SCOTT GARNER says FC Halifax Town have a secret for the long National League journeys – they love spending time together.
After one season away, the Shaymen are back at Step 1 thanks to Garner’s dramatic extra-time winner against Chorley in the National League North promotion final.
Billy Heath’s side welcome last season’s play-off semi-finalists Aldershot Town to their Shay home on the opening day of the season.
The longer journeys kick in when September rolls around but Garner says it’s one of the perks of promotion. Hotel stays mean a chance for initiation songs and assistant manager Mark ‘Bobby’ Carroll’s famous quiz.
“When we got promoted we were excited about the overnighters,” Garner told The NLP. “We like that, going down to games on a Friday having a laugh together on the bus. At the hotel we have a meal and on the first overnighter the new lads will sing their initiation songs.
“Bobby always puts on a quiz which is good fun. We get into teams of four – Nathan Hotte is the one you want on your team.
“We’re a really good group. If you’re going away with lads you don’t get on with it’s a long 24 hours. But we have a great time and we look forward to it. We look at long journeys as a good thing, not a bad thing.”
After the opening day showdown with the Shots, Halifax travel to Barrow and Chester before Dover Athletic come to town. It’s a tough opening four games in a season that, as ever, kicks-off at a frantic pace with 16 games in the opening two months.
“I don’t think you could avoid a tricky start in this league,” said Garner, who swept the club’s awards last season. “Whatever came up it would be tricky.
“The aim for the first five to ten games is get as many points on the board as you can. The first target is always safety and then look up from there. That’s the way we’ll be going about it. We want to rack as many points up at the start as we can because points can become sparser as the season goes on when teams are desperate for wins as they push for promotion or to avoid relegation.
“At the start of the season games are Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday. I’m sure some teams take it for granted and think, ‘It’s just one game we’ve lost, we’ve got another in three days’. But those games pass by quickly so you can’t think like that. You’ve got to make the most of every game to get as many points and move forward.”
It’s also a return to Non-League’s top-flight for the former Mansfield, Grimsby and Cambridge defender.
“It will be a good challenge to go up and play at that next Step again,” said the former England C man. “I’m looking forward to it and I’m going into it full of confidence.
“I think we’ll do quite well. We aren’t going to get bullied by any teams, we can play some good football as well, and I think we’ll get results.”