Northern Leagues United Pen Pics #12

Ace photographer, friend of Frank Bruno, podcast host, financial services guru and Tottenham Hotspur fan (though possibly not in that exact order), Gareth Johnson will be lining up as part of the Northern League Fans’ side on July 9th after a touchline conversion at Birtley Town (and a promise that he really, really, really won’t have to go in goal). You can see more of Gareth’s camera work here or follow him on twitter.

Position(s): Why limit yourself to one place on the field? I’m everywhere and nowhere (a bit like Steven Gerrard). Last seen keeping goal at St James’ Park.

Teams played for: I have played across the North East for local sides and corporate teams. I once played in the Sunderland Sunday League for a team called the Buffs. They weren’t naked or anything but I couldn’t understand the language so I had to leave. Later rumours that I only got a game because my uncle was the coach are, of course, completely and utterly true.

Career highlight: Strolling out at St James’ Park twice. I was the second smallest goalkeeper to play there since Shay Given was at the club. Despite looking like a kid in nets, I managed to only concede one in my first game there (it was offside!) and kept a clean sheet the second time round. The highlight was tipping a rasping shot onto the post!

Player or team you’ve modelled your game on: To answer this question would be to admit I have “a game”. I haven’t. Copied Eric Cantona in quitting while I was at the top, which is why my last competitive game was when I was 11.

Joining Gareth in the Fans’ squad is Jak Penny, tough-tackling full-back and author of the excellent Sunday Sidelines blog (which will be seeing a few dozen extra hits on the (late) morning of July 10th). Jak is also on twitter here.

Position(s): Full back, right or left. Can also do a job at wing back and wide midfield although skills aren’t exactly my forte. I’m all about direct running and tackling with force.

Teams played for: Chester le Street Osborne, Easy Street FC and, currently, Red Lion FC. All in the Durham and District Sunday League.

Career highlight: Winning the league and cup double with Easy Street in our first season. Lost only three games and stormed to the Division Four title, beating Osborne (who I left in acrimonious circumstances) 2-1 in the final of the Deerness Driveways Cup.

Players or team you’ve modelled your game on: Might not be a popular choice but Gary Neville. Despite being one of the most hated footballers outside of Manchester, his desire, determination and drive are things I’ve always admired.

Completing the trio of fans is Mark Gray, a Dunston UTS supporter who’s previously turned out in the Northern League for Esh Winning FC. Once signed by none other than Terry (Terry, Terry, Terry) Hibbert (on the wing, on the wing) as Gateshead’s back-up goalkeeper, Mark played in a reserve side managed by current Middlesbrough Academy boss Dave Parnaby. Like Pele, he’s been lured out of retirement by the chance of playing in an all-star XI. The similarities probably end there.

Position(s): Anywhere.

Teams played for: Gateshead (reserves), Esh Winning and most of the Gateshead and District League!

Career highlight: Winning the league on Pro Evolution Soccer.

Players you’ve modelled your game on: In recent years, Mike Hooper, Razor Ruddock, Jan Molby and Mickey Quinn.

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