Nick Hey’s Non League Journey

Former Bradford (Park Avenue) and Thackley player Nick Hey in action for Guiseley

We have another 1990s throwback with our latest Non League Journey with Nick Hey who long-term Bradford (Park Avenue) and Guiseley supporters will remember.

Guiseley supporters will certainly have seen his name in the past few months as his young son Lewis has signed a contract with the club after breaking into the first team following his unforgettable goal at Bolton Wanderers in the FA Youth Cup.

Highlights from Hey’s Non League Journey include:

  • Reaching the FA Cup first round 
  • Trevor Storton’s second garage 
  • Being swapped in a transfer deal for the former boyfriend of one of the stars of Girls Aloud 
  • Clive Freeman’s party trick 
  • Facing former Farsley Celtic defender Paul Stephenson in a boxing match 

This is Nick Hey’s Non League Journey: 

“You can go back to my school days for the best place to start as it is quite relevant. My best friend was Rob Storton so that was when I had my first experience of Trevor. Me and Rob practiced in the playground and he was a ‘keeper which was great as it meant I never had to go in net. I felt I was George Best because I used to dribble all the time! So that’s my first experience of football and Trevor and it goes all the way back to when I was eight. 

“I just loved playing and Trevor used to come and coach our local team – The Brewers Arms. Trevor was at Telford at the time (playing under his brother Stan) and I know they went to Wembley (in the FA Trophy) during this period. I thought it was great when he came to coach us as he had used to play for Liverpool in the Shankly era.

“I remember him once saying to the manager ‘this lad can play, he needs to go somewhere’ – meaning me. So the manager took me to Thackley. I had a chat with someone and I don’t know why I didn’t go there. I did go to Thackley later on, but not at that point. I ended up going to a team called Baildon Trinity, a grassroots club bordering on semi-pro and then Salts. Mark Murgatroyd was in charge at the time with Vinny Gott and Graham Meggitt. I scored a goal for them in a cup final at Valley Parade with my left foot. It is the best left footed goal I’ve ever scored.

“From there I started getting interested in playing semi-pro football. I played in six-a-side competition on a full-sized pitch when I was about 19 and as someone who loved to dribble, imagine what I was like on a full-sized pitch with only five opposition players. You’ll remember Dave Fell (the former Harrogate Town and Railway) manager); he came up to me afterwards and said ‘would you like to come to Farsley Celtic’? I said ‘yeah, sound’. I turned up and I saw Dean Richards, Lee Duxbury all there in the stand. I thought ‘I wonder what they are doing here’? I didn’t realise it was a pre-season game against Bradford City! I was this young 19-year-old who didn’t know anybody and had just turned up to play. Throstle Nest has such a great pitch and it is a great stadium – I’d never played in anything like that before. All of a sudden I was on the same pitch as Dean Richards and Lee Duxbury. Paul Jewell may have played in it and Frank Stapleton may have been manager. When they talk about game understanding, I didn’t have any. I was a young kid who wanted to go find a ball and go and dribble. I was playing right side of midfield as a winger and if I saw the ball on the left wing I’d want to go and get it! I’m not sure who was the right-back for Farsley, but I think Phil Sharpe played in the game. I obviously got brought off because I wasn’t ready for that level and didn’t understand the game at all. 

The 1994/95 Thackley team
The teams for the 1995 Bradford and District FA Senior Cup Final

“I ended up at Thackley under Mick Wood. Mick Wood was the manager and he’d had a pretty successful career with Colne and then there was the other Mick Wood who was the coach. He worked for Bradford Council. I signed there after a few training sessions and it was the first time I was paid for playing. That was an unbelievable experience – just for getting paid to play football. There were good players at Thackley. Stuart Taylor seemed to score in every game. He was a big name then. I was still very slight and I remember playing against Colin Hogarth in a cup game around the time Guiseley were doing well in the 1990s. I was competing at a good level, but I wasn’t having much impact on a game. Playing at Thackley was a good experience. It is a good family club. I played again at Valley Parade in a District Cup Final which was good. Stuart scored again in that one.”

Bradford (Park Avenue) – (1996-1999)

Nick Hey in action against Gretna during his time with Avenue

“Out of the blue, Rob, Trevor’s lad, rang up and said ‘do you fancy going to Park Avenue for a training session, my dad is short of a few players and needs to prepare for the next game’? I said ‘sound, I’m always up for a kick-a-bout’. I went up and must have done fairly well because Trevor phoned me up after. They had such good players like Wayne Benn, Clive Freeman, David Blair, Steve Ball, Tony Brown, Kevin Megson and Joe Richardson – I mention put him as he’s still a great friend of mine! There were some great lads, I could go on. They were all class on-and-off-the-pitch.

