We've caught up with fan favourite Ross Hardaker
Continuing our series of player interviews, we decided for the next one to catch up with a big fan favourite at Ossett United. He’s one of our own, an Ossett lad through and through – Ross Hardaker.
Ross, obviously you’ve been a firm favourite at both Dimple Wells and Ingfield. For the uninitiated, where else have you played in your career so far?
I was abroad in Germany where I played for SV Avenwedde (a semi-pro club near Gütersloh), then to Arminia Bielefeld. Back in the UK I’ve played for Ossett Town, Huddersfield Town, Grimsby Town, Bradford Park Avenue, Wakefield FC and Ossett Albion.
What were your favourite moments from those 150+ games in an Albion shirt?
It would have to be either the 3-2 win over Ossett Town on Boxing Day (sorry to the Town fans) or the 3-2 win over Salford away just as the class of 92 took over. We had been written off well before the game due to Salford’s signings and wage demands. Plus, playing in front of your idols, especially being a United fan, is something I can take away from the game.
Any favourite moments from your United time since the merger?
Without a doubt winning the county cup in our first season. A big factor for me too is being part of my local town’s movement. I’ve been there at both Ossett clubs during some dark days and to see the club heading into better times…it’s an honour to be a part of it.
Are there any games you’d prefer to forget and why?
I can’t actually remember who we played at home, but I was sent off for a tackle and for being the last man. I can’t remember the team; I just remember having to bail James Knowles and Alex McQuade out after they cocked up. Still, to this day, they owe me the money for the fines!
Who would you say was the biggest influence on your footballing career?
Honestly, I’ve had a couple but the biggest of all would be my mum Debbie. She had me out in the garden, parks, fields and even on the streets with a ball since I could walk. She would be the one who drove me to and from Grimsby six times a week to train and play. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have got to where I am. Another one would be Steve Kelly, who is a massive part of my footballing journey, taking me from Ossett Town Juniors and getting me to Huddersfield, then onto Grimsby. One the best blokes in the game and, unfortunately, he is no longer with us. He is still a massive part of this community though for his time at Ossett Town.
Though most people around the club know you, this interview will also be going in the local press, so can you give a bit of insight into what you do outside football?
Outside of football I literally do anything I can to keep myself occupied. I live and breathe sport, so if any of my mates suggests a sport we end up playing it - badminton, rugby, tennis, squash and especially golf. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to time off at home. If I’m not doing the cooking I’m sat behind the PlayStation for endless hours. I may have grown up, but you can’t take the child out of me. On a more serious note, in my spare time or days off from my day-to-day job I am currently detailing and valeting cars, working on a business plan to set up on my own and eventually I’m looking to expand it to full time work.
As an Ossett lad, Ross, what’s the best thing about Ossett?
The people. It sounds very cliched, but no matter where you go everyone knows each other, everyone’s pleasant and, most of all, there is no longer a divide between the football teams. It’s nice to have everyone together and trying to get this club as high as possible.
Have you any funny football stories that might be printable?
I wouldn’t say I have any funny stories that are printable as that would get a few people into some trouble, but I do have a story that sticks with me from my footballing journey. It was when I was at Grimsby. The first team had played Sheffield United at Blundell Park. As at any lower division club, you always wanted to get a player’s shirt from the opposition. One of our first team lads said to me, “Just ask Neil Warnock why they call him Colin.” I would like to repeat what he said but it’s not printable! It turns out that if you take the letters of Colin out of his name you spell a very explicit word that all the Leeds Fans refer to him as! I had to settle for Michael Tonge’s shirt!
I’m not a Leeds fan, so whilst I try to work out what that word is here are some quick, fun questions.
Boxing Day away at Ponte or Boxing Day in lockdown with turkey sandwiches – which do you fancy?
I would have to say Boxing Day away at Ponte as I don’t like turkey.
Can you remember the first game you went to?
I can. It was when we lived in Germany. My dad was a police officer in the army and was on duty when Man United came to town for a Champions League game. Mum dragged me out of school, which to me at that age either meant a trip to the dentist or the doctor, but when I got in the car she had a new Man Utd shirt with Beckham on the back. My dad had got us tickets for the quarter finals and, to top the evening off, I even got a picture with David Beckham at the end of the game.
And the last one (not counting Ossett United)?
Again, it was Man United in the Europa League against St Etienne. It wasn’t the best of games but a win’s a win and it sent us on the way to winning the trophy.
Who is your favourite footballer?
Paul Scholes, without fail. Just the way he approached the whole game of football. One of the most decorated English footballers and when did you ever hear a bad thing about him other than he can’t tackle. He was never in the paper for the wrong reasons and just made the game look so simple. Effortless at times.
My favourite food would have to either be spaghetti carbonara or (I know it sounds bad) a Chinese takeaway which is always a weekend treat after football. My favourite drink would be Irn Bru. I have to say that as my gran’s Scottish and whenever she did the big shop it’s all she bought. If I chose an alcoholic drink it would be Ameretto and coke for me.
Your favourite holiday destination
It’s a tough one, but I would have to say Cuba or Portugal. Cuba, definitely, for the way you are looked after. I’ve been twice, once with family and the other time with my girlfriend and both times I really enjoyed it. Portugal would be another one for a number of reasons. All year the weather is brill and it has it all, the chill parts, the shopping, family resorts and it’s very good for golfing trips.
When we can travel again, where is the first place you want to go and who with?
It would be a log cabin, away with the Mrs, as we were due to be at one before Christmas for our anniversary. It would be nice to be able to get one booked so we can have a well-deserved break together.
What would be your walk-on tune?
Free from desire by Gala, just to get the people in the right mood.
Any final Christmas message for the fans?
I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been there, followed me at all the Ossett clubs and for following the Ossett United club’s journey. Without you guys it wouldn’t be possible to get the club moving in the right direction. From an individual perspective, I can’t thank you all enough for giving me the reputation I have locally, creating relationships with fans and friendships with you all. I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas, especially after the horrible year we have endured, and a happy New Year to you all if I don’t get chance to see you before then. I appreciate each and every one of you and I hope to see as many fans at the club when we resume. If you’re around the town centre don’t be strangers. Together we are stronger. Thank you x
Fantastic sentiments, Ross. Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas too, though it looks like we’ll hopefully see you sooner rather than later in league action with the NPL resuming. Fingers crossed that we can leave the turkey in the larder and get ourselves to Ponte!