INSPIRATIONAL skipper Jamie Stevens is reassuring Holbeach United fans that he has no intention of quitting Carter’s Park.
The centre-half – widely regarded as perhaps the best in the United Counties League – has been a transfer target of King’s Lynn Town and Spalding United this season.
Although the 23-year-old, who played in the Football League with Boston United, harbours ambitions of playing higher up the ladder again, life with the buoyant Tigers suits him fine right now.
He said: “We’ve got a great team spirit – the lads just bounce off each other.
“I’m really enjoying playing with my mates. That and allowing me to concentrate a little more on my day job were two of the reasons why I decided to sign for Holbeach.”
Two seasons with Farnborough in Hampshire meant three-hour commutes just to training and, after defeat in the Conference South play-off final last season, boss Steve King was sacked and the team broke up.
King joined Lewes and wanted Stevens to follow him.
There was interest too from newly-promoted St Neots Town so he had options.
But it was more than about level of play and money for the former Holbeach United Youth player.
Tigers players Matt Warfield, Adam Jackson and Jonny Allen had been hankering him to “come home” and he was sold a vision for the club by boss John Chand.
Stevens said: “I sat down with my dad (former Tigers defender Dean Stevens) and grandad to discuss it and I’d got to the stage where it made sense to play with my mates.
“It was a lonely time travelling on my own to Farnborough and although the University Academy Holbeach (where he is a teaching assistant) were always good and allowed to me leave early, I had to consider my job too.”
Ex-Tigers boss Steve Evans, now in charge at League Two side Crawley Town, knows all about Stevens.
The Scot gave him his Football League debut at Boston United aged just 17 – and it proved a pretty shrewd move as the youngster scored against Notts County. A second goal against Chester City ensured the Pilgrims made it to the final day of the season before being relegated at Wrexham.
Stevens has experienced a few managers and reckons Chand is among the best.
He said: “He’s a good manager. His tactics are good but I think the best thing about him is his motivation.
“He’s a good motivator in the changing room. If we’ve been out for a warm-up and he thinks we’re not quite up for it, he’ll really let us know.
“But John also knows how to treat players to get the best out of them – he knows who responds to a rollicking and who needs an arm around them.”
Chand (32) is in his first full season as a manager at this level but Stevens thinks he’s got a bright future.
“I think he’s got it in his locker to go on and manage at a higher level if he’s given the chance,” he said.
Stevens, who grew up in Holbeach Bank, insists he’s happy at Carter’s Park and after hopefully leading the side to a top-three finish this season, he wants the momentum to be carried into the next campaign – with a tilt at the title.
It doesn’t bother him that even then the Tigers are unlikely to be promoted.
He said: “Of course it would be nice to be back playing higher but I’ve had some bad injuries so for now I’m fine.”
His second season at Farnborough was plagued by ankle ligament problems but his time at Carter’s Park has been injury-free and enjoyable.
He said: “We had a cracking pre-season and everyone was expecting us to do well. Then we went and lost the first match, which gave us a kick up the backside.
“It’s gone on from there and the new lads have fitted in well.”
Stevens says hotshot Andrew Tidswell has rightly stolen many of the headlines, but Allen is the team’s unsung hero .
“We’ve got a little competition between us on who can score the most,” he said. “We’re both on six.”
Meanwhile Chand, who made Stevens his number one target last summer, says he was a vital component in his drive to make Holbeach United a top six club.
He said: “His approach to training and all-round attitude has been great, although I’m not sure if he’s grasped the fact that at Step 5 you’re expected to clean your own boots!
“It was important to retain Jamie’s services at the club and I am thankful for the people who made that possible with a contract until the end of next season.”
Stevens’ aims for the remainder of this season include lifting the Lincs Senior Trophy and gaining revenge for Spalding United’s 2-0 win in the league last September. The eagerly-anticipated Carter’s Park reverse is April 28.
This Saturday is Peterborough Northern Star away.