Returning Boston United goal hero Dayle Southwell wants to recapture his finest form at a familiar place. While rekindling an old footballing flame is the order of the day (or the month’s loan) for the FC Halifax Town man, the 26-year-old has been impressed with how the Pilgrims have pushed on in his time away.
League standing may not have yet changed in this part of Lincolnshire, but he has felt a mentality shift since his return. Notching 54 in 87 during his first spell, the ex-Wycombe Wanderers striker has so far had to make do with a cameo in the 3-1 win at Kidderminster on 7th December. With Saturday’s Gateshead game postponement, it’s been more a case of kicking his heels than kick-starting his season, though Southwell is in high spirits. He answered a mix of questions on the here and now, what was, and what may well lie ahead.
How did the conversations with (Boston manager) Craig (Elliott) first come about, with regard to you rejoining the club?
I think they got word of me wanting to go and get some games. I’d been out for a long time injured and I’m just a person that wants to play really. Halifax said I should go and get games, and as soon as that was the case, Craig Elliott got in touch and said ‘we’d love to have you back, you may have other options, but you know we’re always here if you wanna come back.’ I think that was just what made my mind up. It was coming back to where I knew, and where I knew I enjoyed playing football, so I think that sort of swayed my decision, and he was brilliant in getting things sorted out.
Since you’ve been working with him, what’s struck you about him as a manager and how he likes to do things?
He seems tactically very good. He’s big on his analysis and things like that, working on other teams, and training is high intensity and tough, but you know what your role is and what you need to be doing for the opposition. It’s hard work but it’s enjoyable as well. He seems to be getting the best out of the players, so it looks in the short time that I’ve been there that it’s all positive things ahead.
With the game being called off at the weekend, how did you end up spending your day?!
A bit boring really! I just ended up going to the gym and then sitting on the sofa and watching out for other results. It was a bit frustrating really, because obviously I’ve come on a month’s loan, and one week I was cup-tied (against Rochdale in the FA Cup), and the next week the game gets called off. I was quite annoyed when it got called off; I was really looking forward to going back. It would have been my first home game back, so I was pretty gutted!
Boston the first time is likely hard to top, so this may be an obvious answer, but what would you say has been the happiest spell you’ve had in football?
I think Boston without a doubt. That was where I enjoyed my football the most, that was where I was scoring goals on a regular basis. I think the squad and everything around the place just made me feel at home. It was a sad time leaving really, but I knew I had to move on, with doing really well and progressing in my career. It’s not sort of worked out the way I would have liked, injuries and things like that happen, but hopefully I can go to Boston and score a few goals and get back to where I want to be.
Have you changed since the last spell with the club, as a player but also the way you see things?
I think I’m a lot more mature now, as a player and as a person. I was only 20/21/22 when I was first at Boston, so I hadn’t played a lot of games. I’ve played a lot of games now in non-league, I’ve played in the Football League, so I think I know the game a lot better. I know myself a lot better, what I’m good at, what I’m not so good at. I think I’ve matured as a player a lot, and I think I’m a better all-round player, so what I need mainly is a run of games and I know I can get back to where I want to be.
Does anything feel particularly different about the club now?
There’s a feel around the place now that they’re going somewhere. There’s the FA Cup run, which I went to the home game against Rochdale in, and there was about 4,200 fans there, I think, and it was a brilliant atmosphere. It has the feel of ‘they’ve got a great fanbase, they want to go for promotion,’ whereas when I was at Boston a few years ago, it was the underdog, because we weren’t expected to do anything. There’s almost a feel about it now where the club has moved on and they’re ready for a promotion.
For you personally, what have you felt has got the best out of you as a player, in terms of approach from a manager?
I think it’s someone who likes to talk to me, is a good man-manager, who does encourage me and tries to get the best out of me; someone who makes me feel like I’m sort of the main man. When that happened at Boston under Dennis Greene previously, I was made to feel like I was the man to do the job. I think I coped with the pressure well, and for me to know that I’m sort of wanted, I think that works best for me. It helps me and it makes me feel like it’s my time to do it and repay the manager, in a sense.
