During Christmas Paul and I had been messaging about going to games over the period and in the New Year. I was still in a lull mood wise over the Festive period and one of the things I do is avoid social contact, although this is hard being quite a social character. The dip had happened whilst I had been at work, and I was avoiding after work gatherings or planned lunches. At one point I remember bursting into tears in the middle of the office talking to a good friend about an evening out she was arranging, with a number of friends from an old team that I had worked with for many years, but had disbanded after delivering a programme of business change work. Re-reading through old messages from friends over this period, I think I must have been missing a number of engagements on purpose. I had forced myself to go to the Salford City game, but it is the one game of the journey I have very little memory of, in fact the only recollection is a group of Scandinavian fans standing behind me. They were having a good time and starting up some chants, with the rest of the crowd joining in. The Scandinavians giggled at this and talked excitedly to each other in their own tongue, I can only assume that they were taking the mickey a bit, but it was quite amusing listening to them.
At the beginning of January Paul contacted me again and invited me to a game at Brentford, being one of their last at their Griffin Park stadium, but more of that epic day later. We made arrangements for the Brentford game and had other footballing discussions and he suggested we went to the Guiseley versus Darlington game at Nethermoor Park. I lived in Guiseley for nine years but never visited the football ground, these were pretty barren years in terms of going to games, I’d get to the odd Chelsea away game and a trip to Stenhousemuir but not to the level I used to. I had previously walked past Nethermoor Park on my way to the pub (The Station, a nice little meeting place as it’s close to the railway station as its name suggests) to watch football on Sky for the Chelsea games, not only a part time supporter but a part time football fan – sacrilege! Darlington of course are a former league side and shall no doubt feature at some point in this journey being northern and closer to home.
We met up in the Guiseley clubhouse which doubles up with the cricket club in the summer. Now I must admit I have walked a few laps of that cricket field, especially when I was feeling down. On arrival, Paul was his ever ebullient self and had been chatting with the locals and the visiting fans and officials. We got talking about how my journey had been going since we last met, which to be honest was terrible – I had been to just four games since going to Halifax with him in early October. “You’re going to have to change your strategy young man!” he said, rather Brian Clough like. We talked about visiting lower league games all the way down to tier 10, which is where the likes of Darwen and Nelson ply their trade and not necessarily to clubs that have been members of the top four tiers. To my list of new teams to visit, I added FA Cup winners, including teams still going such as Old Etonians and Wanderers – more of them later in the journey. Whilst watching the game we chatted to a number of home and away supporters and had some very interesting conversations about the demise of Darlington, unfortunately another sad story of fiscal mismanagement. I was addicted to going to football again, especially night games, thank you so much Paul!
Given the time of year it was no surprise that it was a windy and damp night under the lights of Nethermoor Park. My thanks to the Guiseley website for the following match report:
The visitors got off to the best possible start as the Lions conceded an early goal for the second game in succession with five minutes gone. The penalty resulted from Marcus Dewhurst diving at full stretch and pushing the ball away with both hands but also took out his opponent in the process and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. From the resulting penalty Adam Campbell put it straight down the middle as Marcus Dewhurst dived to his right. Not that it took the home side long to level things up with a brilliant solo effort from the in-form Kaine Felix who skipped past two defenders, was nearly felled but still kept his composure to beat Christopher Elliott from close in seven minutes later. A great touch from Aaron Martin shortly after saw him create room for himself but his shot was charged down. With both sides playing at a high intensity this absorbing contest took another twist midway through the half as Guiseley gave Hatfield far too much room and his sweet shot from 25 yards out found the bottom corner. This briefly took the wind out of the home sides sales, but the second half saw them launch a series of early attacks and force several corners which they couldn’t capitalize on. Prince Ekpolo replaced Andrai Jones to make his home debut as Guiseley looked for an alternative way to open up the Darlington defence as Lee Shaw and Dylan Barkers also joined the fray replacing Aram Soleman and Kennedy Digie respectively. But despite the three substitutions and near misses from Martin, Gabriel Johnson, Hamza Bencherif, Shaw and Felix and aided by some desperate defending at times, Darlington hung on to maintain their slender advantage.
footballbookreviews (FBR): What were you like at school? Were you academic, sporting or both?
Adam Priestley (AP): I was never the most academic at school, but I never failed in class. I would say I was the ‘middle of the road’ academically. I was always really sporting. I would take part in any sporting activity I could. I think my PE teachers probably got sick of me knocking on the door asking when the next fixture for my year group was.
FBR: Did you play up front in your academy stints at York City and Leeds United?
AP: When I was at Leeds I was a midfielder, but I was so young I don’t think I really had a set position I just played wherever I was told to play. When I was at York I was a striker – very raw though, due to not having much coaching throughout my career at the age of 13.
FBR: What are your memories of playing for Sherburn White Rose?
