Photo: Bedford Town FC

He was a stalwart during King’s Lynn Town’s march to the National League, capped off with successive promotions in the past two years. After a decade and 466 games with the Linnets, Alex Street had to get reacquainted earlier this season with the mostly unfamiliar footballing feeling of starting afresh. Announced early in November as a new signing for Bedford Town, his new beginning was put on pause almost as quickly as it had got underway.

The Eagles were 5th in the Southern League Division One Central after seven games this season, but that was of course as far as the campaign would reach for them, and for so many other clubs around non-league. The club caught some wider attention last September for the signing of former Peterborough United star and Scotland international Craig Mackail-Smith, and a sense of very real ambition is certainly what seemed to ring true for Alex as well.

 

You officially signed in November, but because of the circumstances, how much time have you actually spent with the team at Bedford Town overall since you joined?

I went in and they were training quite regularly, and we got to play in the Trophy, so my first game was against Biggleswade (Town). We played that one game, which we won on penalties, and then we had an outbreak of COVID so we had to forfeit the tie (against Alfreton Town in the second round). That was it and I’ve been on furlough since then.

So how much of actually feeling like a Bedford Town player have you had so far?!

I’ve played 90 minutes and probably trained four or five times with the team properly, so from having a lot of potential to go and win the league, I’ve played one game and not even got to see any of the fans!

You knew (former Wisbech Town and King’s Lynn Town boss) Gary Setchell already of course. Why else was it the right move for you?

It was the potential. I had a few ring me. Obviously, it was a few weeks into the season, so that was hard. Gary knew my status. I want to get back to the National League North or South, and try to get back to the National League. They invited me down and the plans were everything I needed at the time really. They want to get promotion, they want to win the league, and a lot of the other clubs at the same level weren’t at that stage to go and push for promotion or anything. With the last three or four seasons I’ve had with King’s Lynn, we’ve been very successful, and me being 29 now, coming up to 30, I’d like to try and be as successful as I can.

What is the commute like, is the club local to you, or more of a journey in?

To be honest, because I work up and down the country, Bedford’s quite ideal. We do a lot of work in London, a lot around the Midlands, so Bedford’s within an hour/an hour-and-a-half usually from where we are. The only time I’ve got to travel is Saturday when I’m at home and I’ve got to travel for a home game. I’ve not even really worked that journey out properly yet because I’ve only had one game with them!

You’re instantly associated with King’s Lynn. A good few months now since you left, how do you reflect really? Is it difficult at all not being there now?

Not really. I don’t really like the way it ended, to be honest, and obviously with the pandemic, that was tough. I felt I’d done enough to get my chance. Football’s football and things happen for a reason sometimes. I didn’t agree with what was going on at that point and it was right for me to leave, but I’ve got good friends there, so I’ve enjoyed watching a few of the games. I’ve not felt belittled or anything. I want my friends to do well and they deserve to get there. I’m just a bit gutted that I didn’t get to play more in that league, I thought I deserved to play, but that’s just football at the end of the day. There isn’t a lot of loyalty in football any more, that’s just business, unfortunately.

What was it like playing as a Norfolk club in the National League North last season? Was it challenging or did it actually feel like it was an advantage over other teams, playing at home against sides who’d come from so far away?

To be honest, that year, everything we had about going to games and travel-wise was very professional. From every detail, so the furthest games, we had overnight stays. The buses we had were very high quality, so that made the travel not too bad for us. Coming off a play-off final win as well, we just had momentum, and our team spirit was always there. We’d always have fun on the bus, so the time spent travelling didn’t really affect us. Also, what helps in that National League North is the grounds are very good at that level. That makes a big difference, knowing that you’re gonna play at a proper ground with a fantastic football pitch, because there’s some big, big clubs in that league. It makes it a lot easier going to these places to try and get a result.

So are there any that stick in your mind from those clubs that you went to, in terms of how great the atmosphere was, or even how hostile?

I’ve always liked Hereford, I’ve always played well there, and we’ve beat them every time we’ve played them. York was a good one to play at, because they wanted to beat us, we wanted to beat them, and they gave us a bit of a hiding actually at their place; we lost 3-0 but we actually played quite well. Their fans were constantly shouting, cheering, which is good, because that’s what football’s about really, that’s what everyone plays for. Where else did we go? (thinking) I got a lot of abuse at Telford, they gave me a bit of stick, and Chester. Chester was one because that was a Tuesday night, and it was a bit of a top-end-of-the-table clash, and I think they scored in the 90th minute to win 3-2 at their place. Yeah, we got a lot of stick for that, but I’d matured when I got into that National League North. I’ve played in front of some hostile fans in the lower leagues where they’re in touching distance of you and you get all sorts of abuse hurled. So going into those big games with bigger crowds, the abuse doesn’t really bother me too much; you try and embrace it, and egg it on a little bit really.

Which team did you support growing up?

Well, because my family are from Bolton, I’m a Bolton Wanderers fan. We’ve had our ups and downs. My grandma, bless her, she worked at the old ground, at Burnden Park, but then they moved the family this way. Being Norfolk-based, we used to go and watch Norwich quite a bit, but I’ve always been a Bolton fan.

