They’re nearly there; having come so close to promotion last season, Retford United, of the Central Midlands League Premier North, are but a handful of wins away from doing so this time around.
Twenty-three points clear, with a few games left to go, the Badgers are in a more than promising position, and, to help with that final push, manager Ryan Hindley brought in ex-Football League player, Adam Chapman, previously of Basford United.
Having started out with his beloved Blades, as part of the Sheffield United Youth Academy (2005-09), Chapman’s career has been somewhat of a rollercoaster, enjoying spells at Oxford United, Newport County, Mansfield Town, and Sheffield FC, to name a few, whilst also celebrating promotion-winning campaigns with two of those.
In 2010 he would be named man-of-the-match as the U’s won the then-Conference Play-Off final, a 3-1 win over York City (two of those scorers, Matthew Green and Alfie Potter, both enjoyed spells with the Stags also); then, three years later, he was part of the last, Stags promotion side, as they were also promoted from the Conference.
Bizarrely, he chose to join a fellow promoted side, Newport County, before returning to Mansfield a few years later; in-between all that, he also suffered a spell inside, something which he readily admits to deserving.
That was then though, and this is now, and, having got his career well-and-truly back on track, following a few more bumps and breaks, he’s enjoying his football again.
“It’s nice to be able to play football with a smile on my face,” admits Adam, shortly after joining the Badgers.
“Even though I’m knackered now,” he laughs,” I actually started my footballing life here, at Cannon Park, as a junior, at what, six-years-old.
“I always wanted to return here, and get, hopefully, a couple of seasons in, before wrapping up.”
A potential, third promotion, this time to the Northern Counties East Division One, it’s where the Badgers are expecting, hoping to be placed next season, will be another highlight alongside his two, previous promotions.
He is hoping though, that he can help Tinsley et al, push the Cannon Park side, on to bigger and better things.
“The first ten years or so of my career, they were great, especially having played at Wembley,” continued Chapman.
“I deserved to go to prison though, and, although I have a hard time saying it was my lowest point, it was; other than that though, I’ve been quite happy with what I’ve done.
“Mind, within a couple of days of being released, and I was back at Oxford, I broke my foot in a behind-closed-doors friendly – that wasn’t fun.
“And I guess, the only other downer, personally, was when Mansfield lost 4-1 away to Sheffield Wednesday, in the First Round of the League Cup (11 August 2015) – as a Blade, I wasn’t happy.”
He still keeps an eye out for results from the One Call Stadium, most former players do follow the progress of clubs they’ve enjoyed spells at.
Chapman though, around that 2012-16 period, was like a mini yo-yo, between Newport County and Mansfield Town, having both a loan, and permanent spell, at each.
“At the time, Newport were the ones that offered me a better contract,” explained the 33-year-old, central midfielder.
“I’d had loan spells at both (2012-12 season), but I got on really well with Justin Edinburgh, so it was a better option for me, better security.
“The first spell with the Stags (loan, 2013), I guess I sucked people into thinking that I was natural goal-scorer.
“I was funny real (scoring a hat-trick on his home debut, versus Stockport County, March 2013), and the third goal, for me, was a lovely one, curling home a beautiful effort.
“But, I always preferred the goal I scored against Grimsby Town the following week – it was nice to be closer to home though, playing good football, and winning games.”
Jumping right up to present day, and with Chapman having recently departed Greenwich Avenue, Basford, for Cannon Park, Retford, it was to be a decision that, although a difficult one to make, it was one which he had to, both for his own betterment, and to help others.
“They (Basford), the people there are fantastic really and it was just about timing,” continued Chapman.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be there next season, and I had a good, honest chat with the then Basford boss (Mark Clifford, who was recently relieved of his duties); I wanted to do something for me, my life, my happiness, and, to be fair, they were good as gold about it all.
“Then I approached Ryan (Hindley) at the Kiveton game last month (the Badgers’ only defeat of the season in the league) and asked if he’d be interested in bringing me to the club.
“It’s a good club and they’re in a good, healthy position, and they do mean a lot to me, from a family perspective, as well.
“To help them win the title, and gain promotion, would be great, but it’s not quite done and dusted yet, and, with the games others have left as well, makes it a little complicated.
“But, we’re staying confident, and positive, especially with the differing scorers we have at the club as well.
“Having that many people score goals (eighteen players have registered so far), then that excites someone like me, who likes to get forward a lot.
“It makes things much easier, so to have those options, ahead of me, is great.”
Although sides beneath the Badgers have games in hand – Dearne & District, Club Thorne, and Staveley Miners Welfare have five apiece, that still sees them falling a little short in the race for the title, and with it, promotion.
Hindley, Chapman, and the Cannon Park Badgers, have just five games left to play, and four of those are at home, they welcoming that of Club Thorne (18 March), SJR Worksop (22 March), Staveley (1 April), and Dinnington Town (8 April), in the coming weeks, before a season finale, away to Dearne, in the middle of next month (15 April).
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*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @RetfordUnited Adam Chapman recently signed to boost Retford’s promotion bid.