George Carline reflects on first season at Chesterfield and his journey through non-league
It is hard to believe that George Carline only started playing full-time professional football a couple of years ago.
The 28-year-old has had a steady rise up the non-league ladder but his performances for Chesterfield last season made you wonder why he had not been playing regularly at this level, or even higher, until now.
The versatile wing-back, who was previously a goalscoring box-to-box midfielder, only made the transition to full-time football during his time at Solihull Moors, who he joined in 2016.
Before that he had been at Hednesford, Redditch and Cadbury Athletic, who he started playing for while at Birmingham University.
His days at Redditch were based on ‘a lot of lads on not a lot of money just working hard’ so he appreciates the opportunity he has at the Spireites and he has taken it with both hands.
“I have never looked back because I don’t really see anything better than playing full-time football,” he told the DT.
“I have got qualifications to teach PE which is something to fall back on and look at later on but I am not going to give up playing full-time football any time soon if I can avoid it.”
As a young boy it was not all about football. From the ages of six to 10 he played tennis ‘to a decent standard’ before he lost enjoyment and swapped the racket for a pair of boots.
A knee problem when he was 14 meant he had to stop playing for a few years before his non-league journey kick-started while at university.
After becoming frustrated at the lack of game time at Solihull, he got the call from James Rowe last summer who took him to Gloucester City and then brought him to Town just a few months later in December.
Carline was Rowe’s fourth signing after Akwasi Asante, Jak McCourt and Tom Whelan and the manager said he was humble, someone who does not get the credit he deserves and often ‘goes under the radar’ when he comes to man of the match awards because he is so consistent each week.
And that proved to be the case as he soon became a fan favourite at the Technique for his solid defensive displays, lung-bursting forward runs and rocket-launcher long throw.
The Derby-born man regularly clocked over seven miles during matches and he was an ever-present for the Blues, missing just one game through suspension.
Reflecting on his first season at Chesterfield, Carline said: “I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed being back playing regularly again. I have not been shy in saying that I have not been playing as much as I would like in the last couple of years. When the manager (Rowe) contacted me last summer to go to Gloucester with him the aim was just to get back playing regularly and enjoy playing each week and hopefully being an asset to whatever team I was at.
“I can’t really complain about the way my personal season has gone. I have been happy with my performances. I don’t think I did myself justice the last few weeks of the season. Maybe fatigue was kicking in a little bit but to play for a club of this size and stature you won’t hear me complaining.
“Obviously it was very disappointing the way things finished. We can look back on the season as a whole and there have been successes there considering where the club was sitting in the league when the manager first came in. To finish sixth can be seen as some kind of achievement but when you get to that stage the aim is promotion so to fall a little bit short and in the manner that we did in that (Notts County) game it is a little bit sickening but there are positives to take as well.”
Despite his successful campaign, Carline will not be resting on his laurels and will be relishing the competition he faces from new signing Jeff King.
The full-back would not be drawn into any title talk and expectations will no doubt increase but the Spireites will be keeping their feet on the floor.
The Spireites will only have had just over a month to rest up before pre-season starts on July 8.
The players have each been given individual fitness programmes to adhere to and Carline has been ticking over in the gym until the return.
“It (competition) will definitely push me,” Carline said before the signing of King was announced. “At the end of the day it is a squad game. I am not going to lie and say that I am not going to be really competitive again to try and cement my spot. It is my responsibility to go out and be better than I was this season and cement my spot again.”
He added: “We have had individual meetings with the manager to reflect and look forward like any good management team will do. Personally, me and him have agreed on a few targets and a few things to work on in the summer. There are always things you can improve on and I am very aware of that. Without saying specifically what those targets are the club knows and the fans know what we are looking for next season. I am sure he (Rowe) is going to be bringing in players to strengthen the squad, he has already done that. We are only looking up really.”