“Anyway I went home and Trevor phoned me up to say he wanted to sign me and i had two spells – one in the 1996/97 season and another in the 1998/99 season and the start of the 1999/00 season. Obviously the standard was very good, but I had a very real sense of belonging and I think everyone you speak to at Bradford (Park Avenue), that is very evident. It is a great place to play. You remember (supporter) Ronnie and the comments he’d make like ‘come on Avenue’ all the time. He had a real love for the club and that was evident in everyone involved in the club. It was just a special place.

“I remember my first start which was at Whitley Bay (1996/97) and we had a pre-match meal in a pub on the way there. It was all new to me, but I was loving it and Trevor told me on the bus that I was starting. (Storton’s original assistant) Bobby Barr, who was very loud, kept shouting ‘starting position, Nicky, starting position’. By now I was starting to understand the tactical side of the game, I didn’t do as much running about as I used to do.

Hey scoring for Avenue at Farsley Celtic, past goalkeeper Paul Allen – another former Avenue player
Hey’s best season was the 1998/99 campaign
The 1998/99 Avenue side

“I brought Damian Lee to Avenue after he’d just been released from Bradford City. I played five-a-side with him and he told me about his history. I said to Trevor ‘Damo is decent, you need to see him’. Damo bought a car off the garage where my wife worked – it was a Ford Ka, a little thing – and we went to training in it and he was outstanding. He had a great strike on him and he was a great character. He even got offered the chance to go to Lincoln on trial, but he didn’t go. He liked to be around his mates. I still see him every now and then.

“My best season was the 1998/99 – the one with Chris Brandon who went onto play pro with Huddersfield Town and a few other clubs – as I was one of the top goal-scorers. I remember scoring from the halfway line at Witton and I can’t remember anyone coming into the team who was a bad influence. Clive Freeman always had a trick up his sleeve when we went out. Whitley Bay was my first start and also one of my fondest memories from a night out. Clive used to throw a bottle of beer in the air and catch it in his neck – that was his party trick!”

Trevor Storton 

“You couldn’t wait to get to training or games under Trevor. Trevor was the biggest prankster out there. He was funny and he brought everyone together, no matter where you came from (level of football). Trevor lived in the same village as me so we did travel together a lot and I remember coming back from a game at Frickley once and him saying ‘that Joe (Richardson) is a great player, but he’s one pace, he can’t change speed’. It was the way he told you stuff that made you smile and laugh. He’d take the mickey out of everyone and he loved Joe and everybody else. We all loved him and everyone who knew him well can imagine him saying stuff like that. He wasn’t being rude, it was just a p*ss-take. 

“He was just a funny guy and he’d say ‘come on Joe, quicken it up’ when we’d running around the running track at Horsfall. He’d be joking, but Joe would always get paired with Blairy (David Blair). Now Blairy was really quick and in fact his lad is one of the top sprinters in Australia so you can imagine Blairy in training. 

“Trevor once came up to me at one game and said ‘if anyone comes up to you after the game, tell them you’re 21’. I may have been 26 at the time. I said ‘why’s that’? He said ‘just tell them you’re 21’. Nobody did come up to me so a few weeks later I asked what it was all about. He said ‘Bury had come to the game and were interested in you and they wanted to know how old you were, but you‘re too old so I told them you’re 21 because I thought it was an opportunity to get some money for you’! I’m sure they would have found out at some point! I was a young looking kid, but that was taking the p**s.

“Trevor used to sell football boots, football gear and he’d come to training and open his boot up with all of it in. I used to buy stuff off him and then try and sell them at where I was working at the Bradford & Bingley. He was like a Del Boy! Trevor was a real hands-on guy and he built a second garage round the back of his house in addition to the one he had. Sort of like his man cave and it was right secluded! That’s where all his gear was kept. He’d say ‘Nick, Nick, come and have a look at these’ so he’d invite me round to his house and I’d come out with loads of boxes of things to sell at work. Trevor was always up for a deal! 

