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IN-DEPTH with STOCKS: “There needs to be a level of loyalty and unfortunately a lot of football’s not got that any more!”

Over 450 days have elapsed since Jordan Stocks took over the managerial role at NCEL Division One side Swallownest. Currently they sit tenth in the table and as we caught up with Jordan for an in-depth chat, he revealed he was pleased with their progress, so far.

“Yes! It’s going as planned, to be honest. We didn’t expect to finish where we finished last season after a bad start but we kicked on and we’re well ahead of where we want to be. I think top ten’s a target and sitting tenth halfway through is good, knowing that we’ve got thirty points. If we can get another thirty points this back end of the season, that’ll take us to sixty. That should get us to top eight, I’d imagine, which will be a fantastic season and a fantastic achievement.”

A top eight place would see Swallownest almost likely to secure an FA Cup place and this is in sight, “We earmarked that in a meeting we recently had, saying that the FA Cup’s got to be a target. Especially being so close now.”

Top eight’s not guaranteed but it’s a very good ballpark. You’ve a couple of games in hand over most teams above you. Saturday will be a good test for you against Dronfield.

“They’re my bogey team! I’ve never beaten them as a manager. I beat them when I played – we beat them 1-0 last season – but I weren’t the manager; I was a player. I played them in the Cup and they beat us 4-0 or 5-0. We played them away and I think they beat us 2-1 or 3-1… I can’t get the best of them! They’re a good side. Milly’s done a good job so it isgoing to be hard. I don’t envision it’s going to be easy because they’ve got a lot of pace so it’s how we adapt. We need to react. We seem to do better against better sides so hopefully we’ll turn up on Saturday.”

It’s evident by their results that Swallownest perform bettie against the better side of the league. They have beaten Winterton, Selby, drew against Worsbrough but then have drwn against Bolsover and lost against East Yorkshire Carnegie.

“It’s frustrating. It isa mentality thing because it’s not like we’re coming into games and saying “listen, these are seventeenth, EYC, we can beat these”. Quietly myself and Joel are saying, “do you know what? Fantastic chance!” but the lads are going in with the impression, “these are rubbish! We’ll beat these! We’re tenth; they’re seventeenth!”

“This league’s not like that. In this league it’s always been the same: Any team can absolutely turn anybody over. If you don’t work hard, if you don’t put the right pressure on or if you don’t put the right mentality in, you get beat! We played Worsbrough – and this is no disrespect to Morris – I’d expect them to be towards fifteen downwards because both times we’ve played them we’ve absolutely played them off the park. And they’re absolutely flying, beating Parkgate 4-1 at the weekend.

“It’s a hard league and you can’t just turn up one week and think that you’ve made it. Week in, week out you’ve got to graft and you’ve got to beat what’s in front of you. At the minute our lads don’t seem to be able to do that so, on Saturday, if they don’t turn up, we’re in for a long afternoon because they [Dronfield] willput us to the sword.

Swallownest Chairman Mick Kent was interviewed earlier in the week and he revealed the clubs ambitions of EvoStik football in the near future, “It’ll take a lot of work, that! I think Mick’s idea and Mick’s goal is what it should be. I don’t see why there’s any point in coming into a football club at this standard and saying, “I’m just happy with staying here” because what do you do week in, week out? Play for what? You’ve got to have a target – and Mick’s got a big target, which is far away! – but it’s something that Mick wants to put in for.

It’s the Swallownest “love train”, reminiscent of England in the World Cup.

“We’re doing alright if we finish top ten this season. Play- offs next season hopefully, if the play-offs come back. That’s a massive target for us if we finish up there in the top ten this season. It would haveto be a target. It’s small steps but it’s steps in the right direction. As long as they’re not looking backwards and they’re looking forwards that’s all you can ask as a football club.

“The lads see that. It’s not always about budget: it’s what you can bring as a football team and what you can bring as a club. The lads we’ve got are all from the local community anyway. They’re all people that I’ve grown up knowing. They’re all people I’ve grown up playing with and they appreciate it. You don’t have to pay them a fortune. If they work together they stick together.”

Hopefully the community around Swallownest can get behind you. Your attendances are slightly down on last season but, hopefully with you doing well on the pitch that will change.

