Betfred Sport

Sometimes it’s about asking for a chance

I’ve just returned from a fortnight in a part of southern France which is the world’s largest wine-producing region, and it’s fair to say a bottle or two were sunk (most days).

But having missed the opening week of the 2012-13 season, it’s also fair to admit that not everything was rose in the Hammonds apartment.

The shakes I experienced certainly weren’t to do with any cold weather. After all, there were health warnings issued with temperatures in the mid to late-30s. I suppose they could have been connected with the alcohol.

My guess, however, is that it was from severe withdrawal symptoms of being situated in Languedoc at 3pm on the opening Saturday of the season when I’d much rather have been at Long Eaton United against Dunkirk.

Thankfully, I had a Non-League fix to help me through in the form of the autobiography of Eric Nixon (pictured), ‘a larger than life goalkeeper’.

Entitled ‘Big Hands Big Heart’ and superbly written by one of Fleetwood Town’s media men, David Mitchell, it tells the story of how ‘Nico’ fulfilled his dream of going from semi-pro football to the top of the English game.

Car business in 1983

Nixon recalled how he was working for a car valeting business in 1983 when ex-Manchester United and England keeper Gary Bailey’s motor was brought in for a clean.

Nixon – then playing for Curzon Ashton – wanted a bit of the Sierra Sapphire lifestyle, and went straight to Maine Road, then home of his beloved Manchester City, after finishing his shift.

Met by City legends Tony Book, Denis Law and Ken Barnes in reception, he asked for a trial. A scout watched him play in the North West Counties League the following day, then invited him to play in a reserve game at the stadium where he had watched his heroes from a being small boy.

To cut a long story short, Nixon earned a contract and went onto play 84 times for the Sky Blues. He then enjoyed great success at Tranmere Rovers, earning cult status over a decade, and Stockport before more recently working as goalkeeper coach at Fleetwood and now Macclesfield.

Picking up my The NLP after returning home last weekend, I then read an excellent interview my colleague Matt Badcock had done with current Stockport player Joe Connor.

Coming back to Stockport 

After eight years studying and playing soccer in America, the 26-year-old returned to his native Stockport last November with his pregnant wife and child.

His granddad Jack and dad Jim had both played for the Hatters, so after seeing County had been hammered 7-0 at Grimsby, he thought “I’m going to see if I can go and play for them”.

The midfielder turned up at the training ground, asked if he could join in and was told ‘No’. But he stayed to watch to “see what the standard was like”, and when they needed an extra man, he was invited onto the training pitch.

Connor must have impressed Jim Gannon, because the Edgeley Park boss soon signed him and has since made him his captain.

Now, I did actually enjoy my holiday. And the wine wasn’t half good.

But it’s equally refreshing to be back and able to report on rags-to-riches – or at least trialist-to-talisman – tales such as Eric and Joe’s as another fine season matures!

By Stuart Hammonds, The Non-League Paper

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