Scarborough Athletic defender Ben Middleton has emerged as one of the success stories of the 2014-15 campaign.
This is despite the 20-year-old almost calling time on his spell at Boro when the season was just in its infancy.
Middleton was left looking over his shoulder after former boss Rudy Funk’s summer recruitment, but it was current joint-manager Paul Foot who made sure he stayed put rather than joining Ossett Town.
“I had enjoyed my first season at the club, but because of the players that Rudy had brought in it looked as though I wouldn’t be getting as much game time,” said Middleton.
“John Reed got in touch from Ossett and he told me that the door was open there. I mentioned it to Rudy that I could play a few games there, but he wasn’t happy about it at all.
“That pretty much made my mind up.
“It was Footy who rang me and convinced me to stay, now I’m really glad that he did.”
Rather than seeing his game time limited, Middleton went on to wrack up 44 appearances.
During that period the former York City man grew into the centre-halfs role and made it his own.
He added: “It was my second season in non-league football, and it has taken a bit of getting used to.
“I was at an academy from the age of 11, so you are sheltered from a few things in football.
“Since I moved to Scarborough I have been really impressed with the whole club.
“The training sessions are great and I’m really enjoying my football.
“My brother is at Doncaster and he has played just 11 games for the reserves this season. I have played over 40 for Scarborough and I think it has brought me on so much as a player.”
Boro missed out on the play-offs by an agonising handful of points last season, but Middleton is confident of a little more success next time out.
He added: “The impact of Bryan (Hughes) and Paul (Foot) has been huge for the players.
“They have created a tight-knit professional enviroment.
“They are always there for a chat and the combination of Bryan’s Premier League background and Paul’s non-league experience is perfect.
“It was massively disappointing to miss out on the play-offs, but with Darlington and Salford out of the way this season I think we’ll stand a very good chance of being right up there.”
Middleton obviously still has an eye on a move back into the Football League, but for now he is keen to continue impressing at Boro.
He said:“I’m a young player, so obviously I want to be looking at moving back up there.
“At the moment though, if I can match my performances for Scarborough from last season then I’ll be happy, but you always want to better yourself.
“I’m loving my time here, the important thing at this club is the fact that we have such a good set of lads.
“The fans are great as well. It was a massive shock when they started tweeting me before and after games. You don’t get anything like that when you play in York City’s Academy.
“It is something you have to get used to though. I can remember walking out for my first game at Scarborough Rugby Club and around 500 fans were there.
“I didn’t know what to think at the time, but I love it now. The fans chanting your name and cheering you on makes a real difference.”