Simon Bullock has interviewed another member of our 2015 promotion winning team, Gavin Rothery spent six seasons at Nethermoor and talks all about his football career and what he is up to now.
At the start of your career with Leeds United, what was your goal in football?
It was to be a regular at Leeds. They’re my hometown club and I supported them as a boy. I’d been there since the age of seven and gone right through the academy, so I wanted to establish myself and get the team which I nearly did. I was on the fringes and got on the bench when I was 17 after doing quite well, but then a couple of injuries set me back. I obviously wanted to make it at Leeds if I could, but if not, I still wanted to play professionally.
During your time with Leeds came an England U19 call-up, how special was that?
It was really special for myself and my family and I was delighted to be able to represent my country. It’s something I’m really proud of. I think I got four caps and played with some great players on the team that I was in, who were playing in the Premier League at the time, so it was a really good standard and one that I was proud to be a part of.
Then you suffered a major ankle injury, how debilitating was that for your development?
Like I said, the first season I was flying. I was only like 16 or 17, was training with the first-team and got on the bench for the final game in the Championship. The following season, I came back again doing really well and then in pre-season I got a bad tackle on my ankle which resulted in some ligament damage. Throughout that season I was trying to come back and kept doing it again which led to me having an operation in the summer to reconstruct my ankle and that put me out for about eight or nine months altogether, so trying to come back from an injury like that was quite difficult. I was trying to get back to where I was before, so it took me quite a while to get my sharpness, fitness and confidence back.
After your release from Leeds came temporary spells with York City, Harrogate Town and Carlisle United, why was your time with these clubs so short?
When I left Leeds, I was 20-years-old and I had the option to go on trial at a lot of clubs, but nothing really seemed to fall into place. I ended up signing for York and we were in the Conference at the time. I made a couple of appearances and then the manager who signed me got sacked, so a new manager came in and signed his own players which happens in football quite a lot. Then, I only played one game for Harrogate before my youth team manager at Leeds who was a coach at Carlisle, Greg Abbott, asked me if I wanted to go on trial and from there I signed.
I was at Carlisle for 18 months altogether and I think I only made about five or six first-team appearances. It was the same again in that I was doing really well and then I got a big gash in my foot, so that kept me out for a little bit. From there I was on the bench all the time, coming on 10 minutes here-and-there in games but never really got a run of games to get that opportunity. I ended up going on loan to Barrow and played a couple of games there, but then I had to have a double hernia operation which put me out again. After that, I left Carlisle and that’s when I joined Guiseley.
Then you signed for Guiseley, how did the move come about and what was the aim for your time at Nethermoor?
I’d spoken to a lot of people after I left Carlisle and a lot of my ex-coaches were ringing around places, putting in a good word for me. I think one of my coaches at Leeds had spoken to the manager at the time, which was Steve Kittrick and he said to come down and train. From there I ended up signing and my aim was to try get back into the full-time game and progress with Guiseley as well. If we’d have got promoted at the first time of asking, the club might have gone full-time and that was the point I wanted to get to, but that didn’t quite happen for one reason or another.
There were a few agents looking at me because I was doing really well at Guiseley, but it never really felt like the right time to move on. I was working at Leeds full-time as a coach and tutor there and I was settled with my family as well so, with professional football, you take a one/two-year contract and then sometimes you’ve not got anything to fall back on. So, nothing really came about really and I enjoyed my time at Guiseley.
In 2011/12, you were the club’s top scorer and it was the season you played the least number of games for Guiseley. Was that the best form of your career?
I think that was the season I got injured at Christmas. In 2010/11, I had a really good run of games and found my feet again, playing regular games which, I hadn’t done for a while. It was a good season, just playing and get my fitness back and the following season I started really well, scoring loads of goals before Christmas. Then I picked up a knee injury which ruled me out for the rest of the season, but I still finished top scorer after scoring about 16 goals. That’s when I started to get a bit of attention from other clubs, but the injury stopped that which was a bit gutting. After that though, I came back the following season and managed to do well again.
What are your memories of the 2014/15 season, particularly the play-off final against Chorley?
