AARON MARTIN won’t forget the first time he answered the phone to Marcus Bignot ahead of a summer move to Guiseley.
“You best score some flipping goals,” is the family-friendly version, as the Lions joint-boss snared the striker from Step 4 Brighouse Town where he scored 30 goals last season.
“Those were the first words I heard from the manager’s mouth – it kind of set the tone,” Martin says.
Well, he’s certainly delivering on Bignot’s wish so far. After just 10 games in the National League North, Martin has found the back of the net eleven times and picked up September’s Player of the Month Award.
It means the former Goole and Sheffield FC striker has already ticked off one target – double figures by Christmas – but it’s also a decent step towards his overall aim of proving he can play at this level.
“I’m always confident in myself that I could perform,” Martin says. “But there always is that little bit of doubt where you’re asking yourself, ‘Will I be able to?’ If you don’t try, you won’t know. During pre-season, I felt I could hack it at this level. That gives you confidence that you can play with players around you.
“My question was would I be the No.9? I didn’t want to go to a team and not play even though it may have felt like a bit of a punt by getting me from two leagues below. There’s always questions as to whether I’ll be able to rise to the challenge and play at the level.
“Luckily, things are going well at the moment – I’m playing well and the results are coming so I can’t really complain.”
Martin’s goals were huge for Vill Powell’s Brighouse last season as they went from relegation fodder to play-off winners – only to be denied promotion to Step 3 on Points Per Game as part of the on-going Pyramid restructure.
“Last season was an amazing season,” Martin says. “It was the best I’ve had in my career. The fact we won the play-offs but unfortunately couldn’t go up was disappointing. A lot of the players ended up leaving because of that
“But my time at Brighouse was great. It’s a small club with a small budget but it’s got a homely feel to it. The fans are very welcoming, especially when they see someone who works hard and wants to do well. They love that. It’s a volunteer run club and without them it wouldn’t function.
“We had a tight-knit group. The first season I was there we were in a relegation battle. We managed to stay up and then last season we became even closer. When you’ve got a good chemistry and players are working for each other, it makes a difference on the pitch. Players are running for each other – that became the theme of the season and why we were successful.”
Martin knew he had to make a move up this summer, however. He’s just turned 28 but is determined that the only numbers people look at are his goals as he holds onto the hope of playing full-time football.
“I knew that if I was really going to achieve my dream of playing full-time football then I had to start making moves with time running out,” he says. “Age does play a factor when people try to sign you, but obviously goals are just as good. If you score goals, people will take you at any age. That’s one of the key things.
“So I knew, if I was going to do something, I needed to score as many goals as I could to start getting people’s attention to climb the ladder.
“In Non-League football it’s always a challenge. You’re working, you’ve got to play football after, you’re travelling, you’re tired and the money isn’t always great. Some players are trying and putting their own money into it.
“When I was at Brighouse last year I was scaffolding – physical work – so I was tired for the games and it’s something the management had to deal with to get the best out of me.
“It’s those type of things where you can think, ‘The hard work I’m putting in, am I getting anywhere?’ Sometimes it feels like there is no progression and you can get to a point where you think, ‘Shall I keep pushing or be happy how I am?’
“You definitely need a strong mind-set. Especially with the age I am. Being at Brighouse I felt I only had a certain amount of numbers to make the jump so I needed to make it quick.
“Signing for Guiseley, and them seeing what I can potentially do at this level, was obviously a blessing for me.”
For Martin’s agent Mustafa Mehmood of Inspire Sports Management it’s never too late for players who have the ability.
Mehmood said: “Our client Michael Nottingham left Salford City in Non-League to sign for Blackpool at the age of 28 so there is no reason why Aaron can’t do the same and step up to the League.”
Martin knows his only focus can be on scoring goals for Guiseley. Bignot and Russ O’Neill’s side have got off to a solid start to the season having battled away at the wrong end of the table last term.
Martin wants to help them stay up in the mix and he’s confident they can.
“There’s a lot of energy in the team and I think the managers have got it exactly right how they want us to play – how we play on and off the ball, the formation, they’ve got the right players to do it,” he says.
“Although I’ve been the main person scoring, I do feel the goals can come from anywhere with the way we play.”