A footballers career is defined by moments of hardships and euphoria, some of these poignant occasions are endured in the lowest echelons of the game but also achieved on the grandest of stages.
At 33 years of age signing for FC Halifax Town represents Jon Challinor’s 15 different club, a bittersweet journeyman’s existence that includes five Wembley appearances, Play-off sorrow and ecstasy, an early glimpse into the clinical Lee Gregory and two separate stints playing Soccer in the United States of America.
Yet despite all of these accomplishments Challinor’s thirst to succeed lured him to the Shaymen:
“I had an agreement with Stamford that if the right club made contact then I’d be interested in doing it. You just have to look at FC Halifax over the years and the way they’ve come back and where they are in the league at the minute, they’re pushing for promotion. So as a player you’ve got to look at things like that, many people will say that they’ve played more games but the club is there on merit.”
The kudos and drama of the play-offs captivates Challinor as his zest for victory continues to soar:
“It is purely about the play-offs the atmosphere around a club that comes with a promotion push is exactly what you want as a player, it is very much a place to be as your being given a purpose to play and the ultimate goal of securing promotion.”
Having played in four play-off finals for as many teams, the first of which ended in despair. Formerly of Aldershot Town, the Hampshire side lost 3-0 on penalties to Shrewsbury Town who had a certain budding talent named Joe Hart on the substitutes bench at the Britannia Stadium that afternoon.
By 2009 Challinor had sustained Wembley play-off final losses with Exeter City and Cambridge United. Nevertheless Challinor soon tasted Play-off jubilation in York City’s all-conquering 2011/12 campaign, by beating Luton Town having claimed the FA Trophy against Newport County eight days earlier:
“You ask any kid and there dream is to play at Wembley and have that experience. So I’ve been blessed and played at Wembley four times but equally I’ve lost there too which is perhaps the worst place you can lose. But luckily with York City I won both the play-offs and FA Trophy which were the best feelings you could get as a player. So I’ve got a 50% record at Wembley which isn’t too bad, I’ll take that! ”
Content with his Wembley win ratio the former Forest Green Rovers midfielder has appeared more times at the New Wembley than both Arsenal and Liverpool, boasting a better win rate than the former.
However his willingness to continuously play football is commendable, personified by his spells in U.S.A with Kamalzoo Kingdom:
“Yes Kalamzoo Kingdom was a team mainly focussed on college players who had broken up from their studies and wanted to play lots of football. I went out there for three months and it was a good grounding, a different culture, a different way of playing and I believe that I learnt a lot over there. I went back for a couple of summers and it was just a good thing to get away from this country when the football season was over and continue playing.”
With British players notorious for remaining on these shores the ex- England C international expects more domestic players to go overseas:
“The thing is the amount of players who are free without a club are being forced to go abroad. But to witness and see how they play can only broaden your game as a player. It certainly benefited me as I grew up as a player and it helped me a lot when I came back to play in England.”
One name who is honing his skills to blistering effect is Lee Gregory, consistent performances, nimble footwork and deadly finishing has brought the former Sheffield United to the attention of many. With Challinor excited to be re-united with the man he spent a season with at Mansfield Town:
“I’ve noticed that he’s been banging the goals in and when we were at Mansfield he always had the potential as he was always in and around the team. But you never know how a player can kick-on or fall away but this season he has knocked in 15 goals already which is what any forward wants. I know that there has been interest in him but I know that Lee will focus on the job in hand and score as many goals as he can to get FC Halifax Town promoted.”
With matches on the horizon against former clubs Cambridge United and Aldershot Town, Challinor must help his colleagues navigate their way past Wrexham to earn just a second Skrill Premier away win of the season:
“First and foremost we’ve got to get back to winning ways, the result against Tamworth was a setback but it is up to the lads to turn that around and get that winning feeling back. So I see no reason why we can’t go to Wrexham and get a result.”
Eager to make an impression and guide his new team-mates to greater depths the Northampton born midfielder feels indebted to the club for granting him the chance to showcase his ability:
“I’d like to think that the gaffer can draw on my experiences which can help the players along the way. I also hope that he still thinks I can do a job, a lot of eyebrows were raised when I went to York but I proved myself there and I feel within myself that I can still offer a lot at this level and higher.
So hopefully he has seen that as this is a very good opportunity for me so I can’t thank the gaffer or club enough for giving me this opportunity.”
Read more posts by Kelly Gilchrist