“Trevor was a really good guy, but he always knew what he needed to get Avenue promoted. When Martin Pemberton (Kimberley Walsh’s ex-boyfriend) came available at Harrogate Town (in October 1999), Avenue paid money for Pembo and I had went in the opposite direction. Pembo was a class player. It is not something I wanted to do because I was loving my time at Avenue. I remember walking up to the changing room and Trevor saying ‘Nick, I know you’re not happy, but don’t be messing this up’. He just wanted that deal over the line. It didn’t alter my feelings for Trevor and I didn’t put up a fight because I knew what an asset Pembo was going to be the team. So I ended up going to Harrogate who were managed by Dave Fell and Willy was there so it was quite entertaining. But my heart wasn’t really in it. I didn’t like the travelling over there. There were some nice lads like Dave Merris, but it didn’t have that family atmosphere like Avenue had.”

Willy (Mark Wilson)

Hey played a key role in one of Mark ‘Willy’ Wilson’s greatest goals

“Harrogate was the first time I met Willy, but he was left not long after I signed for Harrogate (due to being sacked for gross misconduct for setting himself on fire on the team coach). I played with him years later in veterans football. The vets was great and I seemed to have more influence in the vets than any other level. There’s some good players in it like Simon Parke, Dean Calcutt and Willy. We played at St Georges Park for Whetley Park and Willy scored a brilliant goal which is on video. Willy is such a great guy and I may have played with at Stanley Road (Dave Fell’s Sunday side) as well.” 


Hey in action for Thackley in his second spell

“I did the rest of the 1999/00 season with Harrogate Town and then I went to Thackley where I played Andy Patterson who was the manager of them a few years ago. We had a great partnership. I played upfront then and I scored quite a few goals. You play with some players and you know where they are on the field – Andy was one of them. We had a great understanding. 

“Out of nowhere Phil Sharpe phoned me up. He was Guiseley’s assistant manager with Clive and Pars (Neil Parsley) who was the manager. He said ‘Pars has been to see a game at Thackley and he really likes how you play and he’d like you to come and have a chat’. After training he offered me a wage which was ‘yes definitely’. It was the most money I’d ever been on for playing football.”


In action for Guiseley

“We had a really good mix of youth and experience. Mark Stuart who had been at Rochdale, Charlton and Plymouth, a great player who you can see had a great calibre. Simon Trevitt and then we had young players like Ryan Senior – a great player who for a young kid was unplayable at times. That period with Guiseley was another great family experience. It was the closest environment I’ve come to what we had at Avenue.

“We had a great FA Cup run (in 2002) where we reached the FA Cup first round proper. I remember us beating Guisborough after a replay (in the second qualifying round). The game at their place finished 3-3 and I crossed it in for Mark Stuart to equalise. Then we played Altrincham and beat them and then we drew Tamworth who were flying. They were on the verge of getting to the Conference and they got to the FA Trophy final. Steve Walsh, the ex-Leicester City centre-half played for them. The game at our place finished 3-3 and after the game the draw was made on TV for the first round. It came up ‘Luton Town versus Tamworth or Guiseley’. Everybody was cheering because whoever won the replay got to play Kenilworth Road – a ground with a lot of history with great players like Mick Halford and Ricky Hill playing there over the years.

“I heard some of the Tamworth supporters ‘I’m going to book an hotel for Luton’ so they thought they were through. We went down there on a Tuesday night, but because I was injured I was in the dugout with Pars. It was one of the most one-sided games I’ve ever witnessed. not in our favour, but we came away with a 3-2 win. 

“This is one of most memorable footballing moments because I was so excited about going to Kenilworth Road. I worked so hard to get fit for it. I’d done some knee ligament damage and I had about four weeks to get fit. I just about got fit and got on the bench. I didn’t get on, but to be there on the bench and to warm up at Kenilworth Road in an FA Cup game was just phenomenal. Matthew Spring who went to Leeds, he scored after 40 seconds for Luton! We thought ‘this is going to be a long day’! Fair play to the lads like Mark Stuart, Clive, James Nettleton – who was a great centre-half – it ended in a respectable score of 4-0.”

End of Non League road 

“I went to clubs like Brighouse Town and Silsden after Guiseley. But my heart wasn’t in it and I was getting older. My decision-making was slow so things fizzled out. I kind of regret going to those clubs, Silsden in particular. They deserved better rather than me going and trying to make something when the young kids were the main driving force behind Silsden. That was it in regards playing, other than the vets.”

Boxing Match against Paul Stephenson 

“We did a charity Boxing match at Leeds Arena a couple of Christmases ago and I boxed Paul Stephenson. I beat him! Stevo’s a fireman and we’re both pretty fit and we had a good fight. That was a massive experience for me. I’m a big believer in Brene Brown who talks about don’t fear failure and I’m massive into coaching and sports psychology. With my kids it is all about ‘have the courage to go try things and put yourself in the arena, go experience things’. So when this event came up, boxing at the Leeds Arena in front of thousands of fire-fighters on Mad Friday, I told my lad who said ‘are you doing it then’? I was like ‘I haven’t thought about it’. He said ‘come on dad, you tell us about being in the arena and taking yourself out of your comfort zone’. That basically forced me to do it so I did. 

