Play-off participants Buxton ended their barren league spell for the campaign in some style earlier this week, notching their first win at the tenth attempt with a 7-0 demolition of Grantham Town. With all sights for Paul Phillips' side now on quickly climbing the BetVictor Northern Premier League Premier Division, one player you can bank on being central to any progress is Liam Hardy.
The 31-year-old has had the unusual feat of four debuts with the club, and the former Darlington striker is currently the Bucks' second all-time leading scorer, with 135 goals. The top marksman in this division two seasons ago, Hardy is among the leading pack so far this time around (bagging five league goals), so would he be primed and ready to step up for the 'Players' Bar' Q&A here? Course he would...
Favourite team and player growing up
Favourite team, Sheff United, and growing up, favourite player I’d say David Beckham. Total different teams, I know, but he was just class weren’t he, Beckham?
Is it Doncaster where you come from, and have you always been based there, even when you've gone and played for Darlington etc.?
Yeah, from Donny; always been based there. I travel in with (Buxton teammates) Brad Grayson and Josh Meade; obviously not at the minute with Josh not being fit, but will be doing again.
Favourite game(s) you’ve played in and why? Would the injury-time winner for Darlington against Salford City be right up there?
Yeah I was just about to say it’s that one. We had a little bit of a rivalry and my first game for Darlington was against Salford. We were 3-1 down, I came off and we ended up winning (4-3)! I was on the bench for the return game and I came on and scored (for 3-2). It was my first goal for Darlo as well, so pretty special.
Funniest teammate/coach/manager in your time as a player (or give more than one example)
(Former Buxton player/assistant/interim manager) Tim Ryan, he’s a character. Very funny and we always keep in contact. I spoke to him at the weekend actually, after the York game, because he’s at York with the academy. We were just talking about the game and he said we’d played well, from everything he’d heard from (York sporting director) Dave Penney.
It's obviously been a really disappointing start results-wise, before the 7-0 this week, but how have you felt personally, in terms of your own form/enjoyment?
I was thinking about it earlier after last night, and Dave (Noble), one of the coaches, said I was looking good, I’m looking sharp. I feel probably the fittest I’ve been. Obviously, apart from the poor start we’ve had, I’ve pitched in with a few goals, so hopefully I can keep it going and we can get a bit of a run together. It’s a bit of a false position where we are and I think we’ll pick up.
What have the lads, Phillo (manager Paul Phillips) etc. been saying this season? 'We’ve been doing the right things, we’ve just been unlucky, it’s just those final bits' and so on?
It’s just seemed like one game we’re scoring a few but conceding a few, then the next game we’re keeping a clean sheet but not scoring. It’s just trying to put them two together and make it work, and last night (against Grantham Town) it just clicked in place. We’ve said it’s been coming for quite a while and someone’s gonna be on the end of a bit of a tonking. We’ve been a bit unlucky - like against South Shields we played well - going 1-0 up and losing 2-1 and stuff like that. It all came together last night and hopefully we can keep it going.
In terms of ambitions for yourself, how do you look at it? Is it 'I can still push up to National League North/National League,' - hopefully with Buxton - or 'I wanna just enjoy playing football and whatever comes alongside that, comes'?
Yeah, I still feel like I can push on. As far as that’s concerned, I’m just enjoying my football and seeing what comes along. As long as I’m scoring and playing well, that’s all that matters.
The club itself you know by now as well as anyone. Compared with previous spells perhaps, does it feel now like there’s more ambition/purpose to get it pushed forward? Is that fair to say?
Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of ambition. (Chairman David Hopkins) Dave’s behind everyone and he’s the motor behind it all really, turning the cog. We’re hopefully gonna do him proud, kickstart the results and get to where we want to be. That’s the aim this season, to obviously go one step better than last season. There’s a lot of ambition; the ground, the pitch, everything’s in place really.
What about your chances of catching Mark Reed’s (club) goal record (251) – maybe in a few years?!
Yeah I’ll be trying – get a cabin named after me!
There was the 46-goal season you had at Armthorpe Welfare, and you've scored goals for plenty of other teams, where has been your happiest spell in football so far?
