Non League Daily

Into the 92: Scott Fenwick reflects on first season as a pro

A day of relief, a day of celebration, a day of a brightly coloured away support dressed in yellow, green and red to honour Bob Marley, the writer of their adopted terrace chance "Don't worry about a thing".

The reggae classic had become the soundtrack to Hartlepool United's great escape, as they overturned near-impossible odds to clinch survival in the Football League from the ever-widening jaws of the Non-League scene. How it could have been oh so different for one player in particular.

It could have been the curtain closer of a fledging Football League career but instead, as Scott Fenwick walked out to face the Cumbrians on the final day of his maiden season as a professional player, he could reflect on playing a key role in Hartlepool United's "Great Escape"

Not bad for a player who started the season with EBAC Northern League club Dunston UTS.

The former Newcastle United junior had been a prolific scorer in the Northern League and Pools beat off a host of clubs to secure his signature, the signing coming as Pools suffered one of their worst starts to a season in living memory.

What was to follow was the kind of story that is fitting for Roy of the Rovers as Fenwick scored some vital goals to keep the Victoria Park club in the Football League, against what seemed like near-impossible odds.

And he admits that walking into a dressing room that was low on confidence when he initially joined the club was tough.

"It was tough and obviously I was buzzing to be at the club and to be in the changing room. But it was dead, there was no atmosphere and it was too quiet. You look at the Northern League atmosphere and it was all cheery and jokey, doing stuff like cutting each other's laces and things like that.

I didn't know how the players would take to that so it was tough to know what to do. Do you inject some enthusiasm or just fit in with how it was. Eventually the new manager came in and the place just brightened up"

It didn't take Fenwick long to make an impact as he scored on his first start in a home defeat to York City in November. A moment that he called "the best feeling I have ever had"

"My first appearance at Southend United I came on for half an hour and did well there and then the next week against York City I had my first start and scored.

"When I first scored I looked at the linesman to make sure I wasn't offside! But then I realised the noise of the crowd, it was so loud and I spotted my parents in the stand so I ran towards them. It was the best feeling I have ever had"

A dream start for the young striker and he admitted that being part of the professional game is something that he had in his mind since his childhood. Although he did reveal that he doesn't miss the gruelling schedule that semi-professional players have to face.

"I go to work, if you can call it work, and I play football every day for a living. It's something I dreamt of as a kid and it's something I have always wanted to do. It is hard training every day but in the Northern League you are doing a ten hour shift, going to the gym and training, then travelling to games so that was tough"

Fenwick was honest enough to admit that he knew there were some people in the game who thought he would fail at Victoria Park. The North East is well-known for being a hotbed of football, with opinions both positive and negative being thrown around like confetti.

However, when faced with that scepticism Fenwick showed a single-minded nature that would help him to achieve a relatively successful season in the professional game.

"I know how the region works and there are a lot of opinions in the North East because it is such a football place. I remember reading a few forums and seeing people saying I wasn't even a top striker in the Northern League but at the end of the day I scored over one hundred goals in that league and if I wasn't a top striker then clubs wouldn't have been looking at me.

I just ignored that scepticism really and focused on looking after myself and working hard to make myself a success at Hartlepool United, that is all I want to do"

And he believes that there are more players in the Northern League, and the region's representatives in the leagues above them, that could make in impact in the Football League, although did admit that geographical circumstances may be working against them.

"There are a lot of players in the Northern League who could make it in the pro game. There is far too much quality in the North East and in the Northern League, plus then you have Darlington, Spennymoor and Blyth Spartans above them too.

It is hard because there is a lot of non-league money about and such a small amount of clubs. If it was how it is in Manchester there would be a lot more lads who would make it in the pro game because there are more clubs around to take a chance on them"

So back to Brunton Park, back to the day of relief, celebration and brightly coloured Rastafarian hats on the last day of the Football League season.

A day where the Pools faithful saluted the efforts, no make that heroics, of manager Ronnie Moore, the architect behind the great escape and the man who helped Fenwick to reach new levels in his maiden season as a pro, something the striker will always be thankful for.

"The manager deserves credit. When he came in I started getting a chance and hit some form. He played me and I started scoring every week and he gave me the confidence to do that. He made me realise that I was good enough to do it at this level.

He looks after me and I think he knows that sometimes I need a hammering and he did that before the Cheltenham game, telling me to show I can lead the line at the club. He keeps giving me little tips. I am learning every day and hopefully I can keep on improving over the coming years"

That will be music to the ears of the Pools supporters.

Interview: Mark Carruthers
Photo: Joe Spence


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