2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 18 – Saturday 11 January 2020: Salford City v Northampton Town

Matchday programme cover

A New Year and 71 days since my last game. I’d had quite a dip in mood due to a number of issues that were going on in my personal life.

I think I am a strong person, I’m 57 years old, I have been employed all my life since leaving school in 1981, I have had a mostly comfortable life financially, strangely I find myself in a similar financial position now that I did when I was 21, but that’s a whole other story. I have lots of close friends and a wonderful family, I have been healthy all my life, with the exception of sporting injuries, I was still playing football up to the lockdown.

So why would I suddenly go from being primarily happy to become so sad that I was contemplating suicide at Newark Railway station in the space of six months? That was four years ago, and I had a complete breakdown and was under the care of a psychiatrist and diagnosed as suffering from severe depression and started on a course of anti-depressants. Shortly afterwards I had a further severe dip in mood and took myself to Leeds General Infirmary as I was feeling a danger to my welfare. I never made it to the hospital, instead I walked for miles along the canal and railway line, for some reason I have a fascination with trains when I am feeling suicidal, contemplating which would be the best way to go – instantly being hit by a train, or slowly drowning. I’d heard that drowning was a calming experience once the panic was over. Also it would affect very few people, possibly the person that found me. If I got hit by a train, I knew it would pretty certain to be over, but what about the trauma it would cause the driver? So I walked and walked from Leeds City Centre to Shipley Railway station, around 18 or 19 miles, and then caught the train home to Guiseley. I’d left the house around 6am, returned home at around 3.30 pm, my ex-wife got in at around 4:30 pm. Do you know, not once did she try to contact me at any time from waking to find me not in the house to returning home at 4.30pm.

I’ve analysed a lot in the past ten years and fortunately haven’t dipped as low as that again for a long time. But at the back end of 2019 something had caused me to go into a funk, and not the James Brown type of funk either. However, the New Year was a fresh start, so I began my football journey again with added verve.

Salford City were the team I had chosen to restart my journey. A fairly new team to the higher echelons of football pyramid, with 2019/20 being their first in the Football League. They are probably best known for their takeover in 2014 by some of the ‘Class of ‘92’ from Manchester United – Ryan Giggs, the Neville Brothers – Phil and Gary, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, with David Beckham taking a stake in the club in January 2019. The Club also featured in a BBC documentary series, Class of 92: Out of their League which ran for two series. However, an abiding memory of one of the Class of ‘92 is Dennis Wise getting Nicky Butt sent off by pinching the hairs on his legs. I still find it funny to this day!

Following the takeover Salford had a meteoric rise to League Two, which saw them climb from playing in the Northern Premier League Division One North in 2014/15 to the Football League in just five years. Moor Lane has been their home ground since 1978 and is unrecognisable from those days having been substantially redeveloped and is now known as the Peninsular Stadium. Northampton Town were the visitors for my first game of 2020.

Goal-mouth action

Like my visit to York, the weather was not at its best and there were some sustained periods of torrential rain during the game. So to a brief summary of the match. The Ammies went ahead after twenty minutes when Jack Baldwin, on-loan from Sunderland, headed home Craig Conway’s corner to put Salford one-up. The lead though lasted just nine minutes, when The Cobblers levelled. Salford failed to clear the ball properly and Northampton swept the play from left to right via Nicky Adams to Sam Hoskins, who arrowed a great shot into the corner – it had a touch of the Carlos Alberto about it (circa 1970 World Cup Final – the fourth Brazil goal). Half-time, all square 1-1.

Northampton started the second-half brightly and had a couple of decent chances with Vadaine Oliver hitting the side netting, before Andy Williams went round Salford ‘keeper Kyle Letheren but was forced wide and was unable to get a shot in. Williams though made up for that just after the hour mark. The Cobblers broke from half-way and after Salford couldn’t clear the cross, the rebound dropped to Williams who volleyed it home much to the delight of the travelling Northampton fans behind the goal. Salford battled for an equaliser and created a good chance after some patient build-up with Thomas-Assante slicing the chance wide from the left edge of the six-yard box. Substitute Hunter then nearly made a name for himself as his cross caused chaos in the Town box, with ‘keeper Cornell grateful to cling on to the loose ball. He then had another effort as his curling cross was just kept out by Cornell as fellow substitute Adam Rooney just failed to get a touch that would have surely brought an equaliser. However, The Cobblers held on for a 2-1 win and three points in their promotion push.


