My Time At Town - Matt Glennon: “We had a fantastic team spirit, that’s what got us through”

After more than four hundred appearances, Matt Glennon knew his time as a footballer was coming to an end - but he wasn’t ready to call it a day just yet.
Glennon in action for Town against York at The ShayGlennon in action for Town against York at The Shay
Glennon in action for Town against York at The Shay

And the former Huddersfield, Bradford and Carlisle goalkeeper would enjoy a memorable swansong at Halifax, playing more times for The Shaymen than any other club - despite an inauspicious first meeting with Town boss Neil Aspin.

”I’d been playing full-time football for a long time and I was ready to set-up something else, get away from full-time football,” says Glennon, who was 33 by the time he joined Halifax.

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“I’d retrained as a hairdresser, done some business courses. It wasn’t time to hang up my gloves, because I loved playing, but I wanted to not rely on football to be my main come for my family and my future.

Glennon in his first appearance for Halifax in a pre-season game at Brighouse Town on July 15, 2012Glennon in his first appearance for Halifax in a pre-season game at Brighouse Town on July 15, 2012
Glennon in his first appearance for Halifax in a pre-season game at Brighouse Town on July 15, 2012

”I spoke to a couple of people about playing non-league football. Halifax is a big club, the stadium, the fans.

”Me and Neil are still very good friends now, we still speak quite a lot and go out for a drink.

“But when we first met, my initial thought was ‘he’s looking at my belly’ because I’d been off for a little while and I had a little but under my t-shirt.

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”I could see him staring at my belly, thinking ‘he’s overweight’ and he’s obsessed with fitness.

Glennon in action against Scunthorpe at The ShayGlennon in action against Scunthorpe at The Shay
Glennon in action against Scunthorpe at The Shay

”I thought ‘mmm, this isn’t going very well’.

”But we had a good chat and I guaranteed him that I would keep a ridiculous amount of clean sheets because I was dropping down to the Conference North.

”I didn’t get one for about four or five games and after every game it was ‘mmm, don’t have a clean sheet again’ even though we’d won.

”I think I went on to have 26 clean sheets that season in league and cup so I told him to stick that right where the sun don’t shine!”

Glennon in action for Town against Blackburn Rovers at The ShayGlennon in action for Town against Blackburn Rovers at The Shay
Glennon in action for Town against Blackburn Rovers at The Shay
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Halifax had lost in the Conference North play-offs the season before, but went one better in Glennon’s first campaign at the club.

”I didn’t come in until quite late because there were a few issues I had to sort out,” he recalls.

”I found it strange and quite hard work at first, just training a couple of nights a week.

”It was good, like a professional club, but it was Tuesday night-Thursday night, and it could be hard to get your head round. The fact that you didn’t have enough time to get as much as you wanted to get in.

Halifax players, with Glennon (far left) celebrate the play-off victory at Brackley in 2013Halifax players, with Glennon (far left) celebrate the play-off victory at Brackley in 2013
Halifax players, with Glennon (far left) celebrate the play-off victory at Brackley in 2013
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Football was the second job for a lot of the lads, even though it was a very good standard.

”I did find it quite tough those first couple of months, but once you got to see the likes of Lee Gregory, Danny Lowe - who just wanted to win at everything - I thought ‘bloody hell, these lads could be playing professionally’.

”I’d had 18 years of it and I’d watch these lads in training, how fit and dedicated they were, and just the quality on the ball.

”I thought it’d be a good year. I didn’t have anything to compare it to because I’d not seen anyone else at that level, but we started well, carried it on.

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”We had 11 games in about 23 days or something because The Shay pitch wasn’t quite as good as it could have been that first year. It was a phenomenal way to get promoted.

”I always felt it was meant to be because of the hard journey we had to get there.

Halifax boss Neil Aspin celebrates the play-off victory at Brackley in 2013Halifax boss Neil Aspin celebrates the play-off victory at Brackley in 2013
Halifax boss Neil Aspin celebrates the play-off victory at Brackley in 2013

”Oxford away on a Thursday night, getting back at two o’clock in the morning, having played on the Tuesday, and then playing again on the Saturday.

”And the lads are going to work as well.

”We played a lot of cards, we had a couple of drinks. We had a fantastic team spirit, and that’s what got us through.

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”That’s down to Neil and the squad he got together. We got on probably better than any squad that I’ve been with.

”Especially when you consider the amount of time we actually spent together, which was only a couple of days a week, but we were like best buddies. It was brilliant.”

There was an instant respect between goalkeeper and manager, recalls Glennon.

”A lot of it was him leaving us alone. He had respect for the fact that I was a senior professional who’d played hundreds of league games.

