton tagging me on Twitter. From outsiders looking in, it looked like we didn’t get along, but we had friends in both dressing rooms and we took it with good jest. To be fair, if we had won the league we’d have been singing songs and tagging them in. There was no malice in it. I remember one of my mates from school buying the Tad All Over CD and giving me it for Christmas. The song may come across as being a bit busy, but it was a club trying to think outside the box and forward-thinking. The fans loved it and I think they still play it now. It worked well during the FA Vase run and it became quite well known. I remember Crystal Palace fans tweeting ‘good luck’ to me before games because they played Glad All Over.”
“I enjoyed playing for Paul. He’s just an honest person and you knew where you stood with him. Sometimes in Non League for me, honesty is sometimes lacking. If you have a problem with someone from a football perspective just say it, it is nothing personal. Paul was really good at that. His man-management was really good. He is someone who you would want to run through brick walls for. His Non League record speaks for itself. He’s done really well at Harrogate Railway, Tadcaster and I’ve no doubt he’ll go onto do well with Garforth.”
FA Vase Run
“The target was to get promoted and we fell short of that as we finished third behind Worksop and a really strong Shaw Lane team. The FA Vase run was absolutely brilliant. I think the whole Town came out for the Highworth game which is where we lost 1-0 and went out. That’s probably one of the lowest I’ve felt after a game. I think there was over 1500 fans there. We dominated the game and battered them. We missed a penalty in the first half and around that time we had a bad spell as we also lost three or four league games which probably cost us promotion.
“I’d missed the first Highworth game where we drew 1-1 after extra-time as I had been sent off in the Vase game before against Mansfield. The Mansfield game was probably the highlight of the FA Vase run, especially with Rudy in the opposition dugout. He got sent off in the first half and I got sent off with five minutes left. As I was walking into the dressing room, I was fuming. We were 3-0 up at the time and it was silly of me to get sent off and I remember Rudy trying to talk to me. I told him where to go, but he was alright with me after the game.”
“I became really close to Sonny and her mum Anna. Sonny was working behind the bar and remembers her. She was such a character and she always made her presence felt. During my first day at the club we needed a phone charger for the music so I went behind the bar and taken the phone charger that I had seen. My first interaction with Sonny was her shouting at me saying ‘who do you think you are’ in front of the lads in the dressing room because I’d taken the charger from behind the bar. She literally walked in, took the charger and shouted at me. I was a bit taken aback. I didn’t know what to say. But I became really good friends with her and her mum and family. Sonny passed away a few years ago, but I’m still in touch with Anna. Anna has spent a couple of Christmases with my mum and dad as well. Anna’s an unbelievable cook. I still say she’s the best cook in Non League Football. I think some people purely watched Tad to get some of her food, not the football.”
“I’ve really good friends with Liam and I was groomsman at his wedding. He was a fantastic player, especially at Tadcaster. He then suffered an horrendous injury. He’s another close friend I made from football along with people like Tom Claisse, David Brown and Harry Coates.”
Morgs Forgets to Fill his Car up
“I remember breaking down on the way to Cleethorpes. There was me, Tom Claisse, David Brown, Liam Ormsby and Tom Morgan in Tom Morgan’s car. We missed the warm-up, but the car didn’t break down, we ran out of fuel. Claisse being one of the most organised people I know wasn’t very happy about it. When we were on the motorway and the fuel gauge was saying zero we were risking it a bit. The highlight was ringing my cousin who was coming to watch the game, to ask them to bring fuel. Matt and Jimmy Gore pulled up behind us and they were like ‘what are you doing’? As Matt and Jimmy pulled up, Claisse was leading a warm-up on the side on the motorway. He was doing star jumps with Brownie and Liam Ormsby trying to get them warm before the game. It was one of those things and when we got the fuel, Claisse made Morgs sit in the back of his own car and Claisse drove the rest of the way as he wouldn’t let him drive.”