AP: All my memories of playing with Sherburn are great memories. I still visit the club now all the time as a lot of my close friends still play for them. If I sat here and talked about all my memories we could be here an awfully long time. I only have good things to say about the club and I hope to see them succeed on all levels.
FBR: How did the move to Garforth Town come about?
AP: The move to Garforth came on the back of a really successful season for me at Sherburn. I had scored 44 goals in 42 games in all competitions and I felt it was the right time to leave Sherburn and look for a fresh challenge playing higher up the footballing pyramid. I spoke to a few clubs and they invited me down to train with them on trial. Garforth held an open trial day in Leeds which I attended and was invited back to train with the first team squad for preseason. Then after doing the whole of preseason with them the manager said he wanted to talk to me and asked me to sign and it went from there really.
FBR: What were your highlights from your time there?
AP: My own personal highlight would be scoring the goal that secured the last play-off spot on the final day of the 2011-12 season. Unfortunately we were beaten on penalties in the semi-final.
FBR: The 2011/12 season at Garforth was a terrific one for the club, but ended with that loss in the play-offs and the summer seeing turmoil at the club off the pitch. Were the players aware at any stage during that season that something was amiss?
AP: At no point did I have any idea anything was wrong off the pitch. As far as I am aware nor did any of the others players and if they did then they kept it hidden well and they shouldn’t have kept it from the other players. It was a shame really, because we had such a good side down there that had the potential to achieve a lot, but these things happen in football and you have to look forward and look for new challenges.
FBR: What is your view of artificial pitches bearing in mind the knee injury you suffered whilst at Garforth?
AP: I don’t mind artificial pitches. I think if it means less games being cancelled then they’re good for the game. In terms of injuries I feel that you’re just as likely to get injured playing on grass as you are on artificial pitches. People will have different views to myself I know that, but if you get injured in an unfortunate event that could happen anytime. I prefer playing on grass but I’m certainly not against artificial pitches being used.
FBR: How did the move to Farsley AFC come about?
AP: One of the players I played at Garforth with had moved to Farsley and when he learnt about the happenings at Garforth he contacted me. He said he was going to speak to the manager at Farsley as he was aware they were looking for a striker, so he would let them know I was interested in a move. From there I spoke to the manager and assistant manager and I chose to move there over other clubs that were interested.
FBR: 2012/13 was an incredibly successful season for you; did you consider staying at Farsley for the following season?
AP: Leaving Farsley never crossed my mind really. There had been interest from clubs higher up during the season and I chose to stay at Farsley because I was enjoying my football there. Then when the season had finished I got calls from two teams in the Conference and it was too good to turn down the chance to go on trial at those clubs. So I spoke to Farsley and told them about the interest and they said they wouldn’t tell me to turn down a great opportunity, but they would have to look for other players to replace me in case I didn’t return. Things didn’t work out on those trials and then I went to Guiseley AFC on trial and the manager told me he wanted to sign me so I signed. I didn’t expect to leave Farsley, but due to offers from clubs higher up I chose to leave as I wanted to progress in my career.
FBR: How do you reflect on your time at Guiseley? Was it a case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’?
AP: You could say it was ‘wrong place wrong time’ with the manager being under a lot of pressure to achieve similar to what he had done previously. However, I also know that in my time there I didn’t perform up to the standard needed and the standards I expected of myself. For the manager to get sacked after six games made things tougher, because it meant a new manager who will have wanted to bring in his own players.
FBR: Do you have any regrets about moving there?
AP: I wouldn’t say I regret going to Guiseley, because I feel I learnt a lot about football and a lot about myself in my short time there. Nevertheless you have to live with the decisions you make and for me it turned out to be a bad decision that I had to learn from.
FBR: Was it an easy decision to return to Farsley?
AP: After speaking to the new manager at Guiseley he told me I was in his plans, but he could guarantee me sufficient game time so I told him I would like to leave the club. He told me that he could help me find a club if I wanted his help, but I knew that the only place I wanted to go was back to Farsley so I made the call to find myself a club. I spoke to the manager and assistant manager and within no time at all I was a Farsley player again. I had calls from other clubs higher up, but I knew where I wanted to be.
FBR: What was it like getting the call-up and then representing Gibraltar? Has this feeling altered as you’ve played in subsequent games?
AP: Any game for your country is a massive occasion. I feel so honoured to have been selected for all the squads so far and if I am selected for any in the future this feeling will not change. It is a feeling that is hard to describe really because it’s such a big thing for me but it’s a feeling that I would never change and I hope it can continue.
FBR: If selected for the Germany game, will this have a different feel to it?
AP: It’s hard to say really until you get there and start training and get on the pitch. Obviously it’s not every day you get to play the world champions, but we need to see it as another game for our country in which we need to go out and make our country proud like we do every time we play.
FBR: You said you ‘need to see it as just another game’, but is that possible knowing who the opponents are and that there will a huge television audience and associated media attention?
