Since joining Bishop Auckland from Wearside League side Hartlepool FC in 2008 Peter Jeffries has become one of the most highly rated goalkeepers in either division of the Northern League. After a clean sweep in the Two Blues’ end-of-season awards – winning the Players’, Supporters’, Management Team’s and even the Website’s Player of the Year – injury has ruled Peter out of this season’s opening games. While he’s got free time on his hands instead of goalkeeping gloves, Viva Northern League took the opportunity to grab a few words.
I’ve introduced you as one of the Northern League’s most highly rated keepers but your Twitter bio lists you as an “Advanced scaffolder and full-on hunk”. A man of many talents?
With my dad, brother and uncle being scaffolders I have to be good to avoid being the runt of the family. I wouldn’t say my looks were a talent – I was just blessed with them and I pull it off really well!
You had a five-minute cameo at centre forward for Bishops. Were you always a goalkeeper or were you a frustrated striker when you were growing up?
I always wanted to play in goal from about the age of nine but my dad wouldn’t let me so I usually played centre midfield or up front. I ended up in goal when I was 18 for the Sunday morning team I was playing for at the time and I’ve been stuck their ever since, though I like to play out now and then. I miss that side of the game; playing in goal can be frustrating as it’s much harder to influence a game.
Who were your heroes when you were a kid?
Being a Leeds fan, my favourite keeper as I was growing up was Nigel Martyn. As much as I hate to praise anything to do with Man Utd, Peter Schmeichel was the best goalkeeper around. Alan Shearer was the best forward when I was younger. I always tried to play like him, aggressively but fair. I never quite pulled it off though, which is part of the reason I’m in goal now.
What’s the best save you’ve ever made?
Against Shildon last season at home. Sam Garvie had the full goal to aim at from about three yards out but I managed to get across and save it full on with my face. We went on to win 2-1, which slightly made up for them beating us 7-1 earlier in the season!
You joined Bishop Auckland from Hartlepool in the Wearside League. How did the move come about?
My mate and old Sunday morning manager knew Brian Honour, who was in charge at Bishops at the time, and recommended me. He came to watch me at a game down at Kirkbymoorside. Thankfully I had a blinder while he was there, but when he left I misjudged a backpass and it went straight past me to their forward! I was pretty lucky.
You adapted very quickly to the Northern League. Was there a big gap in the standard of play?
I think it took me a while to get used to playing in the Northern League. There is definitely a big gap between the Wearside and Northern League Division One. The biggest is what I expect of myself. I can’t just get away with being a half decent shot stopper.
In the 1950s Bishop Auckland were the most famous non-league team in the country. Does the club’s history weigh on the players at all?
Every player is made aware of the club’s history but I wouldn’t say it has any effect on the lads. It’s an honour itself playing for such a club but it was a long time ago.
Goalkeepers are a notoriously superstitious lot. Is there anything you always do before or during a game?
I’m not sure if it’s superstition or just down to nerves but I seem to take my gloves on and off about five times in the changing room before kick off.
The Heritage Park pitch got a lot of criticism last year. How difficult was it to play on?
It got easier the more we played on it so it actually became an advantage for us towards the end of the season. There was turf in one goalmouth which had a tendency to move under your feet, which didn’t make things easy.
Apart from Heritage Park, do you have a favourite Northern League ground?
I like playing at Consett and Spennymoor. Consett is an old ground with a lot of character and I don’t think I’ve ever lost there, though I’ve probably ruined that now! The pitch is quality at Spennymoor and I like the banter with their fans. It’s our biggest derby so it’s always full of passion. I’ve never won there though.
And is there a team or opposing player you particularly don’t like playing against?
That’d have to be Whitley Bay down to the fact they’ve scored about thirty goals past me in six or so games. You could say I don’t like them!
I know a lot of people would like to see Bishop Auckland back at a higher level. What do you think is a realistic aim for the club this season?
I’d like a top eight finish. That would be an big achievement, especially with the quality of the league improving again this season.
Along with the likes of Craig Turns, Kyle Hayes and Nick Liversedge you’re one of the best keepers in the Northern League. Do you ever see yourself playing at a higher level?
I’d love to play at a higher level – ideally with Bishop Auckland.