InProfile: Ben Leyland

Ben Leyland NFU 1(Ben Leyland, on the ball, in action for North Ferriby United. Photo: @MarkLeighton13)

In any football team, you look for a Mr Versatile player. A player that can play in a variety of positions and Ben Leyland fits the bill. The now right-back joined North Ferriby United in the summer through the open trial system and even had an opportunity to play in America before signing for the Evo-Stik Premier club from Hornsea Town.

The 21-year old’s interest in football didn’t come from any sports stars, but from his dad. “It’s mainly down to my dad,” said Leyland. “I wasn’t ever really interested in it until he wanted me to so I went, didn’t like it at first, took a year out and then started again, but that was when I was about eight, so I was quite late at starting compared to some of the other kids at the time.”

Leyland also said it was his dad that helped him pick a team to support when he was younger. “Liverpool; again down to my dad. I do follow Bradford City, as that’s where I’m from,” stated Leyland, but who was his footballing idol? “I’m going to say (Steven) Gerrard, like most Liverpool supporter would, but I was a massive fan of (Fernando) Torres, the only player I cried about when I was younger, when he left the club. I just loved him. He was the big thing with Liverpool wasn’t he at the time. I played upfront as well when I was younger at the time so it was just kind of like trying to play like him and all that sort of stuff.”

As stated earlier, Leyland is Mr Versatile as this year is the first playing as full-back. “This year probably is the first year I’ve been a fullback. Played there a few games in other seasons. I played there a little bit at college and uni, but I’ve been in the middle of the park quite a lot for the past few years.”

Leyland joined his local team of Hornsea Town initially in 2011, when he was just fourteen, starting in the youth team before gradually stepping up in the first team in 2013 after the team folded. His versatility shone there while also at Bishop Burton college and university. “I played there at youth level until I was fourteen and then it folded and then my friend he was playing and he was just ‘come to training, come to training’ so I did,” said Leyland. “They threw me in the first team for a few games and then they sent me down down for the rest of the season to the second team to get me used to men’s football, because I was only tiny at the time and then the season after, I went back up into the first team and stayed there.”

Leyland Hornsea 1.jpg(Leyland in action for Hornsea Town. Photo: @BenjRothery)

Leyland added: “I joined Hornsea when I was sixteen, after like youth level in the Hull Boys and then when I went to college at Bishop Burton, I was there for a while. Played at Bishop Burton for five years, the college two years and the uni for two and a half, three years and then that came to a end last year. In-between that I played at Hall Road U19’s.”

Leyland received a nice surprise at the end of 2015/16 season, receiving the Hornsea Young Player and Player’s Player of the Year awards due to his versatility.  “It was a strange one. We got relegated that year, finished rock bottom so I guess it was a silver lining,” said Leyland. “I’d played in goal for the majority of that season and then I went out and went in the middle of the park for the rest of it. Picked up them two awards which was a complete surprise to me, because we’d gone down and I’d been at the back were we conceded over one hundred goals that year!”

Leyland Hornsea PPOTYLeyland Hornsea YPOTY.jpg(Leyland, both right, receiving his Players’ POTY award, top, and YPOTY award, bottom. Photos: @BenjRothery)

While at Hornsea, Leyland also represented Hall Road Rangers at Under 19 level and was frustrated as they should have won the league, but was folded with one game left. “It was a really weird one. We’d played everybody in the league pretty much besides…there was a North Ferriby team actually, and then they didn’t end up putting a team in; they were meant to. We’d won every game in the league, we’d been knocked out of the cups and then one day the manager just like rang us all and said ‘the league doesn’t exist anymore, they’ve folded it and due to teams dropping out ’ so we’d won every game which was really weird, so we kind of took it as a victory.”

Leyland HR.jpg(Leyland, right in red, representing Hall Road Rangers U19’s. Photo: @BenjRothery)

Leyland did win a league title however, winning the NCEL Humber Prem Div One with Hornsea Town in the 2016/17 division as well as a title at Bishop Burton the same year. “It was good, very good actually. Two title wins in that season as I had one with the Bishop Burton HE side in the same year. A bit of a weird one playing all season like the centre mid ten role without scoring a goal, but then we’d won the league and it went down to the last day,” said Leyland. “We were with Walkington up there, beat them by I think two points. We went on a ten game win run so there was a lot of positives to it, it was a good experience, and the lads got closer together with that win, because obviously the season before we finished rock bottom, miles off the pace from any of teams in the league above and in the Humber Prem, so it was nice to bounce back and win some games rather than being on the end of hammering’s every week.” 