AP: Personally I don’t think about the media attention on the game. We’re all there to do a job which is to play football. Whether it is against the world champions or other minnows we need to make we take it as another game and do our job rather than focus on the less important things.
FBR: In your quieter moments during the day does your mind wander to think about that game – do you have a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ moment when you think about scoring against the world champions?
AP: Thinking about scoring against the world champions seems crazy, but if selected then it’s something that could potentially happen, but right now it’s not something I think about
FBR: Do you know if any Farsley AFC fans will make the trip to Germany?
AP: It would be nice if some fans could make the trip to the Germany game, but we know no matter what they will do us proud and make some noise for us.
FBR: Will your family and friends make the trip?
AP: I don’t think any of my family will make the trips,but there are a few friends who may make the trip if I get selected. They came to Ireland and hope to make as many games as possible.
FBR: Do you get nervous playing before games (club or international)?
AP: I don’t really get nervous before football games at all. Occasionally I might get butterflies on the way to a big game but that goes right away once the warm up begins
FBR: Do you think you’ll be nervous on the night of the Germany game?
AP: As said before I doubt I’ll be nervous the night before the Germany game, but in the coach to the stadium there might be some butterflies, but as soon as the warm up starts the focus is on the game and the job at hand and nerves quickly go
FBR: Do you have any pre-match rituals/habits that you follow?
AP: Pre-match rituals I have are to put my left things on first. So my left sock then my right – followed by my left boot then right boot and then left shin pad before my right shin pad. Other than that nothing.
FBR: Do you prepare any differently for internationals – i.e. your dietary regime or mental preparation?
AP: When away with Gibraltar we have our nutritionist who sorts all the team meals out so my diet is slightly different but other than that I’ll prepare for the games in the same way.
FBR: Who would you swap shirts with against Germany?
AP: I will swap with any German player as they are all great players but any of the world cup winners will be good.
FBR: Has playing international football brought greater pressure playing at Farsley?
AP: I don’t think that it’s brought any greater pressure, but I know that my club will always demand the best from me and they know what I can do. So if I am underperforming then they will drop me like any other player. That’s how it has to be.
I don’t put any extra pressure on myself because I don’t believe in putting pressure on myself. I do demand the best from myself at all times though but that hasn’t changed from a young age with me as I’ve always strived to achieve the best I possibly can.
FBR: How do you think opponents view you now you are an international?
AP: I don’t know if opponents take me any differently because of me playing for Gibraltar.
FBR: From Allen Bula (Gibraltar national manager) and the squad’s perspective, what is the target for Gibraltar in the qualifiers?
AP: We’re not here just to make the numbers up. We’re in this to compete as much as we can. The group is hugely difficult though, but we have to take one game at a time and see how well we can do and hopefully we can get some positive results.
FBR: What is your personal goal for the qualifiers?
AP: Personally if I can get into as many squads as possible throughout the campaign and then hopefully get as much game time as possible I would be happy. It would also be nice to get a goal or two.
FBR: Have you watched club football in Gibraltar? What is the standard like?
AP: I haven’t watched any of the league games in Gibraltar, but obviously I’ve played with a lot of players that play in the league there in the national team, so I know the standard is good and that there are a lot of good players.
FBR: Would you consider playing in Gibraltar?
AP: I would never rule out playing in Gibraltar or anywhere abroad. It would be difficult though as I have a good job and enjoy what I do, so to leave it all would be a big decision, but as I said I would never rule it out if I felt it was the right decision.
FBR: What prompted you to take up teaching?
AP: I always said when I was younger that I wanted to be a teacher if I wasn’t a footballer and then the opportunity came up to work as a Teaching Assistant and I’ve worked my way up from there.
FBR: Can you compare the satisfaction gained in teaching to football?
AP: It’s hard to compare anything to playing for your country right now. The feeling in indescribable. I love teaching and really enjoy my job but it’s hard to compare the two when they are so different.
FBR: How do you manage the commitments of playing and teaching?
AP: I have no choice but to manage them alongside each other and it’s what I’ve become used to really, so it’s just the norm for me to manage my life that’s a little bit of a rollercoaster.
FBR: What’s your routine when teaching at Morley and playing for Farsley?
AP: As I said before you learn to get into a routine with them all and when you need to fit things in around work and playing football, but it’s what I’m used to now.
FBR: How does this differ when playing for Gibraltar?
AP: When I play for Gibraltar it can be difficult at times, but I keep in contact with people at work to ensure I keep up to date with anything that’s going on and arranging fixtures etc.
FBR: In five years time what is Adam Priestley doing?
AP: Who knows what I’ll be doing. Hopefully I’ll still be involved in the Gibraltar squad and I can make positive strides in my career whether that be stepping into the professional game or whether that be in my profession of teaching, but you never know what might happen in life. Let’s see!