Radcliffe’s Ollie Martin is building up a reputation as one of the most consistent performers in the Northern Premier League, and the Stockport-based star was recognised for his five-star performances after picking up Radcliffe’s player of the month award for October.
In an exclusive interview, Martin admitted that he’s ‘delighted’ to pick up the accolade and that it means a lot to him on a personal level as well as the team.
“It’s a great feeling to have been awarded the accolade,” said Martin. “It means a lot to me, having won it back in March, and it means just as much to me on this occasion.
“The result against Hyde at the start of October was a huge one for the team, as it was one of our more convincing victories of the campaign. It filled everyone involved at the football club with lots of confidence. Following that, my penalty save against Nantwich proved to be very important, in a tight game which helped me massively and was the best possible outcome for me on a personal level and as we went on to win the game 1-0, it certainly meant a lot to the club as well as myself.”
In terms of adjusting following Radcliffe’s promotion from the Evo-stik Division one west to the Northern Premier League, Martin concedes that the gulf in quality is there for everyone to see, and mistakes are punished ruthlessly.
“Teams will punish you for poor play,” said Martin. “The quality of player increases with the step-up. There are a lot of very good players in the league below us, which only accentuates just how good we were in the previous campaign. The lads are really adapting well to the step-up.”
Reflecting on a fantastic 2018/19 campaign, Martin admits that the previous campaign couldn’t have gone any better, both on a personal level, and everyone involved at the football club as Jon Macken’s side won the play-off’s in an amicable fashion.
“I do feel that it couldn’t have gone better for us last season,” admitted Martin. “It may sound strange, but I preferred to earn promotion via the play-off’s. I’ll never forget those two matches against Ramsbottom United and Leek Town. The atmosphere, what it meant to the club and the people of Radcliffe, that feeling will never leave me.
“The Final was just a dream come true, we faced an opposition who’d beaten us twice in the league, one of the only teams to have conceded as little as us, heading into the final. They went 1-0 up at half-time and we fought back to win the game 2-1, along with results going our way.”
Martin added: “Heading into the last few games of the campaign, we had to come through some tough games, namely Runcorn Linnets and eventual champions, Atherton Collieries. We’d worked so, so hard throughout the season and it meant so much to us and everyone involved at the club.
“I will always say it, there wasn’t a better changing room cohesion than that one last season!”
During Radcliffe’s victorious season last time out, Tunde Owolabi played a big part in Radcliffe’s promotion to the Northern Premier League as the Nigerian striker bagged 26 goals en route, and Martin reveals his personal friendship with Owlolabi, who now represents FC United, and the Radcliffe shot-stopper also reveals the banter that was exchanged following that fantastic penalty save on Tuesday evening at the Neuven.
“There’s no denying that Tunde was a huge figure for us last season,” admits Martin. “I’ve been good mates with Tunde ever since our time at New Mills a few years ago. Tunde was loved by the Radcliffe fans.
“Everyone respects what he did for the club last season and we’re thankful for it, but he’s moved on now and I personally wish him all the very best, apart from New Years Day! (smiles).“
Martin also spoke of his admiration for Radcliffe boss, Jon Macken and his assistant, Frank Sinclair and just how they’ve been influential in his time at the club.
“It’s fantastic,” admitted Martin. “They were a big reason as to why I came to the football club. You’ve got the experience that they both possess, which has helped me and all the other lads massively.
“They’ve got a fine balance of when to be tough, and when to praise the lads, but the standards they set are that of the highest order. The lads want to achieve the standards that are expected.“
Prior to joining Radcliffe, Martin enjoyed spells at New Mills and Mossley, and admits that his journey has been far from straightforward, but it’s how he’s responded from setbacks that’s made him the player he is today.
“There were some really bad times over the last few years,” conceded Martin. “Although there were plenty of good moments as well. I generally enjoyed my spells at previous clubs, there are some great people at both New Mills and Mossley.
“An old goalkeeping coach of mine has always reiterated to me that the tough times are all worth it when you finally taste success. And that was epitomised after the final whistle was blown in last season’s play-off final.
“I don’t mention it too much for obvious reasons, but I was part of a team that were winless all season. You’ve got to take experience from those barren spells and take them into the positive and successful times. They’re what makes that winning feeling even better.”
In terms of nurturing up-and-coming goalkeepers, Martin is a co-founder of the Goalkeeping Network (GKN) and offers advice and training, guiding goalkeepers of all abilities the chance to develop their skills.
“I work alongside two great friends in Chris Appleton and Chris Kiernan. We designed the network to connect goalkeepers together, and for a genuine entity for goalkeepers to use. Focused primarily around a number of WhatsApp groups (players and coaches), we host players from all levels and abilities, try to help them gain minutes on the pitch, or even provide training for them.
“In addition to this, we showcase and promote as many goalkeepers as we possibly can. we also provide a glove, which I gladly wear myself for all football-related scenarios.”
Former Bolton Wanderers and current Lancaster City goalkeeper, Sam Ashton is a proud ambassador of GKN.
“Sam’s one of our endorsee’s. He’s a great ambassador for the brand and we’re very fortunate to have him onboard. He had a great game against ‘Boro a few weeks ago, frustratingly for me!”
Summing up just how tough it is being a goalkeeper, relying on concentration and several other key skills, Martin admits that the coaching and advise that he’s had over the years has really helped in his development.
“There’s a lot of hard-work that goes in on the training pitch,” admits Martin. “Our goalkeeping coach at Radcliffe, Des is a fantastic coach who really pushes me and all the other goalkeepers, which really helps us to prepare for our respective games on a Saturday.
“I know for a fact that there a lot of good goalkeepers in the Northern Premier League, and just how hard they train ahead of a match-day. Mainly because they’re in the GKN group.”