Boasting an admirable scoring ratio, Bradford-born Garry Haylock spent the majority of his playing career in the League of Ireland and north of the border. In addition to performing at the highest level in Greece, Garry also tells ExtraTime.ie about the strains of non-league management.
In a previous article written by the Englishman, he reveals how as a young striker at Huddersfield, manager Eoin Hand originally sent him on loan to Shelbourne to 'toughen up’: “I remember sessions where Eoin kicked lumps out of me. I was perceived to have a low pain threshold, which I probably did. He wanted me sturdier and to play men’s football because I couldn't get in Huddersfield's first team and I was overage for the youth team. Asked on a Thursday, I said yes immediately and flew over that Friday. I went on loan and signed the following season. My agent said to get out of Huddersfield, play in Ireland for a season and then go to France. I wanted to play in Europe, but met someone and ended up staying in Ireland.”
Swapping Shels for Linfield in 1993, Haylock then joined Portadown before linking up with Ronnie Whelan's Panionios, who reached the 1998/99 Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals: “Loved the football, but Greece is difficult for expats. It’s a nationalist country and not keen on outsiders coming in. It's the highest level I played at and we were third in the division. During the European run, we got lucky with some draws, but got Lazio in the quarter-finals. We were never going to win against such a fantastic side. They ended up winning it and next season, Serie A. Some incredible players: Nesta, Nedved, Vieri, Salas, Mancini. I had a two-year contract, but the club fell apart financially. I left after not being paid for three months … It wasn't sustainable without money coming in. I loved the lifestyle and weather, but couldn't carry on. Eventually, I got the money back through FIFA, but it was a long process.”
A Shelbourne return littered with loan spells ensued: Glenavon (twice), Colchester United and Glentoran, before Garry arrived at Dundalk in 2002, scoring both goals in that year’s 2-1 FAI Cup final victory over Bohemians: “The week before, we got relegated. The game before that, I twisted my knee and was on crutches for the last game of the season. I got it scanned and there was cartilage all over the place. They said it could be fixed, but I'd need an operation and there was no way I could play. It was then decided to give me a painkilling injection, play the final and have an operation afterwards. I couldn't feel it during the game, but couldn't walk on Tuesday. We met in Portmarnock, but were late for the kick-off. We needed a police escort, but it didn't give us a chance to be nervous. I was anxious over my knee, but got the ball, turned and knew I was going to be okay. They scored and I equalised before half-time. We got fortunate with the second goal. It struck me on the hand and after it went in, I looked across to the linesman, to see if he’d flagged. After that, I went off from cramp and couldn't move. It was a team effort, even though it's talked about as the final where I got two goals. There were no celebration preparations because Bohs were such favorites We ended up in the back of a truck and the square in Dundalk was rammed. My first thought was 'where were all these people throughout the season?’”
A brief loan period at Shamrock Rovers the subsequent year preceded Haylock's move back to England, where he turned out for a variety of non-league clubs, including: Basingstoke Town, Sutton United and Yeading, amongst others. As someone who regularly found the net in both Irish domestic leagues, was there ever disappointment at never getting a shot at a higher profile outfit in his home country?
“I went to Middlesbrough when at Linfield, and Middlesbrough were about to be promoted to the Premier League. Bryan Robson said: 'If we get promoted, I'll get ten million to spend and won't be back for you, but if not, I'll sign you at the season’s end.’ I hoped they would blow it, but they didn't and later signed bigger players. Back then, being a player in Ireland was similar to an English League One or Two player. At best, I would have been a Championship player, but more probably League One. I looked to win things, loved my time at every club and to move for 50-100 quid more a week didn't appeal to me.”
Four league titles and five domestic cups were captured during Garry's time playing on this side of the Irish Sea: “Then, in Northern Ireland, every team had at least one quality player. Linfield had six or seven and Glentoran four or five, so they were always competitive. It was easier to score in the north because the talent was spread more evenly, whereas in the south, teams were more organised and harder to score against. They all wanted to play football in the north because they fancied themselves, so games were open and produced more goals.”
When Haylock retired from playing in 2007, he spent over a decade managing at non-league level, but now insists he's not actively pursuing similar roles: “It has become such a fickle game. I have a business that's going well and to give that up for full-time football is a mistake. It would have to be some big opportunity, which I'm not going to get in England. At the moment, I'm involved with PE and primary school teams, while also Head of Football for a private school, so lots of coaching, making decent money and I go home every night. Although I'd never say never, management's such a difficult industry, it would put you off.”