Top scorer with 31 league goals as Guisborough Town were promoted back to the Northern League’s top flight, local lad and Guisborough captain Dave Onions will be writing a monthly column throughout the season. Here’s the first, in conversation with Andy Hudson:
Last season was absolutely great for me and for Guisborough Town. I’ve been involved in non-league football for about 11 years and by far it was my most enjoyable year. We had a great set of lads who had all returned from the season before and our main aim at the start was promotion; we wanted to have a great big push at that. The season before we had just missed out by a couple of points, so we thought that going up would be our main aim. We had a great start and then never dropped out of the top two all season. We then topped it all off by winning the North Riding Cup as well. All-in-all, looking back, it was just one of those seasons that probably won’t happen again for a long time; it was definitely my best season in football, both on the pitch and off it.
The players were the best group of lads that I’ve worked with in football. The banter that we’ve had has been superb. We’re all in it together and that showed throughout the season with the amount of last minute goals we scored. There was the Newton Aycliffe game where we thought we were going to get beat and then we came up with the two late goals to win the three points. That was all down to the lads and the belief we have as a team.
A lot of the success has been down to our manager, Chris Hardy, and if you look at the team you see that Chris has put us together. Chris came in three years ago and he’s built this squad. The majority of us have been together for two and a half years now and the improvements have been down to the belief that Chris has in us as players. I’m 29 and it has only been over the past season that he’s brought in other players of a similar age; the rest of the lads are 19, 20 or 21 years old. We’ve got a young team that Chris has belief in and that the team also believe in each other. Off the pitch we all like to get together socially and have a good laugh. Whenever we have an end of season do, or a Christmas do, we always have the full set of lads together.
I tend to have a bit of time off during pre-season and this year I’ve been on holiday with my two girls and my wife. Having gone all-inclusive I’ve put a few pounds on here and there! With me getting a bit older now I have to watch what I eat and drink during the off-season; when I was a bit younger it was easier to just go for it. We’ve been back for two weeks now and most of the lads kept themselves in shape and looked after themselves in some capacity. Chris has done something a bit different over the past two pre-seasons and when we’ve had the month off we’ve been given a programme to complete so many runs a week. We started with two runs a week and increased from there with each run increasing from 2 miles to 3 miles to 4 miles and so on. Even though we’re on a break we do try and keep our fitness ticking over. We’ve returned to the club for pre-season training and Chris expected us to have done our bit. With us having a bit of stamina we’ve been able to get the balls out, look at tactics, doing short, sharp stuff and we’ve trained on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
We played our first pre-season game last Wednesday against Thornaby Dubliners. It was a bit of a scrappy game on a small pitch but it allowed us to blow the cobwebs off. We then went down to Thornaby and played on a lovely pitch, the best I’ve seen the pitch there for a long time, and we had a good run about. We got a good 90 minutes under the belt again, we passed the ball around well and got a good win so it’s all looking positive so far going into our first game in the Northern League First Division. We’ve got another game at Wolviston coming up before a few more games including one against Consett which will be a good test for us as they are in the first division; it’ll let us see how far we’ve come as they will be aiming for a top five finish this season I would think. If we can keep getting positive results that we can take that positivity into the first game of the season against Newcastle Benfield at our place. It’ll be a hard game but we have to go in looking for the win.
I played in the First Division for Billingham Town when I was 17 years old so I have some experience at that level. I was on and off the bench playing in a team with the likes of Carl Chillingsworth, Paul Rowntree ‘Jellies’ and Jamie Clarke – playing with three great forward at that level and I was watching them in awe at times to be honest. I went through a little spell where I scored a few goals but since then I’ve played in the second division. Now I’m going back to the first division as captain of my home town team.
I think it’ll be hard to adjust as it’s a completely different game up in that division, especially with the top teams and the amount of money they have and the players there; there’s some real quality in the Northern League and it’ll be a good test for us. But we’ll see how it goes and we’ll see how we’re doing come Christmas. This season is all about stability and trying to build to be honest.
Losing players will always be a worry for us but then it would be more of a worry if we stayed down in the second division. A lot of the lads were looking to progress through to the first division and now that we’re there there’s no reason why they can’t get and enjoy that experience with us. Now that we’re in that division there’s no reason for those lads to move elsewhere. We’ve got the foundations here, Guisborough are a good club and we’re looking on the up so as long as we can keep on getting results and keep away from that relegation zone, so long as we can keep enjoying it then I hope the rest of the lads will want to stay here.
I think a lot of people are writing us off straightaway and saying that we’ll go straight back down. But I think we’ll surprise a lot of people. We’ll pass the ball and first division pitches will suit us for knocking the ball around. I think we’ll get a few shock results and finish in midtable. If we do get there then I’ll be over the moon and I’m sure the manager and chairman will be likewise. Spennymoor, Whitley Bay, Dunston and Newcastle Benfield will be the four to watch next season. I’m certainly looking forward to going to those grounds.
I’m looking to test myself against the top defenders in the north-east. I’ve played in the second division for nine years and always been amongst the top three or four goalscorers every year and now it’s a chance to test myself against better players in a better division. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can put the ball in the back of the net as regularly as I have done over the past few seasons. That’ll be a good test. It’ll also be good to see what my fitness levels are like; I’m 30 in January so it’s going to be good to see if I can still kick it with some of the younger lads around who have ability.
You can also follow Dave on twitter here.