I’d say Buxton. We’ve always had a good set of lads. When I first came with Macca (Martin McIntosh) and Tim (Ryan), they were spot on, and like I say, I still talk to them. We had a good car school from Donny going. Even now, off the pitch, there’s some characters in there, like Shents (Grant Shenton), and then (Martin) Pilkington...as you probably know from Twitter! Probably the funniest guy I’ve ever met in my life! So definitely Buxton where I’ve been happiest.
What about the toughest spell? The leg break and cruciate injury you had at Harrogate?
Yeah, when I broke my leg, the manager (Simon Weaver) showed some faith in me and knew what I could do, so he kept me on and paid me and everything. Then I came back and did my cruciate. It was just feeling a bit like I couldn’t do it and I wanted to give up. Obviously I didn’t, you just keep going, and it’s paid off alright, but yeah it was tough times when I did my leg and my knee. It’s a bit like a black hole and it’s hard to get out, but nobody knows that. With Meadey (Josh Meade), he’s just done his cruciate, so you just keep trying to talk to him and let him know what my experience was like.
For managers you've played for previously, who’s understood you most and how to get the best from you?
Martin McIntosh. I’d come from Harrogate, on loan first of all, and I scored seven in seven. He understood me well and knew how I played, and I think that’s where I got most of my joy.
What sort of approach is it you need - arm around the shoulder, or harsher at times?
Probably just to leave me alone really. I think Phillo knows that now; he used to shout at me quite a lot but I think he’s learned to leave me alone and let me do my thing! Obviously no one wants to miss a chance, and he does tell me those sorts of things, like ‘you should be scoring them,’ but yeah, probably to leave me alone.
A player you’ve played with whose ability alone deserved/deserves to be at a higher level
There was a lad for Harrogate, I’ve forgot his name, he was unbelievable in training, but just couldn’t do it in a game. The other one, Michael Woods, who was at Chelsea and Harrogate – he’s at Dover now – he was absolutely unbelievable in training. He’s gone higher and stuff, but he’s one I thought should be in the League. Him and Adam Bolder in training, if they were on the same team they were untouchable sometimes.
Have there been any initiations you've had to do when joining a new club, and if so, which song(s) have you performed?!
At Darlington it wasn’t too bad, we’d just won the league, and last game of the season we’re on our way back to Newcastle for the night out. Drinks are flowing and I’m thinking ‘what song could I sing?’ I went for One Direction ‘History’! I was hoping all the players would help me out on the chorus, so it went alright.
Thanks to everyone @Official_Darlo some great memories and wish you all the best 🙌🏽. Looking forward to my 4th debut tonight 😂 I'm back! pic.twitter.com/jkJkuvwv3Y
— Liam Hardy (@Liam_Hardy) March 7, 2017
What is a typical week like for you, in terms of routine?
Monday, I just more or less chill and go to the gym. Tuesday, training or a game. Wednesday, I play snooker for my local club. Thursday, training or a game, or if not, just do my own thing; gym again or for a little trot. Fridays, again, just chill before Saturday and the game.
Any myths/misconceptions, or a rumour you’ve heard about yourself that wasn’t true?
I think everyone’s had a fair impression of me really. Fairly easy-going lad and get on well with everyone.
One singer/band/song you’d sneak on to the team playlist? Assuming that you don’t run it already…
I’m DJ! We put a bit of Killers on for (physio) Derek (Turner)! I just put a bit of everything on, and if they think it’s crap, just skip it. Jude (Oyibo) sometimes goes on as well, but he’s terrible, to be honest.
Finally, as someone who comes from Buxton, no better place to end than with a mention for nights out in my home town...
Have you had many experiences of the Market Place and all the rest of it?!
We’ve been out more or less every year; we do the end-of-season do and then go to The Vault, and Level 2. They’ve been some great nights, to be honest. If you’re from Buxton then maybe not, but everyone seems to say it’s a good night! Probably just because it’s once a year that we go out. It’s a really good end-of-season do, we have a few beers there, and then go into town.
Interview by @chris_brookes