What did you find going into that Wycombe dressing room, with the likes of (Adebayo) Akinfenwa in there? How did it compare to what you’d been used to?
To be honest, the Wycombe dressing room was one of the best dressing rooms I’ve been in. It was almost like a family there, they were all brilliant. They were big characters, obviously you’ve got Bayo Akinfenwa, but he was the nicest man alive, and they were all there to help you. I actually really enjoyed my time at Wycombe, I got on with them really well, I think it was just injury struck me quite hard and didn’t work out the way I would have liked. Me being me, wanting to play football on a regular basis after I’d been injured, I was eager to go out and play, and probably come back up north.
Would you have regular conversations with (manager) Gareth Ainsworth, or would you be more left to get on with it?
He was always in regular contact with everyone. He was a good man-manager, he was always very positive, and even if you lost he was very upbeat. You can see why he’s doing so well, because he is a really good manager and he always tries to get the best out of you. With having the likes of Akinfenwa there, it was a bit difficult for me, because I played out in a different position. It was a different role for me, which is maybe why it didn’t work out in the end.
From football overall for you so far, who have been the standout characters (players/coaches/managers) you’ve been around?
So far, I would probably say…the characters at Wycombe like Akinfenwa, Matt Bloomfield, who’s been at Wycombe for 16 years, he was brilliant. There were big characters at Boston when I was there; we had a great dressing room with Carl Piergianni, Scott Garner, players like that. I think those two times, Wycombe and Boston, were my two favourite times, with great dressing rooms. I think that’s why both teams did so well, because a good dressing is such a big part of it in football.
Any player(s) you’ve played with whose ability alone deserved to be at a higher level
There was a couple at Wycombe. Scott Kashket was really bright and really lively, he’s still there now, they’ve been promoted and are doing really well. Luke O’Nien, he was unbelievable. He got a move to Sunderland and I still think he can play in the Premier League one day, he’s that good. There were ones even in my time at Grimsby, and Boston as well, where you had Carl Piergianni. We were playing in the Conference North then and he’s now in League Two with Salford. I think there’s a lot of people in non-league who have got the ability to play higher; I think it’s just finding them and giving them the opportunity.
One singer/band/song you’d sneak on to the team playlist
I think it’d be Drake – ‘The Motto’. That’s normally my favourite.
Have you had to sing when you’ve joined a new club?
Yeah, I’ve had to do that a few times actually. I normally like to do a bit of McFly, or Justin Bieber, something like that. I’m not the best of singers, but I like to get up and have a good go at it!
Have there ever been any misconceptions about you, or do you feel people have generally always had a fair impression of what you’re all about?
I think people have mainly had a fair impression of me. I’m a person that likes to work hard and get on with playing football really. I’m not sort of a massive character, I like to get on with it. I think probably the one place where I haven’t been able to show really what I can do is Halifax, my parent club now. I’ve had a troubled time with injuries there so far, so it’s probably the one place where I haven’t really been able to show my true self.
On Halifax, where do you stand currently? What have the conversations with (manager) Pete Wild been like?
Yeah, the door isn’t shut at Halifax. I’d obviously been out for a long time and he came in while I was still injured. They were doing well, which is fair enough, and I came back and couldn’t force my way into that side. He was straight and he was honest with me, and was good enough to have a proper conversation. We both sort of said I need some games, ‘let’s see how you get on, on loan, and let’s go from there.’ It wasn’t as if it was ‘right, get yourself out on loan and we’ll see you whenever, your career at Halifax is over.’ We’ll see how the month goes and he said we’ll have another chat in January.
Finally, what tends to take up your time outside football? Any interests, ambitions etc.?
I have a two-year-old, so that takes up a lot of my time! He’s unbelievable really, he’s mad. That’s a lot of my spare time really, but I also do an accountancy course, I like to think of life after football; we’re only at this sort of level, so you need to obviously plan ahead. I like to be productive with my time and look to the future.
Interview by @chris_brookes