It was a really special day, one that the memories from it will stay away with me forever. We had a great set of lads, as well as the team spirit being there. There were no big egos or bad eggs in the squad and we all worked hard for each other. We didn’t actually play that well together on the day, particularly in the first half and the pitch wasn’t the best. It didn’t fit with type of football we liked to play, getting it down and passing. We were trailing, 2 – 0 down and we had to change the game-plan, so Dicko came on, we went more direct and managed to get the goals to win it with Nicky Boshell getting the winner. The scenes were unbelievable and it was a great day for everyone involved with the club.
How proud of an achievement was it to avoid relegation from the National League in 2015/16?
To play in the National League was a really good standard and we were the underdogs against a lot of full-time teams. We were still part-time and it was difficult, travelling a long way every other week for away games with everyone balancing work and football, but it was a great experience. I think we could have done better than we did because we had good players and signed a few decent ones as well, so we probably should have stayed up by a few more points. It was a great achievement to stay up though and to do it on the last day of the season, was emotional for the club and the players who had a lot riding on the game.
What was the reason behind you leaving Guiseley at the end of the season?
I didn’t start off the season the best, being in-and-out of the team a little bit. I managed to work my way into the team and I think I had a good game against Wrexham, scoring and assisting one but I got sent off and it was never a red card. So, then I had a three-game ban and picked up an ankle injury soon after. But I did start quite a few games as well and contributed to staying in the league, so I didn’t see it coming really because I’d been there six years and always kind of felt like I was one of the first names on the team sheet.
I was always doing well and there were never any patches where I was really struggling or anything. I played under Steve Kittrick, then Mark and Danny came in and were really good, so I didn’t expect it. I think the club maybe wanted to go in a different direction and I think there was myself and another eight or nine players who’d been there probably two or three seasons and got the club promoted that got released. Obviously, it wasn’t ideal because I loved the club, being around it and there were some good people there, so I really enjoyed it. I didn’t want to leave, but that’s football, isn’t it? You never really know what’s going to happen or where your next club is going to be sometimes.
Where have you been playing since leaving Guiseley?
I’ve dropped down a couple of leagues to play for Pontefract Collieries. I left Guiseley and ended up signing for Gainsborough in the National League North, which I’d played in for a while. I did alright the first season, but the club had a couple of managers and wasn’t really settled. Then a new manager came in, I still had another year left on my deal and he was trying to get me out to free some more money up on the wage bill to get his own players in. Next came Shaw Lane, which went OK and then, the story of my career, I got another ankle injury and was out for three or four months.
I came back after that, got myself fit again and we just missed out on the play-offs, but we had about three managers that season and there was no consistency, so I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I did when I was playing at Guiseley. Then I went to Hyde, which was a decent move but the travelling was a bit difficult and I just wanted to get back playing locally, near to where I am in Wakefield. So, I joined Pontefract where I’ve been for the last few seasons now and recently stepped up to become player-first-team coach. I’m getting older and still want to play for another couple of years, at least, but I’m moving more into the coaching side now as well.
When you were doing your coaching work at Leeds United, what did that entail?
I was there for nine years in the capacity of a coach and a tutor, working on the football education scholarship programme. Then, I took a role with Pontefract who set up their own education programme and centre, so I’m currently based there and when I joined the club, that was a role that came up. I left Leeds to pursue my career in that role really and combine it with playing, so it’s quite a lot.
Would you eventually like to move into football management?
Yeah, potentially. I suppose it’s something that’s the next progression, but not yet. To be a manager, there’s a lot of experience needed, it takes up a lot of time and there’s a lot of things you need to do to get to that point as well. I just want to play as long as I can for the time being, but I’m just starting to get into coaching and although I’ve coached for quite a long time, it was always at grassroots level in the schools and the community, not at semi-pro level. I’m working my way up there and assisting the management team at Pontefract. From there, I’ll see where that takes me, but the aim is to try and stay in football after I retire. If I could do that in some capacity, that would be great.
We’d like to thank Gavin for taking the time out for this interview and wish him the best of luck with Pontefract Collieries both on and off the pitch.