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”He spoke to people like humans, unlike some other managers I’d had before that.

”Training didn’t drag on, he got his points over, we did what we needed to do and kept it as lively and professional as we could.

”He didn’t let standards drop so people thought ‘I can just flog this off today’ because if you did, you didn’t play, and that included me.

”I had to have a couple of chats with Karl (Lenaghan) the goalkeeping coach and say ‘look Karl, I’m mid-thirties now mate, I’m not doing that, it’s Thursday night, I’m tired’.

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”We stayed over when we needed to, we didn’t travel four or five hours on the day of games, which was the chairman David Bosomworth to thank for that.

”We all thought ‘we’re not losing today’ and ‘we’re not ending the season now, we want it to carry on’.”

After a gruelling season in which the club’s poor pitch caused several postponements and a fixture pile-up, Aspin’s side met local rivals Guiseley in the play-offs.

Following a 1-1 draw at The Shay in the first-leg, goals from Alex Johnson and Lee Gregory at Nethermoor put them through to the final.

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”We were stronger than them, even in the first game” recalls Glennon.

”I made a couple of decent saves but I felt quite comfortable.

”I remember making a save with my foot in the second game when they thought they’d scored.

”I remember them starting to cheer and my foot came from nowhere. There were a couple of other instances where the lads were defending for their lives.

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”Greggers scored with a beautiful lob over their keeper, a really nice finish.

”I always felt comfortable, as I did against Brackley.”

The odds looked against Town in the final, which was played at Brackley, who had finished 10 points ahead of Halifax in the league.

“Man City were playing Wigan in the FA Cup final the day before, so we’d arranged to go down to the hotel in Brackley and we had a big TV room set-up to watch it,” recalls Glennon.

”We’d all put five pounds in a pot to pick out a score. That was the plan, but that plan didn’t work because the coach didn’t turn up on the Saturday. It had been either double-booked or not booked at all.

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”The coach company didn’t send us one so me, Noags (Lee Nogan, assistant manager), the gaffer, Danny Lowe and Phil Senior were waiting at the services, and ended up going in the gaffer’s car all the way down to Brackley.

”Anyway, Phil Senior pulled out 1-0 to Wigan from the pot, and I remember laughing at him going ‘absolutely no chance’ and obviously he took the money.

”The lads had been sat at the services for two or three hours waiting for a coach, and when they did send one it was awful.

”Although it looked better taking them down than it did on the way back.

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”So it was a bit of a shambles getting down there, nothing to do with the club.

”It was a nervy day. It was cold, it was windy, it was wet. The facilities were basic.

”I think they were planning on giving us a good hiding because they were building their stadium to be played in the Conference the next season.

”It was quite a tight game, I remember them having a couple of chances.

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”I remember a lad coming through and diving and I remember saying to him ‘who do you think you are?’ because he had a chance to shoot and he took the dive.

”Then Greggers got his goal, I made a save late on in the game. It was just a great day, a weird, surreal day, after all that football, all that hard work.

”We stopped off at a pub on the way back, David (Bosomworth) bought us a beer, the gaffer bought us a beer. A lot of the lads were celebrating, I just remember being knackered.

”But what a great achievement. The fact I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to play football anymore but have that great season and really enjoy playing non-league football and be enthralled as well as exhausted, it was good.

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”Neil asked me if I’d stay the next season while we were there at the pub afterwards and I said ‘yeah, definitely, I’ve got no doubt at all that I want to stay and have a good go next year’.”

Glennon would have been forgiven for re-thinking that decision on the opening day of the following campaign, when Town were thrashed 5-1 at Cambridge on live television, and he and Danny Lowe were both sent-off.

Welcome to the fifth tier.
”We didn’t have a particularly high budget and a lot of the teams were full-time,” Glennon says.

”Cambridge were still getting four or five thousand fans, and there were full-time clubs in the Conference and had been in there for years and struggled to get in the play-offs.

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”Then we’re doing our two days-a-week training, having to find places to train.

”David did fantastic because we didn’t travel on the day, we stayed in hotels maybe 10, 11, 12 times, which really helped.

”On the coach before and after games, we’d sit and play cards, we’d talk, we’d have a laugh.

”Not everyone was on their mobile phones, there was mickey taking, there was banter. But there was a serious side.

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”Me and Scott McManus, bloody hell, we were at each other’s throats all the time. I wanted to kill him half the time, and then after the game we’re having a laugh as if we’d never said anything to each other.

”He’d moan and moan, all he’d do was moan. I thought he was an excellent left-back, he should have played league football.

”It was a good group of players. Marc Roberts came into the squad, the big tree, gets me sent-off in his first game with under-cooking his back pass.