“It’s a puzzling one is that because you don’t know why! The FA Vase: we had a very good run in that. We were unlucky to go out to Garstang, which I don’t think we should have gone out anyway. So you think that the club would have kicked on with the support but it doesn’t seem to happen sometimes. I think bad weather; looking at the pitch and the facilities, they’re not the best in the league but I think it sometimes does deter people. People behind the scenes are looking at trying to improve all that stuff. Things like that will always improve your attendances. It just takes time.”

Hopefully the things we do with Joel and yourself, which we appreciate, and this sort of procedure helps.

“It’s not you appreciating myself and Joel! It’s us appreciating the publicity that you can give us. We can put a platform on. If we don’t have a platform to say it, nobody hears it. We only end up saying it to the people we know, whereas when it goes to a wider audience, you doget a bit of interest and you get the groundhoppers coming to watch. You only have to give them a good experience once and they’ll come back again.

“I’ve been to watch Wednesday this season when we’ve not had a fixture  or it’s midweek and, for the amount of money it costs, it’s miles better to go and watch non-league football. No doubt in my mind! It goes to a better cause and it’s actually more entertaining. Sitting in a packed stadium with loads of moaning and groaning, it’s not worth it! Go and get a non-league game and hopefully we can get back the community doing that but it takes time to build it.

“That’s why we’ve got young local lads. The average age of our squad is 21. We’ve only got two players signed on that are over thirty. That’s ridiculous, to be fair! The squad’s got the capability of sticking together and they can have five or six years at it. So Mick’s dream, Mick’s target, isn’t unrealistic if those lads can stick together and can improve together. It’s not a million miles away.”

When you look at other teams that have stayed together a while – Penistone, Hemsworth – and even looking at Cleethorpes Town, who have grown together from park football to the top end of the Premier Division or even Evo-Stik, with a few additions, it helps.

“Of course it does. I’ve played football against Richo [Ian Richards] at Penistone for a long time. Similar age group. When I played for Handsworth he was at Penistone so we’ve always gone against each other. He’s done wonders with that club and what they’ve got and that’s where your blueprint’s got to be. They don’t spend a fortune, they’ve got good lads whom they’ve always had and good management, good coaching and they’re flying. It’s always been a good community up there anyway. I know it’s not very nice when it’s not very warm but they always tend to get decent crowds. It’s always fair and welcoming and it’s one of those places that will attract people to come and watch.

“I don’t know too much about Hemsworth but, speaking to managers that I know, they always praise what a job he’s [Wayne Benn’s] done at Hemsworth. To keep it fresh and to keep it progressing, that’s pretty good going after six years.

“This is non-league. Non-league will never die. It will always be around. As long as it’s got characters and personalities that live and breathe for it, they’ll always succeed. You’ve just got to make it work for you, make it work for your club and you’ve got to make it work for your community. If you’ve got none of those three things you’re not going to go very far; it’s going to be hard. They’re you’re guidelines, they’re your budgets.

“You’ll see teams that spend hundreds on players per week. I don’t think that player will give a toss if he’s travelling fifty miles to get £150. He’ll pick his money up then go home. There needs to be a level of loyalty and unfortunately a lot of football’s not got that any more. We can try and breed a little bit of that because they’re lads that I know, that I’ve grown up with. I know most of them personally and Joel knows most of them personally as well so you’ve got a background there, where you hope they’ll stay loyal to you.

“We’ve had clubs come in for players and they’ve just turned round and said no. We’ve got people that look at our players and they want them but, fortunately enough, we’ve managed to keep them. It is a good basis for us and hopefully the lads see it and hopefully they appreciate what Mick’s doing and we’ll see if we can take it to the next Step.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for what they [Dronfield] do, for the way that Milly goes about his business. He’s signed two or three players from us this season: Danny Cheetham, Billy Wright and Connor Chappell. They were with us pre-season and the way they conduct themselves – they don’t go behind your back – they do it properly. They always make it progressive. They’re very, very hard to beat and they’re even harder to beat when you’re playing away.

So we’re in for a tough afternoon but we need to bounce back. If the lads show they’ve got the balls to bounce back there’s every a chance we’ll come away with a victory, which will top my birthday week off perfectly!”

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