“Right, let’s get this over with,” Jonathan Gould says with a nervous tone in his voice. The 29-year-old winger stroke attacking midfielder has had a difficult few years but he’s back on the pitch with Lichfield City. Gould looks apprehensive as he strolls over after inspecting the pitch ahead of a crunch game against Hanley Town. The exciting attacker isn’t looking forward to the sit-down, but I don’t take it to heart, he’s a quiet family man, not nearly as exuberant as some of his teammates in the dressing room, but today it’s his turn in the hot seat.
“I’ve had three years just trying to get my injuries right,” Gould reveals. “With lockdown, it’s obviously been difficult. About 3-4 months ago I gave Ivor (Green) a call just to see where I’m at with him and when the cut off for transfers was, he said March but that I could sign for Lichfield straightaway.
“Ivor told me he wanted to sign me, just to hear someone say they want you and thinking I’d be a good fit really motivated me. Since the big injuries, he (Ivor Green) has been one of the few to stay in constant contact with me, alongside Jimmy Elkes who has also been staying in touch with me which is nice.”
As mentioned in a previous piece, the seven days system for this level is the system used for transfers in the Midland Premier Division and Gould was a player who was transferred to City thanks to it.
“Lichfield were one of the first clubs to put in a seven days for me,” Gould tells me. “It’s been a long time coming, I started my career at 17 and I’m 29 now, but being at Lichfield has been really good, I’ve only played four games since I joined but I’m trying to build up my fitness bit by bit.”
It’s no secret that Gould has been through a lot in his career, with injuries plaguing his playing career, Lichfield City seems to have rescued him after a tough few years, but Gould believes it’s good to look at the bad times.
“I’m on my eighth operation now after my last one it was kind of like the end for me,” Gould admits to me. “I looked at the situation and thought it was too much for me, I was in the process of moving house and wanted to start a family. I was at the age where I had to start thinking about these things but in the end, I just missed football too much.
“During the height of lockdown, I got away with it, football was cancelled, and the results weren’t being posted so it made it easier for me but once the games were back up and running you start to think ‘How do I get back and what are the steps needed‘. I was lucky because I was meant to have a steroid injection in January for my injury, but I was told I didn’t need to have it, and then when it looked like I was needing surgery I was told I wouldn’t need that either. It looked like with surgery I would have been back in May, but I came back in February instead.
“The injuries were difficult for me on a personal level, psychologically more than anything none of my injuries have come from an impact it’s always come from just turning in a certain direction which obviously is a big part of my game. I have strappings now which have helped, I wouldn’t say I’ve put it to one side now but it’s sometimes good to look back at the bad times to appreciate the good times.”
Gould was also keen to stress just how good the squad is, with a now near fully fit squad barring one or two absences through illness, the squad is near full strength.
“Ivor was happy when I decided to sign due to the squad being a bit thin,” Gould tells me as he recalls when he signed for the Staffordshire outfit. “If you look at the squad now, we have 20 really quality players minimum and we have promising players coming through at under 21 level too.”
“They (the management) kept in contact with me as I said which was a confidence boost,” Gould says with a wry smile on his face. “It could be easy for a manager to forget about a player if they’ve had a serious injury, the messages I’ve had whilst injured or even when my son was born it means so much to me.
“If I have a little niggling injury, the gaffer is always great with me and just says to me to leave it today which has helped my confidence a lot.”
Gould was also keen to praise the dressing room after joining the club mid-season: “One of the hardest things in football is coming into a new dressing room, into a new environment but they’ve been so welcoming with me and have integrated me into the team, it’s just fantastic to be back.
“My main aim is to get back to sharpness next season, I’ve been back for 4 games (before Hanley Town), started two so I have a long way to go before I’m 100%.”
As the quarter-final of the Walsall Senior Cup against Chasetown FC approaches, the aim for Gould and indeed the rest of this exciting Lichfield squad is clear to see.
“Trophies has to be the aim,” he says. “We are in a quarter-final and semi-final so trophies for the squad after what has been a brilliant season has to be the aim.
“For me personally, the aim has to be to stay fit and do the best I can even if it means sitting on the bench or maybe I’m not in the squad whatever it is I’ll be there. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to play every game and of course, you want that, but the enjoyment of the game has to be there, but staying fit is the big goal for me.”
As the interview comes to an end, Gould breathes a sigh of relief almost like he’s had to do an exam the shoulders drop, and he looks much more comfortable. It’s good to see someone who’s thoroughly enjoying his football, I think he’s enjoying his football far more than he enjoyed that interview.
By Shaun Webbley