Any first Bolton heroes that come to mind for you? Obviously the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, but any before that era even? John McGinlay etc.

Because I’m a goalkeeper, Jussi Jääskeläinen was a God really. There were loads, though; Iván Campo, Gary Speed, all them. That was the time I was really into them.

In your football up to now, has there been a time, maybe a specific year or two, that was the happiest overall?

I think the happiest all-round is the latter part of my King’s Lynn career, because of the success we had. I think going back to when I was 18 at college, when I first sort of broke in at Wisbech and then got signed for King’s Lynn, I was playing regularly for the college, because we had this system where we were training four times a week. They trained you as if it was a professional set-up, so I was playing regular football and I really enjoyed that. As a young kid, playing football all the time, that was the main goal really to achieve. So I’d say that time, when I was 18, playing regularly and getting my move to King’s Lynn. Then the latter years at King’s Lynn, because that was when we got a Super Play-off Final win (against Warrington Town), the National League North win, and then playing the first couple of games in the National League this year.

What kind of approach has tended to get the best from you, in terms of what you think you need from a manager?

I’ve had probably a lot of ups and downs with my manager now, Gary (Setchell). We used to have no real training for goalkeepers, and then when he’d come in and blame me for an error, we’d have a proper argument, near enough brawling sometimes! We’d argue it, and then you’d go out angry as anything, I’d put in a good performance in the second half and you’d shake hands at the end of the game. I think people take it differently. I think managers need to appreciate the mentality side of each individual goalkeeper. For me, I don’t take anything too personally, I’ll take everything on board and I’ll agree or disagree. Sometimes it’s good to get riled-up, because you’re gonna go out there with a point to prove.

It’s obviously different for goalkeepers because you don’t have an on-field partnership like a centre-half, midfielder, striker perhaps would, but are there any defenders you’ve had an especially strong understanding with?

I think probably Rory McAuley at Lynn; I got to know him and his play, and we got to know each other quite well. That trust becomes a bond and you don’t usually mess up between yourselves then. I had the same with Jordan Yong, old left-back at King’s Lynn, and then you’ve got the rock of Phil Gulliver, who was an excellent centre-half. Because of the level he played at (ex-Middlesbrough youngster who played in the Football League for the likes of Rushden & Diamonds and Hereford United), he made it easy for you, because you knew he was gonna do his job.

I’m sure there’s a few, but who are some of the names that come to mind when I say biggest characters? Whether it’s teammates, coaches, managers.

As a goalkeeper, Paul Bastock; some of the stuff he shouted on the sidelines was outrageous sometimes! He’s funny and I’ve got a good relationship with him, he’s a big character. Michael Gash is great in the changing room, great on the pitch; he’s an all-round, big character. Leon Mettam, he’s a funny character. Paul Cousins, he’s one of the big ones from the Wisbech days; he didn’t mind upsetting a few people with a few of his little tricks! The list could go on but they’re probably the big standouts.

Have you ever had to sing when you’ve joined a team?

To be honest, I’ve never really had to sing. The only thing was when I was with Wisbech and made the first team, and every time I had a can of beer on the way home, they made me take an item of clothing off! This must have been a cold time, so I had a jumper under my jacket and a t-shirt, and they kept catching me sneaking beers in there, so they made me take all my clothes off. They then chucked all my clothes out of the window on the mini-bus! Because Lynn folded, that was a brand-new team when I went there, so I didn’t have to do anything there, because we were all new players. Going to Bedford, we’ve not really had chance to do anything there, because of COVID restrictions and things like that, so I probably got away with singing there as well.

If you had to do a song, though, which one do you think you would pull out?

I’d probably go for Tom Jones ‘It’s Not Unusual’; that’s a bit of my thing.

Away from work and away from football, what else do you enjoy, or even have an ambition in for the future?

I’m quite active, so if I get to go out with my missus, I like to do something intensive like coasteering. I like cricket, I play quite a bit of that in the summer. My missus is a gym instructor, so I’m always trying to do squats and stuff, which I don’t really enjoy! Other than that, I’ve just bought a house, so I’ve been quite busy with that. That’s been my main goal really, to try and get that up and running, finished off and decorated.

Finally, as you look ahead now, does it feel more important to just go and enjoy football and then everything else is a bonus, or are you set on going all out to get back up the divisions? 

It’s always important to enjoy football but I’m coming into my best years. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve only really had a goalkeeper coach for the last five years, so I’ve missed my early-20s with a goalie coach. I think I’m coming into my best years, and my hunger is to get back to the level and have a go. I had a taste of having my name on the back of my shirt and that’s where I want to get back to. While I’m at Bedford, for however long that may be, I intend to push to win trophies and win the club promotions. That’s where I’m at, I’m not there to take part or be mid-table, I’m there to win. It’s as simple as that for me, I’m not going to any club that don’t want to achieve anything right now, because I’m coming to my best years, and I think I can keep kicking on.

Interview by @chris_brookes

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