It was 12:33 pm on the long road to Solihull, as we passed through the windy roads and the housing estates of the metroplitan borough, the long trip was monotonous for some and entertaining for others.

With a quick glance to the back of the bus, you’d see the main contingent of Lichfield’s band of brothers, Leighton McMenemy often leading the conversation, flanked by Dan Lomas, Jack Edwards and Luke Keen.

Slightly further forward, you’d see Luke Childs on his phone watching Arsenal vs Manchester United, he’s a self-proclaimed Aston Villa fan, but he’s supporting Arsenal today and one player in particular.

I’ve put a bet on Arsenal to win and Eddie Nketiah to score,” he excitedly tells me.

As left-back Joe Haines steps down to use the rather compact toilet facilities. Childs’ eyes light up as he silently and mischievously jogs over to the door that is locked. He sticks his feet out and sits on the bannister, locking Haines in the toilet.

The left-back stroke winger is laughing uncontrollably, the urge to stay quiet makes him hoot even louder. The door is being pushed to try and open it, a silent ‘hey’ is heard, Haines’ voice begins to boom as he gets more and more irritated. The laughter is infectious as the rest of the squad joins in taking turns to laugh at the situation.

“F**k off man,” Haines bellows, which is greeted with a smattering of laughter from the rest of the squad. That anecdote sums up Childs’ character, he’s a joker and likes making people laugh.

If you had to guess who the loudest and most confident player is, you wouldn’t put money on Luke Childs, but not only is the attacker confident off the pitch, he is growing in confidence on it.

Childs is a flair player who oftentimes can make the best defenders in the Midland Football League look about as useful and as idle as training cones. The winger glides effortlessly past defenders, he can drop the shoulder, beat a man, whip in a cross and he has an eye for a goal or two, or in his case 9 for the season.

The 25-year-old showed his knack for a goal with his fantastically headed goal against Romulus on bank holiday Monday.  He leapt like a salmon in the penalty box, something you wouldn’t expect from a typical winger.

“I knew where it was going,” Childs said ecstatically. “I jumped perfectly and watched it fly into the top corner, I was so f***king happy.” It’s clear to see why the winger was elated with his goal, the incisive football, the pace of the attack was frightening. The goal which has been nominated for the club’s goal of the season was a work of art.

Childs started on Thursday night as Lichfield were knocked out of the JW Hunt cup semi-final against Lye Town, a game in which the team who finished third in the league were unplayable at times on the night. The bar was struck on several occasions by Lichfield, but it stayed 0-0 after full-time. Penalties were the decisive factor and it ended 4-2 to Lye, much to the disappointment of the players.

“It was so disappointing,” Childs admitted. “Fair play to the lads who took a penalty, but they were all pretty terrible if we’re honest (he laughs). Hainsey (Joe Haines) fair play to him, stood up and scored his penalty but now he won’t shut up about it. As I say first season together, cup semi-final, third in the division.

“Hopefully we can keep the lads together and then add a few fresh faces and push on next season.”

The winger who has defied expectations this season with over 20 goal contributions, formed a fantastic front three early on in the season with young striker Max Dixon and top goalscorer Jack Edwards, but it was a switch to playing in the back four that Childs feels has benefitted his game the most.

“Playing left-back was massive to me,” Childs says with a wry smile on his face. “I think it’s brought out a new whole dynamic to my game, I’ve shown the gaffer (Ivor Green) that I can defend just as well as I can attack. Hopefully, I can round off a great season and win the supporters player of the year award.

“I took the adjustment (to playing left-back) in my stride, I always knew I could do it but until you actually bite the bullet, and do it then you never know. A few of the lads now say it’s my best position so it’s a weird one.”

Childs who is quietly developing into one of the most revered players in the league was keen to point out his roots when asked what his plans for next season and beyond are.

“I’ll be here next season,” Childs confidently announced. “I’m a Lichfield lad, I live about 5 minutes around the corner why would I want to leave. I’ve told the gaffer and he’s very happy about it, just tell him I want a bit more dough (he jokes).

“I’ve been at the club for three years but this season has been the best definitely. Since the gaffer has come in, he has completely changed the dynamic of the team, it’s been so much better, the togetherness of the team is fantastic. Ivor (Green), the chairman and vice-chairman they’ve helped massively, the togetherness and synergy of the three is a massive boost for the club as a whole.”

Childs’ aims for next season are clear:“We want to get promoted next season and win a few trophies that has to be the aim.”

The attacker however, was keen to point out that despite Hanley Town being promoted and Boldmere potentially going up through the play-offs, the league is relentless.

“It looks like it could be a lot simpler (without Hanley and Boldmere), but you’ve got to take each game as it comes,” Childs insists. “You can’t turn up expecting to roll a team over, because oftentimes that can lead to overconfidence. We saw it against Racing Club Warwick and Whitchurch Alport, we turned up thinking we would win easily and look what happened, we need to have the mentality of being underdogs.”

As we both leave our seats, Childs exudes confidence with his shoulders back, chest out as he often is, as confident as ever. A relaxed man on the outside but a man on a mission who is proving his doubters wrong week after week on the football pitch.

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April 26, 2022
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