“I lost count of fines off the lads for tweets and been a bit busy on social media. I got a few fines from Robbie O’Brien for wearing hairbands and tweeting. Hairbands caught on at Tadcaster as at the start of that season a few of us including Mikey Morton said we wouldn’t cut our hair until we won something. It was a good laugh and we called it #hairgains. There’s a few of us struggling now. I can’t do it now with my hairline. There’s only a few lads now who can do the long hair look.
“But going back to Twitter, some people probably take it a bit too seriously. At the minute Twitter is a crazy world. No-one can have an opinion without being shot down. I think it is a really good way to interact with fans and keep people informed. It is easy to forget that without fans, there wouldn’t be any Non League. Professional players do what they can, but they are limited with what they can do. But in Non League, fans can you ask you questions and let’s be fair, you have the time to reply. It is not too hard and it is good for the clubs as it promotes them. If you don’t take it too seriously and you have a laugh on it, it is a really good platform.”
Back to Farsley
“I wasn’t enjoying my time at Taddy at that time for various reasons and I mentioned this to Mark (Jackson). I had been playing left-back for Tadcaster, but Farsley were on the lookout for a centre-half so Mark said there was a place for me. Mark left at some point and went to Leeds to coach there. But I went back to Farsley and loved it. We went on a good run and we missed out on the play-offs again. That team we had was really good. You had young lads coming through like Lewis Sugden. The season finished and obviously John Deacey came in as joint manager with Pars.”
Captain of Farsley (2016/2017)
“It was a proud moment and a really big thing for me. I’d played for every age group and to be made captain of the first team was a big thing. I remember Pars phoning me at work to say he was going to make me captain for that season. He said he had spoken to some of the experienced players like Aaron Hardy and asked their opinion of who should be captain and they had said me. That me feel really good too.”
Tamworth in the FA Trophy
“We beat Tamworth 4-0 away and that performance was unbelievable. I remember Pars had been to watch them to see how they set up. They were a league or two higher than us so we were under no-illusions that it was going to be tough. Their pitch was a strange astroturf pitch and Pars completely changed the shape as we played me, Adam Clayton and Nathan Turner at centre-back. We played Tamworth off the park and I remember Wally (James Walshaw) scoring a couple. It showed Pars’ knowledge of the game, not just his fantastic man-management. The good thing about Pars that day was him saying he wanted to change it, not to counter act them, but because he believed our strengths would win the game. He didn’t want to go there for the draw, he wanted to win.”
Worst 45 minutes Ever
“When we played Southport at home in the next round of the Trophy, I had my first work conference in London the night before so I drove back from outside Brighton at 5.30am to make the game. I probably had the worst 45 minutes ever. We were 3-0 down. My front tooth had been knocked out, I’d broke my nose and given away a penalty in the first five minutes. It was slightly like David Luiz’s performance against Man City. I played on until half-time and then I said to Pars ‘I need to go to hospital mate’. To be honest if I hadn’t had mentioned it, I think it may have took me off anyway. I said after that I’d never driving that far before a game again.”
Leaving Farsley (January 2017)
Leaving Farsley was one of the toughest decisions I have had. Obviously my previous experience with John (Deacey) at Avenue wasn’t great. It was nothing personal, just a difference of opinion football-wise. Some people get along, some don’t and it wasn’t for me. I was under contract at Farsley and I’m still to this day friends with Pars, but it was one of them where I said I’d rather leave because I didn’t want to fall out. I really respected the club and the club were on course to get promoted. I thought it was better for everyone by leaving. The club obviously went onto win promotion and the county cup that season and I was delighted to see Aaron lift the play-off trophy.
“I got permission from the club to speak to other clubs. Having friends at Scarborough and from speaking to the players, I ended up speaking to Steve Kittrick and he wanted me. They were in the play-offs at the time competing with Farsley and it was a done deal. But John put the brakes on it and said I could go to any club but Scarborough which was a shame as I loved the club.”
