Hamza Bencherif - from Paris to Halifax via Algeria

Alfreton's Tom Davies gets to grips with Lincoln's Hamza Bencherif -Pic by: Richard Parkes
Alfreton's Tom Davies gets to grips with Lincoln's Hamza Bencherif -Pic by: Richard Parkes

Halifax is the latest stop on Hamza Bencherif’s magical mystery tour of football that has taken him from Paris to The Shay via Plymouth and Algeria.

The 27-year-old joined Town from Lincoln, for whom he scored six goals in 41 league games last season, including in both games against The Shaymen.

His switch to Halifax from The Imps is practically a hop next door compared to the rest of his career to date.

“I came from France to Nottingham Forest when I was 18,” he said.

“I spent three years there as a young player, going on loan to Lincoln, making my début when I was 18 in League Two.

“Then I signed for Macclesfield and had two great seasons there, scored quite a few goals.

“Then I moved to Notts County and stayed a couple of years there in League One.

“We were fighting for promotion there and only just missed out on the play-offs.

“After that I moved to Plymouth for a bit then moved abroad to Algeria, which was a great experience.

“We qualified for the African Champions League and we reached the Algerian cup final in front of 50,000.

“That was really interesting but for family reasons I came back to England and really enjoyed my time at Lincoln last year.

“They’re a really good club with a good set-up.”

It’s Bencherif’s stint with JS Kabylie in Algeria that was the most interesting destination though, with the versatile defender or midfielder making a dozen appearances for the club last year.

“They’re the most-titled club in the history of Algeria,” he said.

“They’ve won numerous African Champions Leagues and domestic leagues.

“It’s a really, really big club and we had a great season.

“We lost on penalties in the cup final and qualified for the Champions League.

“It was a great experience.”

But Bencherif, who lives in Nottingham, says he is used to being on the move as a footballer.

“I was at a football academy in Paris from the age of 12 so I’ve been training every day and living at an academy in Paris most of my life,” he said.

“When I came to England the style of English football suited me better and it was a great choice because I’ve ended up living here and getting married here.”

Bencherif was immediately impressed by what Town boss Neil Aspin had to say and was excited about the manager’s plans.

“The manager got in touch with me, we met and straight away I bought into what he said,” said Bencherif.

“His spirit and his ambition matched exactly what I was looking for.

“It went really quickly and I signed pretty much straight away.

“The way he works makes a big difference.

“In football you tend to work with loads of people and all sorts of styles of play and different ambitions.

“But the way he spoke and sold the club showed he’s very ambitious.

“He’s got a really good football spirit and he wants to put that on the pitch.”

Bencherif will already be familiar to Town fans after he was sent-off during Lincoln’s 3-2 defeat at The Shay last season, although he disputes the validity of the dismissal.

“I scored then I was sent-off, which was harsh I reckon!” he joked. “Some people might disagree though!

“It was two yellow cards - the first one was for dissent and the second was for kicking a player.

“I was looking to kick the ball but the player got in the way, which was unfortunate.”

Bencherif is equally comfortable in defence or midfield but is unsure of his best position.

He said: “I can play all sorts of positions - attacking, midfield or centre-back.

“My best position depends on the style of football and the game but I’m really comfortable in any of those positions.

“I don’t really have a best position - sometimes I might be better used at centre-back and sometimes in midfield.

“The first part of the season at Lincoln I played central-midfield and scored four goals in a month.

“Then second-half of the season I played centre-back.

“We had a really good group of players and I don’t know why it didn’t work out regarding results.

“We really underachieved for the players we had.”

The former Algerian youth international is optimistic about Halifax’s prospects and has been impressed by what he’s seen so far in training.

He added: “We can go as far as we want.

“We’ve been training for a week or two now and with the spirit of the manager, his assistant and all the players and with the set-up, there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be up there near the top.

“The players look good quality, the fitness levels are really high so I’m confident about what we can do.”