FC Halifax Town: King relishing return to action after a tough year

Jeff King. Photo: Darren Murphy/Matchday Shots
Jeff King. Photo: Darren Murphy/Matchday Shots

Jeff King is hoping he has finally found a footballing home with Halifax after enduring a nightmare 12 months in exile.

The midfielder’s move to The Shay this summer signalled the end of a year away from first-team action, with his debut in the 4-1 win at Ebbsfleet his first appearance since playing for St Mirren’s under 20s in the Scottish League Challenge Cup on August 14 last year.

King had already played his last game for St Mirren’s first-team by then, despite joining the club on a two-year contract in June 2018 following his release by Bolton.

The Liverpudlian was at Wigan’s academy as a youngster before dropping into the Evo-Stik League with the likes of Altrincham, Nantwich, Ashton United, Witton Albion and Droylsden.

He then moved to Bolton aged 20.

“I had two under 23s managers there who really looked after me,” King said, “I got on with them really well, a bit like the gaffer at Halifax.

“It was a good time. I’d played in non-league for four or five years.

“You never know who’s watching you, and someone was watching me. They gave me a chance to come in on trial and within 12 months, I’d made my debut.”

Despite only playing three times for Bolton’s first-team, King feels his spell at the club brought him on as a player.

“Massively, even little things like diet, time-keeping, discipline, it helped me a lot,” he said..

“That was down to David Lee and Tony Kelly, they were the main two people who helped me along the way.”

King says the time was right to leave when he joined St Mirren.

“Things were going on, I didn’t really have the support I had in the first year,” he said.

“A great club, great fans, good staff. Financially they weren’t in a stable condition.

“When St Mirren came in for me, their manager was Alan Stubbs, who’s ex-Everton, and I’m a mad Everton fan, so that appealed to me massively.

“After two months of my two-year deal, he got sacked, so a new gaffer came in and without even watching me, just said ‘you’re going to be in my plans’ because he wanted to clear the budget.

“So I had to come to an agreement with the club to leave.”

King admits being cast aside at St Mirren was tough to take.

“On the outside, you’ll probably never know what’s going on inside my head, I’m always, happy, smiling, being chirpy, having a good laugh,” he said.

“But inside, I told my family and my girlfriend, it was hard.

“When I came home (after St Mirren) I’d gone from playing every week, even though sometimes it was under 23’s, but being happy and scoring goals, to moving to Scotland on my own, not playing, training with the reserves.

“It was a hard stage, but I came home, got myself sorted, starting getting a bit of confidence back but not the sharpness and the match confidence I wanted.

“But now I feel like I’m getting there a little bit. I still know I’m lacking a bit, there’s still a lot more to come from me, especially match sharpness, and hopefully I can in the coming weeks.”

King returned home in February and trained with Morecambe for three months to keep himself fit, and then trained with Accrington Stanley during the summer.

“I got made to feel at home at Accy, a lot of scousers so that was good!

“They said ‘you’re not really going to play for us and with the year you had last year and not playing a lot of games, you need to do something for yourself, we can’t kill your career’.

“I’m friends with Jack Earing (the pair were at Bolton together), and I think Halifax had heard about me, so I spoke to Jack about speaking to the gaffer, just before Pete (Wild) came in,” King said.

“Clarkey (Nathan Clarke) was the interim manager and he said ‘come in and train, no problem’.

“And the first day I came in was Pete’s first day, so it worked out well that I could show him what I was about.

“I thought the Conference was a very good level, it was an opportunity where I could play, I think I can do well here once I get my foot in a bit more, get a bit more sharpness.

“That will come in the next few games.

“It’s been the best thing for me because my confidence has gone up a lot more, I’m starting to feel more like myself.

“The lads and the gaffer have been brilliant.”

King says he can play anywhere across the midfield, and feels he has become a more versatile player over recent years.

“I don’t mind doing a job for the gaffer whether it’s out wide, as a number 10, as a defensive midfielder.

“Depending where I’m playing, I like a tackle, I like winning headers, you’re involved in the game a lot more in central midfield.

“Out wide I try to be a bit more flairy and get at people - when you’re not playing Ebbsfleet and they kick it 70 yards!”

The 23-year-old is targeting double-figures this season.

“I know I haven’t scored yet, I’ve been involved, but double-figures for goals and assists would be great,” he said.

“I’ve always judged myself on that, but as a team, I’d say the play-offs.

“Against Wrexham, who are one of the favourites to go up, we battled with them and could have gone on to win there.”