A career with the Owls, Tigers, Reds, Robins, Badgers, Shaymen, Gladiators, Nailers and more - Ryan Hindley looks back
He’s been an Owl, a Tiger, a Red, a Robin, a Badger, a Nailer, a Shayman, a Gladiator and more besides.
He fired free-kicks into top corners, provided assists and entertained fans at most of the region’s prominent non league clubs.
Now that he’s moved into management, the winger is hoping to use his experience of non league life to help young players get chances he himself never had.
The Hallam FC boss knows all the tricks players try to pull, because it was usually him pulling them.
Playing days over, the 33-year-old can look back at them with a level of objectivity.
It was a career that didn’t get off to the best of starts.
“I was at Sheffield Wednesday for three years, and had my first taste of non league in a loan spell at Hallam,” he said.
“But I left Wednesday under a bit of a cloud. I didn’t listen, I wanted to do everything my own way and let myself down.
“If I knew then what I know now, I’d have done things an awful lot differently.”
The dream of playing football professionally lingered for Hindley, but he set about plying his trade in non league.
“I signed for Paul Mitchell and Pete Rinkcavage at Worksop in the Northern Premier, playing against the likes of Altrincham – it was a good level,” he said.
“It was like playing in the Football League because of the amount of away fans Worksop would take, the away end was full of yellow shirts at Lancaster and I remember thinking ‘this is fun.’”
That away support would the best he encountered in 12 years of non league football, but his greatest days were still ahead of him.
At Alfreton, he was part of a team who won four trophies in one season under Chris Wilder – the Northern Counties (East) League Premier title, the League Cup, President’s Cup and Derbyshire Senior Cup.
That success took Wilder to Halifax Town, and Hindley went to The Shay with him.
A spell at Stocksbridge Park Steels followed, before the move that sparked Hindley’s fondest memories.
“Ilkeston is where I probably had the best part of my career, the most enjoyable,” he said.
“I scored the goal that got Ilkeston promoted – that was a day I will never forget.
“To score any goal to win the league is good, even though that one was a bit of a tap-in and I nicked it, it was already going in.”
After 47 games and 18 goals, one of those to clinch promotion out of the UniBond Division One, it was time for the nomad to be on his way yet again.
Having played for so many teams, it was inevitable that Hindley would encounter one with financial troubles.
Retford United provided that experience, but it led to what he calls his greatest achievement.
“It’s not always about the glory and the goals, it’s about when you have to dig in a little bit.
“Winning the league without getting paid at Retford, all sticking together because it wasn’t the fans’ fault, or the manager’s, and winning the title by about 18 points, that’s my biggest achievement.
“We were all on big money but we never saw it, until the season after when a new chairman came in and paid it.”
He featured for Belper, Worksop again, Frickley and Matlock, before a couple of cameo appearances for NCEL clubs.
But Hindley says it was over by the time he joined the Gladiators.
“I was finished at Matlock, I had gone by 28,” he said.
“I think I peaked at 23 or 24 and was finished by 28. I was getting niggles, I’d play four games and then miss a few.
“I felt I couldn’t perform at the level I wanted to.”
He called it quits having made a name for himself in South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire non league circles.
His list of honours is certainly one to be proud of.
“I won several league titles and promotion, four or five Derbyshire Senior Cups, the President’s Cup twice, the League Cup twice,” he reeled off.
“I joke that I’m the most decorated player in non league but there won’t be many who have won as much.”
For all his success, Hindley never made it back into the professional ranks.
“At one stage there were 14 clubs looking at me.”
“I was going to join Stockport, and I was sat on a beach in Thailand when Chris Turner got the sack, and that ended the move.
“There’s been a lot of bad luck.
“I felt it was a matter of time, I was scoring every week at Ilkeston, it just never came to fruition.”
He believes it’s easier nowadays to get a move from non league to the Football League, and the facts back him up – Jamie Vardy, Ollie Banks, Marc Roberts, Che Adams and Reece Thompson have all made the step up in recent times.
Hindley believes a number of his former non league team-mates would have been snapped up had they played in the current climate.
“Back when we were playing, there was money in the game and the Football League sneered at non league, now that’s where they get talent from.
“Look at Ilkeston, players are getting moves on what seems like a weekly basis.
“I believe Conor Sellars and Tom Burgin at Worksop could make it.
“And in football how it is now, there are six or seven I can think of from my ex-team-mates who would have gone on to play Football League.
“People don’t realise how good players like Mick Godber, Neil Harvey and Micky Goddard were.
“Paul Mitchell had a Football League club at Worksop, with the players we had.”
Hindley’s boyhood dream of being a professional footballer was dead by the time he was 24, but it’s been replaced by a new one.
“Now I work so hard in management because I’ve got a second chance in football, if I work hard enough I could do quite well.
“I don’t want to think that I will never get back to the Football League.”
And he wants to help others reach their goals.
“Hopefully I’m doing it now – I’m sending a 16-year-old to Sheffield United and Chesterfield, I’ve got a lot of good young talented lads, and I want to give them an opportunity,” he said.
“I want to be successful, but the biggest satisfaction is seeing someone get a chance.
“I love it, it puts a lump in my throat thinking about it, a lad coming to us raw, putting a bit of a shine on him and him going on to take his chance.”
He’s not only well placed to spot talent, but the warning signs of a player taking liberties.
Once upon a time, he was that player.
“You can’t kid a kidder – I know if a player has been out because I probably haven’t had a sober weekend since I was 15.
“I played drunk, I had three beers once in the car on the way to a game and scored. We drew 1-1.”
It’s early days yet, but he appears to have taken well to managerial life.
Dad to three-year-old Harlow and husband to Lisa, Hindley is content with his current place in the game.
“Last year when I took over Hallam they’d had 12 defeats in 12 games, and we won 18 games out of 34.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am for the new season to start.
“It’s more exciting as a manager than it was as a player.
“But it was an interesting career, to say the least.”