By Dan Barker, 23/08/2018.
Padraig Amond joined Grimsby Town in the Summer of 2015 following the agonising Play-Off Final defeat to Bristol Rovers. During the 2015-16 season, Amond racked up an impressive 32 goals in 46 appearances to help The Mariners win promotion back to the Football League whilst also winning the personal honour of the club’s Player of the Year award. On the eve of Town’s trip to Amond’s current club, Newport County, Written In Black And White’s editor Dan Barker was lucky enough to speak to Padraig about his time in Cleethorpes.
DB: Hi Padraig, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. What did you know about Grimsby Town before you joined the club, did you have any particular memories of playing at Blundell Park as a visitor?
PA: ‘I knew that they were a massive club in the wrong division, I remembered them being in what is now the Championship and then dropping down the leagues. I had seen them on TV over the years but I had never played against them so my first game at Blundell Park was as a Grimsby Town player.’
DB: Somewhat unknown territory for you then! There were a few clubs interested in signing you in the Summer of 2015. What was the deciding factor that helped you choose Town?
PA: ‘I had spoken to players who were there before and knew it was a club that had gone close to promotion the previous year and were on the up. Toto (Nsiala) played a big part in me signing there, I called him to see what the club was like as I had played with him before and trusted his opinion and he couldn’t sell the club enough to me. The big thing he spoke to me about was the team spirit which he got spot on as it was evident that there was a good bunch of lads there. Playing with a good, hungry bunch of lads is something every player wants to do so that what swayed it.’
DB: That’s great to hear, it was incredibly clear that there was a strong team spirit amongst the players, especially during our final two seasons in the National League. Knowing that the club came agonisingly close to promotion the previous year, did you feel any pressure to deliver especially given what was at stake for the club?
PA: ‘If I’m being honest, I didn’t feel under any pressure as I was pleased to be used as a striker at the club. Previously at Morecambe and Accrington I played the majority of my games on the wing, despite never being a winger I was honest enough to do a job for the team. I knew the players were so close to promotion the previous year but when I met them at Cheapside on the first day of pre-season training they had already put the disappointment behind them and spoke from day one about how they were going to use the heartbreak from the Wembley loss in a positive way to get promoted that season.’
DB: It didn’t take long for the fans to endear themselves to you, thanks in no small part to the goals you scored early in the season. Did the supporters have a positive impact on how you and the rest of the squad performed?
PA: ‘I hit the ground running in pre-season and from then my confidence was sky high. Once the season started the goals started to flow and everytime I stepped on the pitch I expected to score a goal or two in the game I was playing. The lads created a lot of chances which left me with the easy job of finishing them off. Obviously getting a lot of praise from supporters helps a lot of players out as it gives them more confidence to be more creative on the pitch. The fans were excellent with me and I loved the songs being sung about me as it meant I was doing my job really well. I can’t stress enough though how much the team helped me by creating all the chances for me and giving me a platform to show what I could do.’
DB: I can imagine that being important to you. It might be difficult as there is a fair few to choose from but what was your favourite goal from that season?
PA: ‘That’s easy, Nathan Arnold’s goal at Wembley but on a personal level then my best goal would be the volley away at Welling.’
DB: I thought that might have been the answer! If I could take you back to the semi-final second leg away at Braintree for a moment. What was going through your mind when you stepped up to take the penalty that levelled the tie?
PA: ‘I knew it was a big moment and there was pressure but I also knew I couldn’t miss it. I had taken a couple of penalties that season and gone the same way each time so when the Grimsby supporters ran on to the pitch it gave the Braintree goalkeeper coach a chance to run around the pitch to the goalkeeper and show him where I had gone with all my penalties so far that season. Luckily for me I spotted that and knew if I went the other way I couldn’t miss. The biggest thing for me was to make sure I didn’t go to close to the post and try make it the perfect penalty so as long as it was just to the left of the goal it would go in.’
DB: That’s really well thought out. Stepping away from the enormity of the occasion for a moment, how did it feel stepping off the coach at Wembley Stadium?
PA: ‘It was an unreal feeling to be honest. The gaffer and Doigy (Chris Doig) were brilliant in the lead up to the game and we spent a couple of days in London which helped us settle. The fact that most of the lads had been there the previous yeat was very important as the Wembley experience wasn’t new to them so their experience was key. We knew once we came out for the start of the game we were going to have a lot more supporters there than Forest Green so we were prepared for that and the noise was amazing. From a personal perspective I had always dreamed of playing at Wembley. I can remember growing up watching every FA Cup Final from 1993 and highlights of previous finals so it was a big thing to play at Wembley. It has changed now with so many live games on TV but the thrill of it all was everything I thought it would be.’