Saturday 11 January 2020

Sky Bet League Two

Salford City 1 (Baldwin 20’) Northampton Town 2 (Hoskins 29’, Williams 63’)

Venue: Peninsular Stadium

Attendance: 2,919

Salford City: Letheren, Wiseman (Pond 86’), Hughes, Burgess, Touray, Jervis, Baldwin, Towell, Conway (Hunter 70’), Thomas-Assante, Armstrong (Rooney 70’).

Unused Substitutes: Neal, Hogan, Lloyd-McGoldrick, Doyle.

Northampton Town: Cornell, Goode, Wharton, Turnbull, Hoskins, Lines, Watson, Adams (Harriman 87’), Anderson (Warburton 77’), Williams (Roberts 90+4), Oliver

Unused Substitutes: Hall-Johnson, Pollock, Martin, Arnold.


Steve Blighton

Book Review: My Fight with Life by Leon McKenzie

Robert Enke (2009), Dale Roberts (2010), Gary Speed (2011) – three men from the world of football who in recent years took their own lives. That list has nearly been added to by ex-players such as Dean Windass and the author of My Fight with Life, Leon McKenzie, who have both attempted suicide.

From a football perspective, the book details McKenzie’s journey from making his debut and scoring as a seventeen year old for Crystal Palace in 1995 through to his last playing spell at Corby Town in 2012. McKenzie spent five years at Selhurst Park playing in the Premier League in 1997/98 season with brief loan spells at Fulham and Peterborough United, before permanently signing for The Posh in 2000. McKenzie proved to be a hit with the fans and his form in his three years at Peterborough earned him a move to Norwich City in 2003, where he was part of the side that was promoted to the Premier League. In the 2004/05 season McKenzie proved he could play at the very top level in the English game, but The Canaries were relegated on the last day of the season after capitulating 6-0 at Fulham. However, as the 2005/06 season dawned, problems on and off the field were beginning to impact on McKenzie both physically and mentally. Injuries were starting to significantly cut into his playing time, whilst his marriage was on the ropes. Against this background, McKenzie looked to make a fresh start and signed for Coventry City in 2006. Here though his playing time was again hit by a series of injuries, but he did score his 100th professional goal against previous employers Ipswich Town on the opening day of the 2008/09 season. After three years McKenzie was again on the move this time, this time to Charlton Athletic, where with injuries seemingly bringing him to a standstill and the loneliness of living away from his family, he attempted suicide in 2009. His last professional club was Northampton Town in the 2010/11 season, before short stints at Kettering Town and Corby Town.

McKenzie is forthright in his views of the managers and coaches he worked under during his playing career. These range from then Crystal Palace boss Steve Coppell who McKenzie describes as “…a great bloke and real inspiration…” to Alan Smith (whilst at Crystal Palace) and Gary Johnson (whilst at Northampton) as “…by far the two worst managers…ever encountered…” The Professional Footballers Association doesn’t escape his criticism either, as he lambasts the organisation for its slowness in addressing the issue of depression in current and ex-players.

Away from the football, McKenzie is equally direct when talking about his life whether it be his famous boxing relatives, (dad, Clinton McKenzie and uncle, Duke), his marriage break-up, his stint in prison for motoring offences, his plans for the future as a professional boxer or working for Elite Welfare Management advising players about depression. There is much to be admired in that McKenzie is so open in talking about the depression he suffered and the attempted suicide, detailing and understanding how his injuries, coming to the end of a career and the impact of his childhood and family life, brought him to that fateful date in 2009.

However, the book suffers from a numbers of errors which proof-reading should have picked up on and from a lack of editing. This book would have been better served by a linear timeline rather than chapters which jump back and forth and therefore lack fluidity for the reader. Tighter editing would also have ensured that the repetition which occurs in the book was also avoided and the bizarre change in Chapter 14 where the narrative switches from first-person to the third-person.

Ultimately though, this is a brave story and one which can give hope to people (in whatever walk of life), that out of despair can come a positive future.


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