“For all the clubs I played for Guiseley is the one I hold closest to my heart, with the successes we had there, the promotion to the National League, the personal accolades, team of the year and what not, it is my most favoured time looking back over the years.” That is the message from ex Lion Steven Drench who spoke to Rich Scott from the NonLge Keeper podcast.
It was a memorable spell for the keeper at Nethermoor Park and he explained how it all started.
“I went on trial to Barrow, but for finances they couldn’t have two keepers on the books, then I went on trial to Guiseley, Steve Kittrick was the manager and he is someone I will always be thankful to, he held on until the Friday before the first league game of the season against Nuneaton for me to sign, Kitty waited for me, it turned out to be a good decision.”
Drench made some friends for life during his time at the club and spoke about how much he enjoyed it all, including those he travelled with.
“I was living in Preston at the time then Manchester, I was lucky to have travelled in with some good lads, Liam Dickinson, Danny Hall, Joe O’Neil, Chris Holland, travelling with characters like those made the journeys more enjoyable than the training at times, I have great memories there.
“There are people at the club, I still speak to whenever I go back, or drop them a phone call if I ever need a chat.”
During his impressive first season at Nethermoor, he was involved in the dramatic loss to Telford United, reflecting on the defeat he said.
“It was funny one, no one expected us to get to the play-offs, never mind be ten minutes away from promotion, overall, it was disappointing to miss out, but there was a massive feeling of pride on the way home, as soon as we set off, all the lads were saying are you staying, I want to give it another go, it kind of built up from there.”
Play-offs and Guiseley went hand in hand during our time in the National League North before our promotion and Drench reflected on the seasons.
“The only surprise was it took us to the fifth attempt to get promoted, in semi-finals and finals we played Altrincham and lost in the 119th minute, and you are just felt thinking are we ever going to do this, it always seemed to be going against us.”
“It was frustrating, but every time we fell short, it was a funny one, each year we missed out, I’d been named in the team of the season, the season we went up, I had a good season but not as good as previously, it was funny really I’d gained those personal accolades, but I would have swapped them for that one promotion, every year under either Steve Kittrick or Mark Bower, we seemed to keep the nucleus of the team, and add that bit of quality that gave us that little edge.”
Drench was involved in Guiseley’s greatest day, the 3-2 win at Chorley, a memory that lives long in the memory of all associated with the club, he summed up just how it all went, after a poor start, with a great finish.
“It was a case of here we go again, it was 25 minutes and we were 2-0 down, the Guiseley fans were behind me in the first-half, we’ve had a really good season, we had beat AFC Fylde home and away in the semi-final and it just felt like here we go again, our downfall was we were trying play football on Chorley’s pitch, we kept falling into the same trap again and again, we went in at half-time and our heads were down, Mark said we’ve got to give this a really good go, we are not getting this far and throwing the towel in.
“We went in thinking we had nothing to lose, if we lose 2-0, they were coasting, the ground was bouncing, we were flat, if we get beat 5-0 so what, we have given it a go, “Boyes scored with about 25 minutes to go, behind me you could hear a pin drop when we scored from the Chorley fans behind me, three of Chorley’s back five went off, then is this going to be our year, Dicko scored a header from what seemed like 50 yards out, then Nicky Bosh popped up and scored and it was pandemonium.
“We are kind of hanging on for ten minutes, the ball hit the bar and bounced out, the goal that never was, Danny Hall cleared it, after that it felt like it really was going to be our year, it was a crazy game but glad we were on the right end of the result.”
The Lions enjoyed a dramatic first season in the National League, which again Drench played a big role in, he spoke about the main difference playing in Step one.
“People can’t underestimate how difficult it can be being a part-time team in the National League North, where it is mainly regionalised to then being in the National League, the travelling involved you could be going to Dover on a Tuesday and Torquay on a Saturday and going to work the next day, it is physically and mentally draining, some clubs adapt to it, it’s all down to a little bit of luck and resource you have at the time.”
As is normally the case with The Lions there was last day drama, with Guiseley staying up thanks to a win against Torquay and FC Halifax Town not getting the result they needed, Drench spoke about what was yet another memorable day at Nethermoor.
“We beat Torquay at home, we were coasting 3-0 up and, in the end, I had to make a save to keep it at 4-3, it was probably a bigger celebration than when we won promotion, it was a funny one during the game, as Torquay were safe as well so some of their fans were letting us know how Halifax were doing, Anthony Dudley scored and we felt we’d done it, they then score and it was a case of we need to hold on and see how Halifax do, we were waiting to see how they did against Macclesfield, it was a tense finish, it was a great experience the highlight of my career.”
You can hear the full interview here.