Ahead of our first pre-season friendly of the summer, we caught up with former Barnsley and Gainsborough Trinity striker Nathan Jarman.
A product of the Reds academy, the 31-year-old was part of the 2005/06 League One side that went on to beat Swansea City on penalties in a memorable play-off final.
“I remember the play-off final against Swansea, I wasn’t involved but we went down there for the weekend and I was with the rest of the lads – there was Nathan Joynes, Tom Harban, Ryan Laight and Dale Tonge, who were in the team at the time,” reminisced Jarman.
“So there’s lots of happy memories. I think I made a few appearances at the start of the season, but didn’t make any more towards the end of the season.”
From Barnsley, Jarman moved on to Grimsby Town, Corby Town and Alfreton Town before joining Chester in 2012.
The Blues, founded in 2010 after Chester City were dissolved, had won back-to-back promotions from the Northern Premier League Division One North and the Northern Premier League Premier Division, and were looking to achieve a third successive title.
Neil Young’s side, spearheaded by Jarman’s 14 league goals, won the Conference North at a canter to reach the Conference Premier, while also claiming the Cheshire Senior Cup in a glittering campaign.
“That was a really good season,” continued the striker. “It was stupid, really, we near enough won every game; we went 35 or 36 games unbeaten.
“We just had a really strong team with 22 lads who could all play and no matter what happened the gaffer would change it. I remember winning 6-0 away at Hinkley and then coming in the next week and the team had four or five changes. It was a good season, we did really well.”
After just one season with Chester, Jarman transferred to North Ferriby United and once again claimed silverware.
The Villagers reached the FA Trophy final and beat Wrexham on penalties after a six-goal thriller at Wembley Stadium, a day the striker will never forget.
“I loved it – it was my favourite day in football,” insisted Jarman. “In the build-up we watched England [4-0 vs. Lithuania] on the Friday night and we played on the Sunday. Everything about it was just brilliant and to come on when we were losing 2-0 and to win on penalties was just the best day I’ve ever had in football.”
Following his FA Trophy success, Jarmen joined Saturday’s opponents Gainsborough Trinity where he spent three years before leaving at the end of last season.
The Holy Blues suffered their first ever relegation after letting a two-goal lead slip against AFC Telford in the penultimate game, eventually succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.
“It wasn’t nice,” admitted Jarman. “I’m not going to say that we were punching above our weight because we weren’t – I think we could have been sustainable at that level, but the league got really strong with a few full-time teams in there, paying full-time wages.
“If budgets go up and yours is plateauing and staying the same, you’re not going to be able to compete as well as you did a few years previously. It might be the gee-up that they need to come back up again and build stronger foundations, but the work they’re doing over there is brilliant – they’ve got football in the community – it’s looking bright for them.
“I have a really good relationship with everyone at Gainsborough. It was just time to move on, but I really enjoyed it; it’s a lovely, friendly club and everyone from the Chairman to the Directors to the staff puts in a really good shift to make sure it carries on. It’s a real community club and I wouldn’t be surprised to go back there one day.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, England face Sweden in the World Cup quarter-finals in Samara as Gareth Southgate’s side aim to reach the last four of a major tournament for the first time since 1996.
There is, of course, local interest with Barnsley academy graduate John Stones featuring heavily at the heart of the Three Lions’ defence, and Jarman will be avidly watching the events in Russia unfold.
“I keep saying it’s coming home; I think I’ve got lost in the euphoria of it all as well,” said Jarman. “I hope so, I don’t see why not, especially with the teams that are left in it now. Everyone’s looking forward to it and I’m no different.”