Former Huddersfield Town defender Joe Skarz is now enjoying his football at Golcar United – and says he wants to see the club rise through the leagues.
Having won promotion four times as a player and having played over 500 games in the Football League, Skarz is now getting a kick out of life at Golcar and believes the club has a lot of potential.
Huddersfield-born Skarz, 31, said: “I want to do my best for Golcar. I’m keeping up my standards so I don’t let the lads down. I want to perform the best I can.
“The reason I am at Golcar is because I have seen them rise through the leagues from being in the district division to being semi-pro. I want to join Golcar on this journey and see how far we can go.”
Skarz’s last professional contract was with now defunct Bury. Due to the club’s financial problems, Skarz says it was a tough period in his career. However, he has now rediscovered his passion for the game once more.
He said: “When I went back to Bury and I wasn’t getting paid that was tough and it did leave a sour taste in my mouth. You don’t expect that from a professional club, to not pay its players for 10 months.
“Although I went on to play for Conference clubs and, whilst I enjoyed being around the lads, I didn’t enjoy the long away trips down south to be honest.
“Now I don’t wake up on a Monday morning just thinking about football. I have my coaching job at Sheffield United, I’m enjoying playing for Golcar. However, the thing I’m really loving is spending time with my family.”
Skarz was born in Netherton and now lives in Honley with fiancee Leoni and six-year-old daughter Millie. One thing you can tell is that while Skarz has played all over England he always hankers after Huddersfield.
Having entered the Town Academy at just seven-years-old, he eventually made his debut 10 years later.
The then Terriers manager Peter Jackson gave Skarz his debut against Scunthorpe United in November 2006. The game ended 1-1.
Skarz went on to play 20 more games that season at left-back in what was a fantastic time for the youngster.
On coming through the Academy, he said: “I thought my development as a player and as a person was fantastic.
“The coaches really helped to bring me on. I was a late developer, really. I was small at 15 and always had been. However, they worked with you to build you up and that’s what happened. It’s fantastic when you get that level of trust between the player and coaching staff.
“I made my debut under Peter Jackson who was a terrific coach and person, a genuinely nice bloke. He helped me out a lot in those early years too.
“On the Thursday before the game, after training he pulled me to one side, he said he was going to play me. I was so excited and looking back, that was smart management.
“He told me on Thursday so I could get all that excitement out of the way. On the Friday I was a bit nervous in training but again he saw that and was really good with me.
“I tell the lads at Sheffield United that I got lucky really. Danny Adams got suspended at the time and the club didn’t have the money to bring anyone else in. So they looked at me and I’ll always say that if that hadn’t have happened I might not have made my debut.
“My first game went well and I ended up playing 20 games that season. For the first 10 of those I was on the crest of a wave confidence wise.
“By the 10th game people start working you out, what your strengths and weaknesses are. It’s then all about mental strength to come back from poor performances.
“Peter left the club and then I played under Andy Ritchie, Stan Ternent and Lee Clark. I took something from each manager I had.”
During his time at Town Skarz went on loan to both Hartlepool United and Shrewsbury Town. He felt he learned a lot from his time away from Huddersfield, but felt homesick and was glad to return.
He said: “The loan spells at Hartlepool and Shrewsbury were important. They helped in my development as a human being too.
“I remember Hartlepool putting me up in an apartment. It was more difficult going down to Shrewsbury because of how far away it was.”
Skarz left his hometown club in 2010 where he joined Bury for three seasons. He won promotion to League 1 with the club.
He then signed for Rotherham United in 2013. The Millers were then managed by Steve Evans. A lively character, Evans is one of those managers everyone has an opinion on. However, Skarz insists he is one of the best managers he has had in his career.
He said: “People will have different opinions on Steve. However, now that I am a coach who stands on the sidelines I now understand how Steve was.
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“From the outside looking in you’d probably think he was a bit mad. I played my best football under Steve and got back-to-back promotions going from League 2 to the Championship in two seasons. I’ll always regard him as one of my best managers.”
After a successful spell at Rotherham earning two promotions in three years. He then decided to move on to League 2 side Oxford United.
Then managed by Michael Appleton, the club put together a good squad. Skarz insists it was a move he couldn’t turn down.
“When Oxford offered me a contract I couldn’t really turn it down. Leoni was pregnant at the time and I moved down first and then she joined me. I loved my time at Oxford playing for Michael Appleton. It was nice that a manager wanted me in his team.”
Although Skarz enjoyed his time down at Oxford, achieving promotion from League 2, once again the lure of Huddersfield was calling so he and his fiancee made the decision to move closer to home.
“While I did really like being at the club, both me and Leoni were getting a bit homesick and missing family and that’s why I signed for Bury again.”
Skarz has come full circle and is now settled into life at Golcar United.
Preparations are still taking place for the team to compete in the Yorkshire Trophy, now scheduled to begin on May 17. Skarz is looking forward to competing in it.
“I’m really excited about it as are the rest of the lads,” he said. “Hopefully we can do well in it.”
Skarz has achieved most young lads’ dreams of becoming a professional footballer. Even though he grew up in Huddersfield he’s a self-confessed Blackburn Rovers fan.
“I can openly say I’m not a Huddersfield fan, I’m a Blackburn fan! I used to go to Ewood Park with my grandad. We were there on the day they won the league. My family are from Blackburn so they will always be the team for me.
“If you would have said to me at 17 I would win four promotions, play professionally up to 30 years old and make over 500 Football League appearances I wouldn’t have believed you. I’ve done all right.”