“Playing for Hyde ranks as one of my main highlights alongside getting promoted with Scarborough. I’ve always been a person who won’t play for the sake of it so the club had to feel right. I was friends with Darren Kelly from when he played briefly for Scarborough. Hyde were struggling at the time in the league, but Darren explained the plans, the ambition and the players he was looking to bring in. Darren said the plan was to stabilise the club as they’d had three back-to-back relegations and then challenge for promotion next season. David McGurk also sent me a text with the club’s plans. I told Darren I’d think about it and take two or three days, but I rang him back 15 minutes later and said I’d sign. The project excited me so much.
“My first game against Chester in the County Cup. I had not played for a few weeks and Darren said ‘play 45 minutes to get your legs going again’. He played a young side as the league was a priority. There was me and Matty Dempsey at centre-half. Before the game, Darren pulled me and said ‘I’ve spoken to Dave McGurk, we want to make you captain straightaway’. That was great. It was about 60 minutes in and Darren said ‘do you want to play on’? I felt good so I carried on. We ended up drawing and became we had a couple of injuries, I played the whole of extra-time as well! I kept getting cramp in both calfs. It was good though as we beat Chester on penalties.”
FA Cup First Round (2017)
“The run was brilliant. We beat Warrington over two games and when we drew MK Dons it was massive for us and the club. As players, at the time we wanted Charlton away, but then we got the home draw. Looking back now, I’m glad we got the home draw. It was a massive reward for all the fans and volunteers who had been through a lot and stood by the club. It was great to see them proud to belong to Hyde. The game was a sell-out and it was the first game that weekend to be live on the BBC on the Friday. The build-up was great and Tyrone Gay had the BBC go round his school with him during the day. We had the press conferences, the draw live on TV and it was a great experience for everyone. We even had football boots companies getting in touch with us. New Balance contacted me via LinkedIn to provide players with boots. It was a bit crazy. The cup run is something I’m massively proud of and my shirt is still on my wall in the kitchen.”
Race for Promotion from NPL Division One North
“We’d stuttered a little bit and we were a bit out of form. I remember us playing Atherton Collieries when we got drew 1-1. That was the week before the Mossley. We were struggling to score goals at the time. I remember going on my phone after the Atherton game and my Twitter notifications had gone crazy. A couple of the fans had been overheard on something saying I wasn’t good enough and we weren’t good enough to win promotion. That riled the entire dressing room and it spurred us on. We knew we were good enough to go up, we’d just hit a bit of bad form.
“We played Radcliffe away on the Thursday night before the Mossley game and we knew we had to win or it would be play-offs. The pressure was on us. I wasn’t the penalty taker, but because I had taken a bit of stick after the Atherton game and I said to Dave McGurk that was taking penalties. He said fine and I wanted to shut a few people up. I was proud of what we had done to stabilise the club and push for promotion and I didn’t feel it was fair to be criticised. It was six or seven minutes into the game and we got a penalty and I remember getting the ball and scoring. The fans took it in good jest, but I did a shushing sign and a bit of a calm down we’ll be alright thing.
“Elliott Rokka then scored a rocket of a free kick and the 2-0 win set us for Mossley. Obviously we had Colwyn Bay after Mossley, but we didn’t want to leave it until the last game.”
Last Minute Header against Mossley to Secure Promotion
“Dave McGurk was big on set-pieces and how they can win you games. We had so many games in such a short space of time and for corners we had to do a run from the edge of the penalty box. Because of my legs were so tired, I remember going up for it and saying to Tyrone ‘we can win this here, but I can’t stand on the edge of the box mate because I won’t make the ground up’. I started on the edge of the six-yard box so I didn’t really move. The delivery from Janni Lipka was spot on and I managed to pin two players and the rest is history. The entire dugout sprinted down the wing. I think the kit-man was the fastest one out. He was faster than the players. It was fancy dress day too for the fans and there was a load of Where’s Wally’s on the far side jumping over advertising boards.
