A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of a brief interview with midfield engine George Hicks, one of the few members of Nottingham University Football Club’s 1st X1 that was in the squad last year.
With the loss of so many of last year’s squad to graduation or year’s abroad, there is a young and still developing core to this year’s team. Five of the regular starters are Freshers, whilst four played in the Intra-mural halls league last year.
Such a dramatic change was always going to affect results and the boys took a while to get going. But as the Freshers have matured into their roles within the squad, the team has really started to push on and get the results required to challenge for back-to-back promotions.
In the second tier of the University league system – a select league of six teams – the top spot is all that counts for promotion to the top flight. Although the boys are in currently in fourth, they are on a great run of form and it’s tight between the top four. There’s still all to play for with four games to go and Hicks believes the team have got enough to win the league.
Throughout the NUFC set-up, things are looking good. In their respective leagues the 2nd and 4th teams are top, whilst the 3rd team are second in their division. Hicks paid particular tribute to the great work ethic of Alex West, motivational captain of the successful 2nd team.
Hicks also highlighted the work of two particular individuals in the success of the 1st team: veteran manager John Sheridan and the star player, Scott McCubbin. The gaffer is getting on a bit, but has a youthful enthusiasm: “he kicks every ball from the touchline and is respected throughout the side”. McCubbin is the team’s top scorer and Hicks suggests he is a cut above his peers, a talismanic captain.
On a personal level George is struggling to find the balance between a busy football schedule and a hefty workload. It was always going to be a huge commitment, but he enthused that he “wouldn’t change it at all… just the chance to wear the shirt out on a Wednesday is enough”. A humble, yet richly talented player himself, George simply wants to improve his own game and help the team to gel together even better. As one of the older heads in the dressing room – at only 20 years of age – his maturity and self-confidence are essential for the rest of the team.
Halfway through the season now and it’s crunch time. Team morale is at its peak and the whole team is excited to see what the future holds. Commitments of time and effort pale into insignificance in relation to the great relationships built and the potential success that lies just around the corner.
By Steve Dew-Jones