”That was the first game of the season, on TV, apparently our new kit is on it’s way from somewhere in China, so we’re in last year’s kit.

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”Lowey got sent-off and smashed the changing room. I walk in and he goes ‘sit down Matt, there’s bloody cameras in here’ so I couldn’t flip the table like I wanted.

”But Robbo’s gone on to have a great career and we had a great season that year.

”We were sat on the coach waiting to see if another team was going to draw or get beat to see if we got into the play-offs, and it seemed like an eternity listening to it on the radio.

”We all stayed on the coach, even though we were back at the ground, we all sat there listening to it together.”

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Reaching the play-offs in 2014 was an even better achievement than promotion 12 months earlier.

”We were buzzing from what had happened the season before and it was all about just having a good go at it and playing against some decent crowds,” says Glennon.

”Some lads hadn’t played in some of these grounds we’d be playing in.

”We’d be pitting ourselves against full-time clubs and we more than matched anything that anyone thought we were going to do.”

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Town’s fifth-placed finish was thanks in no small part to Gregory, whose 29 league goals that season earned him a move to Championship side Millwall.

”If I did happen to do a bad kick, obviously that wasn’t very infrequent, he’d get there,” says Glennon. “He worked so hard to bring it down, bring people into play.

“He was strong, he was quick. He perhaps needed to be a bit more mobile and he was in that second season.

”He was excellent. He scored all different kinds of goals, but it wasn’t a one man team at all.

”We had so many characters and big players.”

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Between March 1 and April 19, Halifax showed how far the team had come since that opening-day mauling at Cambridge, winning nine of their 10 games and keeping seven consecutive clean sheets - one short of the league record.

”And guess who scored to end that run?” says Glennon. “Scott Boden.

”Lowey didn’t mark his man and he scored, seven-and-a-half games in.

”I was sat on the bench with him in a pre-season friendly, because obviously we signed him, but I didn’t know it was him. We were talking and I said ‘you’re the one who stopped my record aren’t you!’

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”But yeah, we went on a phenomenal run. Grimsby were another club getting five, six thousand fans trying to get out of that division.

”Huge results against full-time clubs. Barnet had Graham Stack in goal who’d played for Arsenal and had spent loads of money.”

Halifax hadn’t, but Gregory’s penalty put Town within 90 minutes of the play-off final as they won their semi-final first-leg against? Cambridge.

”We knew it was going to be tough down there, plus we’d had a couple of injuries, we’d had some suspensions,” says Glennon.

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“Simon Ainge didn’t play in the second-leg, and if he’d played it’d have made a bit of a difference because he was a good defender.

”It was a million degrees down there and there was a lot of pressure on us even though people had said we were lucky to get there.

”We’d been spanked there, I’d been sent-off there first game of the season.

”I remember them scoring their two goals and thinking ‘bloody hell’ because they were crap goals.

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”Centre-half got turned and they slotted it into the bottom corner, both were preventable goals. I remember making one save in the second-half but apart from that, we were more than capable.

”It was a shame because if we’d have got to extra time or penalties I’d have fancied us, because all the pressure would have been on them and I think they’d have crumbled.

”Nobody was down or upset on the way home, we had a fantastic journey back and we said goodbye to a few people.”

The biggest loss was undoubtedly Gregory, without whom Town still finished a very respectable ninth the following season.

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”Still a good achievement, we were still part-time in a league which was even more full-time than when we started in it,” Glennon says.

”We won the first five or six games of the season, started really well.

”Had a bit of bad luck, bit of injury, this and that, which is what happens. The luck can’t stay with you forever, and it didn’t.

”But to still finish ninth and be in with a chance of the play-offs midway through the season, it’s still a huge achievement.”

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Since Glennon’s arrival, Halifax had achieved promotion and established themselves as a top-half side in the fifth tier.

But the good times would come to a juddering halt in the 2015-16 season, Glennon’s last at the club.

”In the first three seasons I felt great. Not in the last season.

”I was working a lot then with my academy and starting my hairdressing business.

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”Neil left in the fourth season, Darren Kelly came in, my old centre-half team-mate from Carlisle.

”But there were a few things happening at the time around the club with training facilities and things like that, we were struggling to get consistency with that.

”There were players coming in who were full-time but we were still a part-time club.

”It was tough and I was getting a bit of deja-vu with reasons why I didn’t want to be a footballer anymore.

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”When Darren Kelly left and Jim Harvey came in, it was time to go.”

Aspin was sacked after a 2-1 defeat at Guiseley left Town with one win from their first 10 games of the season.

“What he achieved at the club was fantastic and I hope he’s always held in high esteem there,” says Glennon.