“It was a great contest with Stevo in front of thousands of people. It was awesome and it is a fond memory. I bumped into someone who had known Stevo for years and I told him I was fighting him and he said ‘all the best, I wouldn’t want to be you’. I was thinking ‘oh my god’. Anyway I was fit and my jab was half-decent. He had a black eye after it, put it that way’.”

Lewis Hey 

Nick Hey’s son Lewis who is thriving at Guiseley

“Alan Nevison who I’ve known for a long time, used to play at Thackley and worked at Manchester United with one of their youth teams came to Bradford City as head of youth coaching and he asked me to help coach at a development centre. 

“Lewis was playing for a grassroots club at the time. I didn’t get involved with that because I wanted him to go and experience playing football and without any influence from me. When I did go and watch him, he had something about him. Left-footed, had good energy and was fit. 

“He ended up at Bradford in their academy. I didn’t take his team but I went to watch him a lot. I didn’t get involved in the football as a coach but I’m interested in the sports psychology side of things. When he joined Bradford, he had confidence but feared failure so I started reading up more about sports psychology. 

“Lewis went to play against Liverpool’s academy and he scored a great goal. Jamie Carragher’s lad was playing in the same game and Carragher was on the side of the pitch. The goalkeeper went to clear it but it didn’t go far enough and Lewis lobbed him from 40 yards. For him to beat the ‘keeper with that kind of technique at that age from that distance was quite an achievement. He didn’t celebrate at all so I asked him why and he said ‘oh I was playing rubbish’. So, he had some inner strength with his own ability, but if he felt he was playing poorly he was very self-critical so I knew he needed some support. 

“John Wooden, the philosopher, created The Pyramid of Success and it is all about how you define success with the cornerstones of success being hard work and enthusiasm and also includes things such as friendship and loyalty. As a family we defined success on the pyramid. The stats around players receiving scholarships at 16 after they get signed at under 9s wasn’t high so I knew at some point it was fairly inevitable he was going to get released from Bradford. I wanted to prepare him for that should that happen. 

“He was at Bradford for over a decade, but unfortunately when scholarships were given out, we were told Edin Rahic (former city chairman) had changed club policy, they were now going to offer scholarships to category one and two players that were being released from those types of clubs (for example Man City and Man United) and Lewis would miss out. Bradford were a category three so he didn’t get one which was difficult. But it was a great place for him to develop. Martin Drury and Michael Collins who went to be in charge of the first team had a massive influence on him. 

“He went onto sign for Guiseley’s scholarship under Dave Currie and he’s had some unbelievable experiences, particular since the summer. He went to Ilkley Town in pre-season. They’re a great club who are going on to great things. They’re a club to keep an eye on. 

“He then got drafted into Guiseley’s first team training. Russ (O’Neill) and Marcus’ (Bignot’s) training sessions are so intense and really aggressive and that has helped bring his game to a different level. That led to his first start in the first team.  

“It is funny because he went down to Milton Keynes to do his driving lessons because his uncle is a driving instructor and the plan was for him to stay down there all week. Because he got picked for the first team, I had to drive down there to take him to Boston where he played against Paul Green – the ex-Doncaster midfielder – and I thought it was incredible he was playing against him.  

“I brought him home after and took him to Bolton the next night in the Youth Cup first round proper where he scored – that was a great night as Guiseley also won. I then had to take him back to Milton Keynes for his driving lesson and then come home. It might have been a 500-mile round trip! I had to do it so he got these opportunities. After all this he also won the National League academy young player of the month award. 

“Great things have happened since he was released from Bradford City. A few weeks ago, he was on trial at Sunderland and at 17 he was playing with their under 23s. He’s been down to Brentford recently and he played for Brentford B against Chelsea under 23s and he set a goal up as well.  In the last week he signed a contract with Guiseley which is great news. 

“It is all great experience and because of his experience of getting release from Bradford and the John Wooden Pyramid of Success he is able to deal with the reaction to adversity in a positive way. He has seen the disappointments as experiences and moved on. Good luck to the lad.” 

If you have enjoyed reading Non League Yorkshire over the past few months, 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. When we properly return to ‘action’, 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.

We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.

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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