Pics: Mike Petch & Greig Bertram
PERHAPS it’s the salesman in him, but Danny Lloyd was making big guarantees before he’d even kicked a ball in Stockport County colours.
Goals, goals, goals or your money back. How the 25-year-old has delivered on the promise in his first interview to get on the scoresheet a lot as long as he’s playing regularly.
The winner against Gainsborough on Saturday took his tally to 27 for the season. Add in 19 assists and the former Colwyn Bay, Lincoln City, Tamworth and AFC Fylde winger has made a big contribution to the Hatters’ National League North promotion push.
“I just think this year has been the culmination of a few things,” Lloyd says. “I’ve matured as a man and I’ve matured as a player. I know my game, I know what I’m good at.
“I’ve had conversations with a few of the young lads, you’ve got to know your game. You’ve got to know what makes you effective.
“I know what makes me effective. It’s getting into good positions, it’s making sure my free-kicks and set pieces are on point, getting into wide positions to put in crosses for assists. I’m not one of those players who is going to jink my way past five or six players.
“I’ve just worked on what I can do to make it better. That’s why I’ve scored more goals this year with my right foot than I ever thought possible. I’ve worked on it in training. My free-kicks and set-pieces are on point because I’ve worked on it in training. Albeit 20 minutes at the end of the session because I can’t do any more.”
That’s the limitations of part-time football, something Lloyd – a business development manager at waste disposal giants Biffa – believes gets underplayed in Non-League football.
“Full-time players have recovery time between games,” he says. “We haven’t. Sunday is my only day off. After a Tuesday night game and I’ve got in at 2am, I’m in meetings at 9am on Wednesday morning.
“I hate it when people say, ‘Oh, you’ve got the best of both worlds.’ No you haven’t! Playing part-time football is difficult. It’s almost the worst of both worlds. You can’t fully commit yourself to your job, you can’t fully commit to your football. It’s 50/50 and you’ve got to balance the two.
“And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m in business development and sales, it’s one of the most stressful environments to be in because it’s target driven. But as long as you put your numbers in, you’re fine.”
Lloyd’s numbers on the pitch are impressive too and his form for Jim Gannon’s side is reportedly attracting plenty of attention. Porstmouth and Plymouth Argyle are just two clubs linked to his signature this summer.
He brushes it off as pure speculation but, out of contract at the end of the season, doesn’t hide his ambition.
“I’ve said it a few times,” Lloyd says. “People can talk, speculate and all things like that. But until someone puts an offer on the table, I’m a Stockport County player. My focus is 100 per cent on getting us in the play-offs and getting promoted.
“If I get rewarded for my hard work with a full-time move, brilliant. It’s been my dream. I tell everyone that. Since I’ve been a kid, it’s been my dream to play full-time professional football. But it’s got to be right for me. We’ll see if that happens.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the gaffer. We’ve got an agreement that we’ll have a chat in the summer and see what’s in front of me.
“I’ll never ever forget what the gaffer and Stockport have done for me. I’ve said before, at the end of last season I was seriously contemplating stopping playing. I wasn’t enjoying it, I had no confidence and I was disillusioned. Then I got the call to come here and I haven’t looked back.”
Lloyd knows he wouldn’t be in this position without boss Gannon and his team-mates.
“I’m having a great season,” he says. “That’s down to my own hard work, the gaffer’s hard work and the lads’ hard work. Without the lads behind me, defending well and giving me the ball in the positions the gaffer has picked me in, I wouldn’t have scored all these goals.
“Jim Gannon is so analytical. He’ll get teams watched two or three times by his contacts so he’ll have two or three reports. He sets us up to play a different way every single game. We have the same core beliefs and the same core values. But he tinkers around for whoever we are playing.
“Getting into the play-offs is Numero Uno. Then getting promoted. From a personal point of view I want to build on a fantastic season. I want to build on all my hard work on and off the pitch.”
Hard work and rejection. Like many in Non-League football, Lloyd has been told he’s not up to it and too small to make it big. At times, he admits it’s been a tough mental battle, that can lead to being in “dark, dark places”, but says he kept his belief and made sacrifices to put himself in the best position.
Lloyd has life perspective too. When he was 17 his big brother Jon passed away.
“It’s made me stronger,” he says. “It’s made me who I am. It’s something I had to deal with but it’s made me able to deal with other things a lot easier.
“If I can lose my big brother and my best mate at 17, I can get told I’m not good enough by a manager. That’s not going to deter me. I’ve had numerous people tell me I need to do this or that, I’m too small… all the standard rejection lines you get off clubs, I’ve had them. I’ve always said, ‘Yep, no problem,’ and I’ve cracked on.
“It will be tough if I don’t one day get my chance. But I’ll swallow it, move on, keep playing part-time and selling bins. I’m good at that!
“I love my job and I love playing for Stockport County. Come August, if I’m still playing for Stockport County and selling bins for Biffa then so be it. If I’m in the Football League, amazing.”