By Shaun Webbley

The definition of a captain is the person in command of a ship, Lichfield’s City influential captain Kyle Patterson has been steering the ship this season and he has excelled. The call starts and Patterson joins for what will be the final interview of a meteoric season for the club, the talisman looks pensive but also excited as we are about to chew over what has been a monumental season for everyone in Lichfield.  

We start mulling over the incredible FA Cup run which included a televised encounter against Nuneaton Borough in the cup, the run in the cup was a particular highlight for the club as the television exposure put the small club from the civil parish of Lichfield on the map.

“I love playing in the FA Cup,” Patterson eulogised. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play in some massive games in the cup. I was buzzing for the lads who got to experience it, going into the Stourport game (first game of the FA Cup run) only 3 of the squad were there from the previous season, Stourport were favourites for the league so going there was tough we weren’t fancied at all.

“We absolutely blitzed them, the intensity, speed and power of the team we just overwhelmed them. We didn’t see it in the pre-season games, we had moments but not sustained periods, that game it all came together perfectly, and I just thought ‘we’ve got a good team here’. I remember Hainsey (Joe Haines) scored a goal, although it was an own goal as much as he likes to say it was his goal (he laughs). Max Black scored too, so goals coming from the full-backs, you knew when our full-backs were getting up the pitch, you knew we were in our groove.

“The Evesham game was similar; we were backs against the wall, but we pulled away and won the game 4-2. The Nuneaton home game was special, it was massive for the clubs and for the fans. They had some great players, at half-time the game was even. Dan (Lomas) had a chance from 6 yards out, he missed, and I think that miss haunted him for the next few weeks. Nuneaton went up the other end and scored two unreal goals and put the game to bed.”

Patterson admitted his pride in being captain for arguably the biggest game in the club’s history, but he revealed to me that he was in danger of missing the big occasion.

“I didn’t know if I was going to make the game to be honest,” Patterson reveals with a smile on his face at the bizarreness of the situation. “I remember speaking to my uncle before the game, he asked me ‘Are you ready for the game?’ I said I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it due to some hamstring issues I was suffering from. He looked at me with shock on his face and just said ‘You’re going to be on the BBC! You’ve got to play!’. Looking back on it now, I had to play, I needed to lead the team out on such a big day.”

Patterson mentioned the difficulty defenders had with dealing with Lichfield’s lethal front line, and he expanded on just why during the first few months of the season it worked so well.

“We had weapons all over the pitch,” Patterson said with a wry smile. “We knew we were always going to score. We could sit back and soak up pressure when we needed to and counterattack with the pace and power that we had with Max (Dixon), Jack (Edwards) and Lukey (Luke Childs). The gaffer used to say to us, that if he was a defender that he wouldn’t know who to mark, we would rotate so much in attack, teams couldn’t deal with our interplay and the pace we had in the team.”

As Patterson began to feel more comfortable in his well-decorated house with pictures of his family in the background. We spoke about the FA Vase run and what the players were thinking after being kicked out of the Vase, after fielding an ineligible player.

“It put something negative on the team after such a great start to the season,” Patterson said with a tinge of sadness in his voice. “It was so disappointing to be kicked out, it was the first bit of negativity we had to deal with. The negative feelings just carried through a little bit after that, we were on tenterhooks for a few days waiting to see if we were kicked out. It affected our preparations, and we didn’t really seem focussed on the games coming up which again maybe highlights the lack of experience in the team.”

As we dissect the negative results throughout the season, we look back at some of the results which caused a stir, for all the wrong reasons.

“The Racing Club Warwick game was abysmal,” he said shaking his head remembering the disastrous 4-0 defeat in the winter months. “We didn’t turn up for that game, we were so poor. The Boldmere game was tough to take (3-2 away defeat) and then after that, we lost to Worcester City. I think that game we had 13 first team players, we were struggling massively with injury. We were without Jack, Max (Dixon) I think a few youngsters were drafted in, think that was Lewi’s (Burnside) debut too.”

Despite the negative results experienced through the season, Patterson was keen to point out what results he was proud of this season, including a rather surprising mention.

“I think the Walsall Wood game (0-0 draw) might have been the turning point,” Patterson said to my surprise. “We were on a bad run coming into that game, we had just lost back-to-back games 4-1, the pitch that day was awful similar to Tividale’s pitch. Walsall had a new manager and was on the up, that game was such a battle and we realised after that game that we were all in this together and we were fighting for each other, especially after the run we were on, that result was a turning point.

“The Hanley game (2-2 draw), we didn’t win but that might be in terms of quality the best game I’ve been a part of this season. We should have won it; I can remember it now. Max Black was steaming in from right-back and had a chance to win it late on, we should have. I remember they had a young lad in goal, on loan from Stoke City who made an astonishing save from Max’s volley. We (the players) started running off celebrating, we thought it was in.”

During the winter months of poor form, signings were needed, and signings arrived. The experience of Nathan Haines and striker Luke Keen were drafted into the team, as well as the returning 21-year-old Sam Fitzgerald after his spell at Hereford FC. Although the risks were obvious looking back now, the signings and the timing of them seem like another masterstroke by a manager who has taken this club to new heights.

“I think the signings have been massive for us,” Patterson says. “Luke (Keen) has been phenomenal, we haven’t had a proper number 9 this season, because we were so good at going forward and able to rotate. So sometimes I’d play up top, Jack (Edwards) would too and Dan (Lomas), because we’ve been so versatile, we haven’t really needed one. But he’s (Keen) come in and he’s been exactly what we need, the ball sticks up top with him and we can play off him, it’s brilliant.

“Nath (Nathan Haines) has been fantastic, I played against him when he was at Atherstone, and he was great that day. The gaffer (Ivor Green) would say he’s very much like me, he hates losing. I think we needed that winning mentality in the squad. Nath is very much a Saturday footballer; a defeat will stay with him for a few days after. Fitzy (Sam Fitzgerald) too, he’s brought so much energy and quality into the side, he’s too good for this level, but he knows I think he should stay next season.”

As the interview draws to a close like this fairy-tale season, Patterson was keen to discuss his pride at being the club captain this season: “I’m so proud (to have captained the side), we can look back at such fond memories, this season is probably the biggest progression we’ve made in a single year, this club is on the up.”

As the recorded interview comes to an end, you wouldn’t know by the calmness of the captain just how important these next few games are. “Are you a Breaking Bad fan,” he asks me with a grin on his face, as we briefly discuss the décor of my room, much to my surprise. Patterson will be hoping the end of the season can be as dramatic and exciting as the award-winning television drama.

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April 17, 2022
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