“There’s the video of the fans and players celebrating on the pitch after the game and I’m leaning against a wall with a couple of other lads. I’m purely shattered, there was nothing left. I didn’t have the energy to celebrate on the pitch. It was a bit surreal. It was one of those games where it was job done. I was brought to the club to help get it promoted. It was tough driving up and down the M62 two or three times a week. It was a massive commitment. The car school was leaving sometimes at 4pm to get to training. Because of road closures, we weren’t getting home until 11 o’clock at night. I knew the last game was going to be the last one for us as a group.”
Back to Tad and Retirement
“I toyed with retirement after Hyde. I was always honest with myself as a player and knew the level I’d play at. Throughout my career I’ve had offers to go into the Conference North or abroad, but I was happy playing at the level was at and working full-time. The night we won promotion with Hyde, the car school went out in Leeds to celebrate and I remember saying ‘I think that’s me done’. They were taken aback and they said ‘you’re 28, what are you on about’. But I said ‘I’m 28 and I can’t see my Non League career getting better than that, how am I going to top this’?
“Hyde offered me the chance to stop there by offering a new contract, but Darren knew it was hard for me because of my job. I do a lot of travelling with my job and going up a league meant more travelling so I left the club on good terms.
“I was toying with not playing, but I’m friends with Mikey Morton and Si Collins and they said ‘if travelling is a problem, why not come and sign for us? We’re trying to get promoted at Taddy and you have been here before and have a lot of friends here’. I signed for Tadcaster and I got really motivated for it as I hadn’t gained promotion with them before so I sort of felt I had unfinished business. It didn’t happen because we finished just outside the play-offs.
“It was a very stop-start season for me. I got really fit in pre-season, but then there was Sonny’s charity match which is played every pre-season. I was jogging out with a ball and I tore my calf. I was on crutches for quite a while and it took me until the end of October before I started playing. We went on a good run and we just missed out on the play-offs.”
Retiring after Scoring a Hat-Trick in Final Game (April 2019)
“I announced my retirement in the February and around April I got a promotion at work which made it really difficult to play football. In the last game of the season against Lincoln there was a slight chance we could have sneaked into the play-offs, but looking at the fixtures and results it would have taken a massive swing.
“The only club I hadn’t captained was Taddy so for my final game the goalkeeper Michael Ingham gave me the armband. That meant a lot to me. The first half was crazy. I scored a header from a corner and then got two first half penalties. I’ll never forget the second penalty and I remember laughing at Chris Howarth who went ‘you better not miss this’. I obviously scored it. It is not a bad way to bow out, but I had really mixed emotions because I was proud of the way I had gone out, but I was slightly disappointed that we hadn’t done what I wanted to do and get in the play-offs. All my close friends and family came along to watch so it was a good day all-in-all and I went home with the match ball.”
“I’ll always say never-say-never about coming back. I’ll be perfectly honest and say since lockdown and clubs have started recruiting, I’ve had about seven or eight offers to get back playing, ranging from the Conference North to NCEL Div One. I’ve also had a couple of people loosely say ‘if you want to get into coaching, give us a call’. But I don’t think the coaching or management route is for me as it is a massive commitment. Gone are the days in Non League where you play five-a-side at training and turn up on a Saturday. It is very tactical and detailed and the players are getting fitter.
“Part of the reason I was taking a step-back was because I felt my performances weren’t as good as they should be. People say ‘you’re still young’ because I retired at 29, but I’d started playing Non League at 16. I was waking up with pains in my knee too. I’ve had offers this summer saying ‘just play on a Saturday, you don’t have to train’. I don’t think that’s right. If people are paying to come and watch you play, you should give 100% whether you are being paid £10 or £200. I’m 100% or not at all. I enjoyed the training and even from a dressing room perspective I wouldn’t want to be that person who if he turns up, he plays. I don’t think that’s right.
“Since retiring I’ve been watching Leeds United and I went to a few Non League games as well. No doubt I’ll watch a few Non League games next season.”
If you have enjoyed this interview, 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.
There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.
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.