Whitchurch Alport’s first summer signing, Ben Mills, says he can’t wait to get started for the Hallmark Security League First Division side.
The former Macclesfield Town and Chester forward has chosen to ply his trade for the 2017/18 season at Yockings Park after being impressed with the set-up and the progress the club has been making.
The 28 year-old explained how the move came about: “I phoned Carl Everall at the end of last season just before the club’s play-off push and told him I’d been hearing a lot of good things about Whitchurch.
“I really wanted to get involved with the club and I could tell he was interested.
“I went down to training a few times at the back end of last season as well as watching some of the games, and then met up with the gaffers Carl and Luke (Goddard) at the ground, and was told which direction they wanted to take the club. And I happily agreed I would initially play for the club, as well as getting involved with the coaching side of things.”
The Stoke-on-Trent man went on to tell the club’s YouTube account: “I went to training first and it was a young team who were eager to listen – I liked the way they approached the lads and their management style.
“They talk a lot of sense, they’re very thorough and you can tell they have had a good football upbringing. You could tell the lads were hungry and there was a good team spirit.
“I went to watch Alport’s last game against Prestwich Heys and was impressed. Then I watched the City of Liverpool play-off game before finally meeting the managers at Yockings. Carl explained the progress they have made in the past 12 months around the ground, both on and off the pitch and that instantly attracted me to the club.
“There are a lot of good people here, from what I’ve been told.
“It’s in a great area, Whitchurch, and you can sense that by the support the club have been getting – word soon gets around.
“You see the Twitter stuff and you can tell there’s a buzz about the place.
“In Stoke, where I come from, the area is saturated with non-league clubs so you don’t get any vibes or fan involvement like there is here, with fans singing and banging drums – that’s brilliant and a great help to players.”
Over the past few years Mills has drifted in and out of the game and many people have baulked at his decision to drop down to level 10 of the pyramid.
He explained his time away from football was predominantly down to work commitments but the striker certainly appears hungry again.
“I’ve had plenty of offers and people ringing asking me what I am doing next year and stuff – but people have come to the conclusion my commitment has been intermittent in the past few years,” he said.
“That’s because I set up my own company (Bee Active) and that has been the main focus. It is now buoyant and has been doing well.
“That means I can now look forward to doing things I like to do at the weekends – and I was missing football. You miss it most at the end of the season when you’re pushing for promotion or the play-offs – you miss the glory and the hard work that goes into it.”
I suggested to Mills that, at 28, he may be at a physical peak and asked what attributes he felt he could bring to the club.
“Hard work, leadership – as I’m quite outspoken – and, because I’ve been around and seen a bit, I can use that experience to help in the dressing room,” he said.
“I’ve played at Stafford, Nantwich, Alfreton, Brackley and Kidsgrove so have played at decent levels of non-league.
“I know quite a few people in football so hopefully will be able to help with networking towards the Stoke area. I wanted to get into management and coaching so this player-coach opportunity with Whitchurch is ideal for me.”
After narrowly missing out last season with defeat at City of Liverpool in the play-off semi-final, Mills insisted promotion has to be the aim next time around.
“We’ve gone close but ultimately the season ended in disappointment so we have to aim for promotion because anything less than that would be a backward step,” he said.
“I know that brings pressure but we’ll need to build on the momentum and the success we had last season to make sure we have something to show for our efforts this time next year.”