DB: ‘I can imagine it would be. How did it feel once the referee blew his whistle and confirmed that not only had you won the game but also that Town’s non-league days were over?’
PA: ‘When the final whistle went it was one of the best feelings I have ever had in football, it was just an amazing bubble we were in. You dream of playing at Wembley and winning there and we had done just that. All of my family and my fiancé were there too so to share it with them was a special moment. To share the moment with the group of lads and management staff we had was brilliant too. We had worked so hard to get the club back into the Football League and achieve what we had set out to do.’
DB: It was a great feeling to be a supporter too. After the week of celebrations, how important was it to win the FA Trophy Final?
PA: ‘I can’t even imagine what it was like for the supporters. Players come and go all the time but the supporters of the football club are always there and us getting promoted was more important to them than any of the players. There was a sense of achievement for us as players and staff but for supporters, the years of hurt were put to bed. We wanted to win the FA Trophy Final but it just wasn’t meant to be for us. We had won the most important final and for us that was the main thing.’
DB: Most definitely. How did it feel to win the club’s Player of the Year Award?
PA: ‘Again from a personal point of view I was delighted because it showed the season I had was decent, but at the same time you could have picked about 6/7 players and made a case for those players to win it too. We were an excellent team collectively because we trusted each other and would have run through a brick wall for each other too.’
DB: With that in mind, you must have been disappointed to leave Grimsby Town after just one season. Was it a difficult decision to leave?
PA: ‘Of course I was disappointed to leave. I was coming off the best season and most enjoyable season of my career so it was a very hard decision to leave. At the same time I had to think about the future too for myself so the length of the contract was a massive thing for me. I had seen players on one year deals before get injured early or struggle for form and then not be able to get a club the following year so for my own security I wanted longer than a years deal and I felt my goals should have got me that but it wasn’t to be.’
DB: That’s completely understandable, it came as a shock to the fans that the club were reticent to offer you an extended deal. To briefly mention your time at Hartlepool, how did it feel coming back to Blundell Park as part of the opposition?
PA: ‘It was weird to be honest with you. There had been a lot of changes in the club over the summer so on the playing side it was a different team I was facing compared to playing against all your ex teammates. I honestly knew I was going to score in the game before it started. I think everyone did. When I scored the first goal I remember seeing supporters in the stand standing and clapping and the same after the my second goal and that was a great moment. The same as when I was being substituted the majority of the fans stood and clapped me off and that was the goodbye I never really got to say to the fans because of leaving the previous summer.
DB: I remember it well, mainly because I was one of the fans applauding you. You came back to the club for Craig Disley’s benefit game last season. How was it re-uniting with all your old teammates?
PA: ‘Well I can tell you that I really appreciated the applause so thank you very much. Dizza, what a legend, I could be here for days talking about how great that man is. To be asked to come back and play was an honour and I was always going to be there whether I could play or not. Thankfully my manager at Newport allowed me to and it was great to see all the lads again. It was a great night for Diz and the fact that so many of his ex teammates were there shows you how much he was valued in the dressing room.’
DB: It was great to see you in black and white again which leads nicely into my final question. If the opportunity arose, would you ever come back to the club?
PA: ‘It’s a hard one to answer just because you just never know what is around the corner. Since I have left the opportunity hasn’t come back up so the decision has been out of my hands. If I say I would love to play there again it puts unnecessary pressure on the new manager from supporters to try re-sign me which is unfair for everyone. Again at the same time I am really really happy at Newport County and things are going really well for me here at the minute. I am also coaching the u16 academy team too as I start my coaching career although I have no intentions of finishing anytime soon. Never say never though. I loved every second of my time at Grimsby Town and the people of Grimsby made me feel very welcome there and also made my family feel very welcome when they were at games too.’
DB: That’s good to hear, thank you for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been an honour and a privilege.
PA: ‘No problem, thank you.’
I would just like to reiterate how grateful I am to Padraig for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us and to wish him all the best for the rest of the season (not too much on Saturday though!)
We’ll be back next week with another instalment of What Became Of The Likely Lads?
Until then, Mariners fans, take care.