”Some of the teams we beat and some of the achievements we made were fantastic.

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”He’ll always be held in high regard by me because I didn’t even know if I wanted to play football anymore and I loved those three seasons I had with him.

”You could sense things weren’t happening. not because of him, just circumstances, maybe injuries, missing out on players, a bit of bad luck.”

But it went from bad to worse under his replacement Darren Kelly, with wince-inducing defeats to Braintree (6-3), Cheltenham, (7-1) and Grimsby (7-0).

”Darren’s a good friend of mine, even though he dropped me!” Glennon says.

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”I wasn’t playing fantastic, we got beat by some big scores. It was horrible, absolutely horrible.”Got beat 7-0, got beat 6-3 - it was like ‘what the hell, I’ve not let that many in in my career before’.

”He had every right to try something different. Communication wasn’t always fantastic, but for me, Jim Harvey (Kelly’s assistant) didn’t support Darren at all.

”He didn’t give him any help or guidance as a senior person in football.

”He was between a rock and a hard place. He’d had a bad time at Oldham with someone going behind his back and getting the chairman’s favour and I felt the same thing happened to him at Halifax.

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”It was a shame for him because he’s mega positive, he’s doing fantastic with Scarborough, he did well with Hyde. He’s got great ideas, it just didn’t happen for him.

”The writing was on the wall, Jim Harvey came in, I made my feelings clear about what I thought of him and I left two weeks later.”

When asked what went wrong in Kelly’s disastrous 47 days in charge, Glennon says: “We weren’t seeing each other. Some lads were training in the day, but other lads worked. It was a part-time club.

”I don’t know if promises weren’t kept to the club from training facilities but I wasn’t seeing Scott McManus from Saturday to Saturday, then we’re playing against a full-time club.

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”Darren’s trying to get his ideas over but he’s only met the lads three or four times. You’ve got absolutely no chance.

”The period before Darren was great, and we got with what we needed to get on with.

”It was time to push on, a bit of a transitional period for the club, and it was a bit of a disaster.

”I don’t blame anyone for it, especially not the chairman, it was just a small period of time where things weren’t great and Darren took the brunt of it.

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”But when you’re getting no support from behind you from your staff, you’re on a hiding to nothing.”

As the goals conceded column grew and the defeats mounted, Glennon’s number one status came under threat.

”It was difficult to accept when goals were flying in,” he says.

”The reason why I don’t play football anymore is because I can’t stand the ball flying past me, especially when I know I could do more to get there.

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”I was only training once a week, if that, because I couldn’t take days off work to train, so your sharpness isn’t there.

”At 37, 38, I needed that training.

”I remember the Grimsby game - it was heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking.

”I was just stood there thinking ‘oh my god’. There was two or three where I maybe thought ‘yeah I could have done better’ but we were all over the place and I couldn’t take it any longer.

”I got dropped but Darren didn’t have a lot of choice, he had to change things up. I was a big part of the squad in the past, it was a bit of a statement, and I don’t blame him for it at all.

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”When you’re letting sixes and sevens in, the goalkeeper’s going to get looked at, and I did.

”It was time to start thinking about other things.”

The appointment of Harvey to the manager’s hot seat offered no chance of a final spell between the sticks for Glennon.

”We didn’t have lots of communication me and Jim, let’s put it that way.

“It was time to go. Martin McIntosh (Buxton manager) had rang me up, who I used to play at Huddersfield Town with, and said ‘Matt, the keeper’s broke his shoulder, will you come and play a couple of games’ so I did that.

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”Then Steve Kittrick at Scarborough, he turned up in my haidressers, and said ‘will you come and play a couple of games for me’.

”But it wasn’t for me, I wasn’t one for dropping lower and be hacking around for a few quid here and there. It didn’t interest me at all.

”When your body’s not doing what it should be doing and you know you can do more, I couldn’t take that.

”So it was time to knock it on the head and move onto other things.”

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Despite how it ended, Glennon has no regrets over his decision to prolong his playing days at The Shay.

”I absolutely loved it,” he says. “I’m still good friends with Neil now, he comes on my BBC show all the time.

”My old goalkeeping coach Karl doesn’t live far from me so he drops into my salon for a coffee.

”I’m on social media with Danny Lowe, who posts everything from his breakfast to his tea every single day.

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”I speak to Marc Roberts every now and again, especially when I’m commentating on one of his games.

”I get a lot of the lads on my shows, David Bosomworth, I bought a car off him.

”I did not expect much when I went to Halifax, it was just a matter of being too young to retire but I wanted to play some football.

”I didn’t expect to have as great a time in those three years as I did, and as much success as we did.

”It was a great decision in the end.”

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