(ON ROUTE: Billy Knott, centre, is heading home.
Picture: Action Images)
By David Richardson
Home is where the heart is and Billy Knott knows it’s exactly what he needs.
In March, he was playing in League Two for high-flying Lincoln, in August he will line-up in the National League South with Concord Rangers.
But it’s not a loss of form that has led to him returning to his birthplace, Canvey Island.
Last month, the 25-year-old midfielder, who began his career at Chelsea and then Sunderland, opened up about his battle with depression which had led to alcoholism during his second season with Bradford City in League One, three years ago, shortly after he broke up with his fiancée.
Moves to Gillingham and Lincoln followed with a loan spell at Rochdale last season but now Knott has returned home for a fresh start.
“I’ve been away [from home] since I was 16, moving up to Sunderland,” Knott told The NLP. “It’s about coming back and enjoying myself again. Anyone who knows me will know this is a step down and it wasn’t a quick decision.
“I spoke to a few League teams and some Conference; I would have had to move away from home with them. It was a hard decision but when we weighed up the pros and cons it was made an easy one.
“Ant [Smith, chairman] has been so good, he’s put me on a short-term deal and hasn’t tied me in to anything. It’s a step in the right direction but it’s down to me to work hard on the pitch as well.
“My dad used to be manager here, my mum was on the committee when it was first getting started. My brother Sammy has played here too. We know everyone, it was just about putting a smile back on my face and hopefully winning games with the squad we have.”
Knott will come up against his brother next season when they face East Thurrock.
“It’ll be tough to play against him, if I’m honest,” he adds. “We’re a really tight- knit family but when you cross the white line it’s business as usual. As soon as the final whistle blows, he’s family and we’ll have a cuddle – and hopefully he hasn’t smashed me in the game by then!”
Knott is the latest impressive signing made by newly installed manager Sammy Moore. The Beachboys were battling against relegation last season but the up-and-coming boss, assisted by former AFC Wimbledon striker Jack Midson, is already building a talented and experienced side.
Sean Clohessy, Kojo Awotwi, Sam Beasant, Ryan Hayes, Lee Minshull, Matthew Narey, Frazer Shaw and Jack Parkinson have all arrived at Thames Road and hopes are rising.
“When you make signings we have, when you’ve got experienced pros coming down then there’s going to be expectation,” said Knott, who made a Premier League appearance for Sunderland in 2013. “I think our aim is to finish in the top half considering last season they avoided relegation but we’ll see where it takes us.
“I’ve played with Mooro and Mids before, Jack Parkinson as well, at Woking. It was sort of a no-brainer in the end when we weighed up all the options.
“Sammy knows where he wants to be as manager. He’s a nice guy but if he loses he’s very stern. I can talk to him as a mate and trust him, there’s not a lot of trust in football.”
The talented Knott is on the road to recovery thanks to the Professional Footballers Association and his friends and family. He adds: “I’m still speaking to some professional people and opening up to them. I still have ups and downs. It’s been hard, it hasn’t been great.
“It’s still going to be a long road but being back home and enjoying myself is the main thing.
“I know where I want to be and where I should be playing, but at the moment I’m fully focused on getting wins with this team and cracking on.”
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday
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