Exclusive Interview: Connor Kirby

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

(Image credit: Harrogate Town AFC)

JR: You signed for Harrogate Town in 2020. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe a club such as Harrogate Town?

CK: When I found out about Harrogate Town's interest in me after they got promoted it was a no brainer to sign really. It was great in that respect because I was out of contract and I was looking for a club and as soon as Harrogate Town came along it was simple for me to sign. They are a great club. I have settled in really well and I am enjoying my time at the club so far. The lads and the backroom staff are great and the club is doing well. It is a family run club and it is a really good club to be at and it is a club that is going in the right direction.

JR: You came through the youth setup and debuted for Sheffield Wednesday. How do you look back on your time at Sheffield Wednesday and did you learn anything in particular which stood you in good stead for your career as a professional footballer?

CK: When I got my scholarship at Sheffield Wednesday it was a big thing for me because I worked hard from the age of nine years old in the academy so that was a great achievement. Not long afterwards I actually signed my first professional deal when I turned 17. I really enjoyed my time at Sheffield Wednesday. They gave me the pedigree to go and play first team football and they pointed me in the right direction. In terms of learning I went out on loan to Macclesfield Town last season in order to gain first team experience and they gave me that opportunity. I really enjoyed it although the club had their problems off the pitch in terms of the changing room being down and the lads being a bit down about everything. Macclesfield Town was a massive learning curve last season. To make my debut for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship at Hillsborough Stadium against Reading FC is probably my greatest memory so far in my football career.

JR: You lead me nicely on to my next question mentioning your loan spell at Macclesfield Town last season. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?

CK: I did not expect to go out on loan at all to be honest but when it came round I took the opportunity with both hands and I grasped it. I ended up playing a lot more than I expected. I made 40 appearances and my highlight would be scoring my first professional goal last season against Exeter City at home and for me that was my highlight of the season. It was a massive learning curve for me at 21 years of age at the time to go to a club that was struggling with financial problems and the players getting down not going to training, games having to be called off. I had to get to terms of life in first team football in a first team environment really quickly at Macclesfield Town.

This article is brought to you by Freelance Football Opps, a newsletter connecting you to paid freelance opportunities every week in the beautiful game. Visit: www.freelancefootballopps.com for more information.

JR: You have accrued a lot of experience, could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career as a professional footballer?

CK: Yes, Being a young kid at Sheffield Wednesday between the ages of 17 and 21 and being around players such as Barry Bannan, Steven Fletcher, Tom Lees and Kieran Westwood. They are the top players that I have played alongside so far in my career. Here at Harrogate Town we have Jack Muldoon who you have interviewed in the past James. He is a great player Josh Falkingham is our captain and an excellent player and it is great to play alongside him in midfield.

JR: I can imagine in your position as a midfielder that you have come up against many difficult opponents through the years, could you say which players have stood out in terms of talent and ability?

CK: Yes, one player that springs to mind in that respect is Gareth Barry. He is the player with the most appearances in the Premier League - a very experienced footballer. A really good player. I came on as a substitute against West Bromwich Albion at Hillsborough Stadium and I like to be really energetic on the pitch, get around and press people but in that game I could not get anywhere near Gareth Barry! It just goes to show that the level he has played at over so many years and I am still trying to find my way in the game. In that same game I played against Harvey Barnes who is now flying at Leicester City in the Premier League. He is still only young but he is a very good player. He was gliding past players in that game and I remember he scored two goals as well.

JR: Finally Connor, Could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer so far in your career?

CK: There are a couple of coaches at Sheffield Wednesday. Kevin Fogg. I was previously at Sheffield United when I was younger and Kevin Fogg actually coached me there and he managed to get a job at Sheffield Wednesday when I was at the club as well. He has had a massive influence coaching me over so many seasons. I’m really close to him and he is also close to my family - he was a massive part of my youth and football career. Neil Thompson was the Sheffield Wednesday under 23 coach when I was there and he was a great coach, I really liked him. He was good to be around and fun to play for and he really helped me in terms of everything to do with football. Also, Jos Luhukay when he first came to Sheffield Wednesday he was the one that actually gave the young lads a chance and I owe him that because he gave me my debut for Sheffield Wednesday and to get such a chance at 19 years old was unbelievable.

James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.