FROM working as a hod carrier whilst playing for Athersley Rec to scoring goals in the Premier League, Geoff Horsfield could stake a claim to having the original Jamie Vardy story.

Jack Tolson spoke with Geoff about playing men’s football at 13 to being coached by one of his footballing heroes in Kevin Keegan.

It is fair to say Geoff Horsfield has filled a lot into half a century.

Now 50, he began playing football for West Green when he was just 11 - scoring more than 80 goals in his first full season.

Described by many as a ‘strong and forceful’ player, Geoff believes it wasn’t particularly his talent that spurred him on - but instead his determination.

“We were winning games 15-0, 16-0, 17-0 and I was scoring about six goals a game,” he said.

“I played for the under-11s and was then moved up to play for both the u12s and u13s.

“I scored 80-odd goals and fortunately I just had that little bit of talent.

“I played there until I was about 13.”

Geoff’s dad Terry was a miner, as was his grandfather, so his family knew all about hard work.

It was his dad that made the decision to sign for Athersley Rec who were in the Barnsley Sunday League.

“My dad thought that I needed toughening up.

“He introduced me to Pete Goodlad at Athersley Rec - I played with their first team and they were all ten years older than me.

“It definitely did toughen me up - they kicked ten bells out of me there.

“I had to be hard - if I hadn’t I don’t think I would have made it.

“It was Athersley Rec that made me.”

He was then offered a trial for Barnsley FC at Oakwell, his boyhood club - but it wasn’t to be.

Geoff said: “I knew that I was good enough to play there - it was just that my face didn’t fit.

“I’ve always thought that Barnsley should have taken me on.

“As a young lad you’re disappointed but it happens sometimes.

“I don’t regret anything about my career.

“In fact Barnsley tried to sign me whilst I was at Birmingham but they couldn’t afford it.

“I never got to play for my home town club - that’s a shame.

“I’m Barnsley born and bred - it would have been great.

“I’ve got a little bit of anger that they didn’t take me on and I always wanted to stick it on them when we played.

“I did that for Birmingham when I scored a screamer from 30 yards in front of some of my mates.”

After the initial knock-back Geoff decided to become a bricklayer apprentice and eventually moved to Worsbrough Bridge who were playing higher in the football pyramid in the Northern East Counties League.

It was just a few games into his time there when his career really kicked on.

“About four or five games in, we played Scarborough,” he added.

“I scored two worldies and I definitely didn’t do that very often.

“Thankfully their manager Ray McHale, who used to play for Barnsley, took me there. Once he was sacked I was released.

“Ray then took me to Guiseley and I played against Halifax who signed me for £4,000. At 24 I turned professional again.”

As soon as he signed for Halifax, who were playing in the Conference, he quit his job as a hod carrier.

And it might be the best decision he ever made.

“Halifax went full-time after they got promoted and I scored seven goals in ten games in the Third Division.

“The Fulham manager Kevin Keegan was watching me on TV and he sent someone out to watch me for a few games. I’ve always had a soft spot for Liverpool so that was great.

“I was sat in my council house in Staincross Common when I was told that Fulham were going to send someone down to take me to Craven Cottage.

“They asked me to sit down before they told me but my phone was in the wall so I couldn’t,” he joked.

He signed for the London-based team for a fee of £300,000 and went on to play with some big names in what is now League One.

“I was a bit scared of going into the changing rooms at first - they had players like Chris Coleman and Peter Beardsley.

“But I knew that this was my last chance of making it - I took the bull by the horns.”

Keegan left Fulham to become the England manager just months after Geoff signed, but in July 2000 he signed a five-year contract at Birmingham City for £3.75m - a record at the time.

“Trevor Francis took me there - I’ve always had a soft spot for Birmingham,” he added.

“I lived with Nicky Eaden (former Barnsley star) in a hotel for the first three months I was there.

“He’s still a good mate of mine.

“For me to eventually play in the Premier League was great, but it was down to hard work and determination.”

He gave his first club, Athersley Rec, £25,000 once he reached the Premier League to help them with their facilities.

“I decided to give some money back to them for helping me,” he said.

“Other players who get the chance should definitely do the same thing.

“There’s always a route for people to come up through non-league.

“There’s always late developers and so it’s a good place to start.”