CRAIG LINDFIELD has a skeleton in his football closet he doesn’t like to talk about too much around FC United fans.
It concerns his FA Youth Cup days when his rampant Liverpool side won the competition two years in a row in 2006 and 2007.
“I scored a pen at Old Trafford in the penalty shoot-out after scoring a header at Anfield in the home leg,” says the striker.
“But we keep that quiet now. It was a long time ago so hopefully it’s been forgotten about. And I’d just like to point out we did beat Man City the year before so surely we get some brownie points to fall back on.”
The 26-year-old has plenty stocked up after his two goals in the Red Rebels’ 3-1 FA Trophy win against AFC Fylde last weekend.
It put the Evo-Stik NPL Premier club in the quarter-finals – and secured a trip to Vanarama Conference Torquay United – but more importantly extended their unbeaten run to 11 games. Lindfield can’t speak highly enough of the club and his team-mates.
“I’d compare this team now to my youth cup days,” he says. “For the team spirit and the feeling. When we’re out there on the pitch and we’re one or two goals down, there’s not been a point this season where I’ve thought, ‘We’re going to get beat here’.
“I honestly haven’t felt that since my youth cup days when we had a team who’d been together from eight years old right through to age 18.
“That just shows how much camaraderie and team spirit we’ve got. The man-management and the way we’re looked after is so professional.
“Our striker Tommy Greaves needs a special mention. All the lads are brilliant, but he’s already on 16 goals. He’s scored some really important ones for us recently.
“And the back four and keeper David Carnell are huge for us. We’ve kept a lot of clean sheets and that takes pressure off us because we know one or two goals will be good enough to get the three points.”
Lindfield rose right through the Liverpool youth ranks and was picked for the first team by Rafael Benitez for a friendly against Crewe. Kop legend Robbie Fowler even set him up for a goal.
“Even though I’m an Everton fan, just to play with a striker like him was a dream come true,” he says. “I think I hugged him for about ten seconds when I celebrated the goal. My dad said it was slightly embarrassing!”
But while he grew used to life training alongside Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, the search for regular football took him to Macclesfield Town and Accrington Stanley. From breakfast at the Premier League giants’ luxurious Melwood training ground to a pub near Accrington.
“Clubs like Accrington and other lower league clubs don’t have the money,” Lindfield says. “You make the best of the situation you’ve got. The pub owners were Accrington fans. They gave the club a cheap rate to have us in the morning.
“It’s better than turning up not having any brekkie before training. It was a bit of improvisation. The fact it was in a pub was quite funny for people who see the Premier League and what goes on there and don’t realise what some clubs have to do just to survive.”
Lindfield, thoughtful and intelligent, has had time to think about his own survival after football. He’s got a first in a Sports Journalism degree and regularly corrects the spelling and grammar of his team-mates.
“My missus Julie is a primary school teacher, she corrects me so I get my own back on the lads,” he says.
Lindfield is currently studying for another in Quantity Surveying. As part of his journalism course he wrote columns for the Lancashire Telegraph, the Daily Mail and interviewed unsung heroes and fans at Chester about the passion for the club.
So when he left the Blues in the summer, supporters were an important pull for Lindfield and his next stop.
“One of the big pulls was the crowd,” he says. “I’d never been to a game but I did look at the attendances before I came.
“They never stop singing, even when we are losing. It’s mad. I’ve played League football but never experienced a crowd like at FC. It’s pretty special. They’re all co-owners. The feel as though it’s their club, which it is.
“I went to a branch meeting with Callum Byrne for a Q&A recently. You go along and think, ‘What do people really want to ask two lads at this level? Are they that interested?’
“But you can see the joy they get out of just hearing your stories about their club, and a bit of info about the lads in the changing rooms and what it’s like behind the scenes. They really devote their lives to it.”
In the promotion hunt and with their new Broadhurst Park stadium close to completion, the excitement continues to grow. Their story is oft-told by now.
Set up by Manchester United fans sick to the back teeth of rising prices, moved kick-off times for TV and the wider ills of modern football, they went it alone – they took a gamble, like you can do only with this code.
This year they will celebrate their tenth anniversary with a prestigious friendly in their new £5.5m home against Portuguese giants Benfica on May 29.
“We all went to the new ground in pre-season to have a look around,” he says. “We used to train quite close to there. I travel in with Callum from Liverpool so we leave quite early. If the traffic was good and we got there early we’d nip down and have a little look.
“It’s exciting times and will be great for the fans. They’re excited to have a home. They follow us home and away, but really it is away and away.
“It’s a symbol of how far they’ve come. When they get in there I think it will be the realisation of all the hard work and a base to kick on and progress even further.
“One of the things they want to do is give back to the community – it’s another big thing FC does. The new ground will give them ample opportunity to do that. They were written off pretty early, people didn’t think this club would last six months. They’re proving people wrong.”