He received further surprises at Hornsea, receiving the Players’ Player of the Year award at the end of last season. “I had a bit of a disagreement with the manager during the season, so I didn’t think he’d choose me, mind you it was Players’ Player (OTY) actually,” said Leyland. “We all had disagreements as it was another tough season, we’d finished second bottom and I think things could of gone miles differently. Our keeper had a good year so he could have got Player’s but he got Manager’s Player. “It was surprising and I guess you can’t never really expect to win awards. Kind of depends on your personality and your character I guess, but it was surprising to be fair to win it again. I got moved onto the wing back end of the year; somewhere were I didn’t want to play so it was surprising (to win).”

Leyland Hornsea 2(Leyland, no.10, striking for Hornsea Town. Photo: @BenjRothery)

Leyland wanted to try something different after last season and the defender nearly flew out to America to play football this year. “I tried to go to America in the summer to play and things didn’t work out,” revealed Leyland. “I was thinking about it when I was in college and then I forgot about it when I met my girlfriend. My friend did it and he went and I thought ‘yeah I still want to do it’ so I tried. I was set to go to Iowa, Iowa Lakes College, and then they fixed their tuition prices so it became too expensive which kind of shut the whole thing down for me. It was good, went to see St George’s Park and played there doing all my showcase events, but I just thought if I’m leaving Hornsea anyway, I might as well (try).”

The move to America fell apart, but Leyland decided to play in the open trials for North Ferriby United. “I’d seen it on, advertised on Twitter that Ferriby were holding open trials and I just thought why not? What’s there to lose? All they’re going to say is yes or no and then I’d go look for somewhere else,” said Leyland. “From what I seen, they were running it in affiliation with East Yorkshire Carnegie so it still would have been a step up if I got in there and that’s kind of what I was aiming for, so I was very surprised when Chris Bolder, the manager at the time, messaged me saying ‘we invite you down to training’.

Leyland then featured predominantly throughout pre-season, playing 45 minute stints against Goole and Bottesford before starting against Spennymoor Town and Hull City, with the latter fixture the one he remembers the most. “After that game, Bolds and Robbo (Paul Robson) sat me down and they said they’d like to sign me and they were very surprised that they’ve found me and I think I’m a comfortable footballer so they offered me to sign and stuff so snapped their hands off at it because you know it’s a good standard of football, it’s a good place to be, it’s where I want to be.”

The 21-year old had a tough evening in that 2-0 defeat against City, playing against new Hull signing David Milinkovic as well as promising youngster and former schoolmate, Brandon Fleming. “When I found out that he (David Milinkovic) was starting and that he was going to be on my side, the nerves hit me a bit and then obviously the crowd as well. There was quite a lot of people there so I was kind of nervous, but you know Bolds and Robbo settled me down. It was nice playing against people that are doing it for a living; it’s just something you aspire to do. When I got the first tackle in, it kind of settled me down and then it was nice and then I didn’t want to come off, I was loving every minute of it.” Leyland added: “Brandon Fleming was on my side and he went to my school, you know it was nice to see that. You can learn stuff from watching the pro’s do it as well so it was just nice to be sharing the experience with them.” 

Leyland nfu 2.jpg(Leyland in action for North Ferriby United. Photo: @MarkLeighton13)

After signing terms with Ferriby, Leyland has seen a change of management as Chris Bolder and Paul Robson were sacked and was replaced by Ferriby legend Paul Foot and player Joe Lamplough becoming the assistant. Leyland reflected on both managerial teams and said he enjoyed both. “I feel like I owe a lot to Bolds and Robbo for them bringing me here and giving me my chance. I owe a little bit to Footy and Lamps as well, because they could of just got rid of me, but they’ve given me a chance and I’m enjoying it, enjoying every minute of it. It doesn’t feel like anything as changed too much with Robbo and Bolds leaving and Footy and Lamps coming in, but I guess it could have been made easier through Lamps being one of the players anyway under Bolds and Robbo, but like I said I’m enjoying it all the same.”

Leyland is now looking towards the future despite only being 21-years old. “I am a coach now; I run a youth football team in Hornsea, U13’s, so I kind of got a little bit of experience coming from that, but I just want to play, that’s all I’m in it for. Just want to play for as long as I can at the best possible level I can whether it’s any higher than this (Evo-Stik Prem) or not, I don’t know. I’m 21 and it’s a long time to go I guess.”

Leyland Interview Photo.jpg(I spoke to Ben Leyland after the North Ferriby United match vs Nantwich Town fixture and you can listen to the full interview below. Photo credit: Tom Lane)

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