In the first of our #MyJourneySoFar series, we caught up with midfielder Chris Lines to look back at some of the key moments in his career, including dealing with being released as a teenager and his time with the Cobblers...
Developing a love for the game...
“My passion for football started whilst I was a young kid, my Dad took me to one of my first games at a young age and I really enjoyed it. I then joined my local grassroots team which my Mum and Dad were keen for me to do and I loved it. After a short while, Bristol City came to watch some of our games, and I started training with them when I was 6-7 years old.
“I was a Rovers fan growing up, but it was City who had the Academy set-up at the time and they’d train twice a week, which was a lot for our age group but I did that for 2-3 years.
“When I was younger, I started out as a defender! But as I grew up I played further forward and scored a lot of goals as a 12-13 year old until I dropped back a little deeper and developed into a midfield player.
“I started at the back, then moved up-front before settling in midfield so I’ve tried everything so far except being a goalkeeper!”
Watching my local team and looking up to idols...
“I used to go and watch the home games at Bristol Rovers a lot as they were my local team, and I never really supported a Premier League teams apart from getting a couple of the shirts for Christmas so it was mainly Rovers.
“As I got a bit older, a player I started looking up to was Steven Gerrard at Liverpool. He was a midfielder who I thought was the complete package and I think it’ll be a while before we see someone as talented as him in terms of all-round midfield attributes.
“If you’re a young player and you wanted to learn how to play the central midfield role then there’s no-one better to learn from in my opinion.”
The switch from City to Rovers...
“When I was with Bristol City, the training at that age just came a bit too much for me as I was travelling 2-3 times a week and with school and everything it was a lot to juggle for me and my parents.
“I was 11 when I joined Rovers and it was great for to put the kit on at that age and we just trained once a week so it was much more manageable.”
Being released and working my way back to a professional contract...
"I stayed with Rovers until I was fifteen before I got released, so it was time to start looking at other things. Thankfully for me, there was a football academy at the local college and college football really started to take off at the time.
“I was sixteen and was playing under 18’s and did really well so I signed up for the two-year course. We played twice a week whilst combining football with education and I was able to get a job alongside it, so I was earning money and had a back-up in-case the football route didn’t work out.
“Bristol Rovers then started using some of the college players for their reserve team, so I was given opportunities to impress through that and was offered a professional contract.”
Playing at Wembley, earning promotions and moving away from my hometown...
“I was lucky enough to be involved with a few promotions at Rovers. The second season I was there we managed to get to Wembley for the play-off final. I’d made a few appearances that season and was in the squad for that game so that was a dream come true, particularly as we went on to win the match.
“Then in my other spell with Rovers we managed to win back-to-back promotions which was also incredibly special. It was a risk for me at the time to go back as I was playing in League One and Rovers were in the Conference, but thankfully it worked out and I was back up in League One with them.
“I think that’s the most amount of promotions a player has got with Rovers (three) so that’s a nice record to have.
“The season I joined Sheffield Wednesday was the year Rovers got relegated, but I wasn’t actually looking to leave at that moment in time.
“My daughter was being born so it would’ve been a tricky one to move up to Sheffield, but after their second offer came in I thought it was a huge opportunity and I felt ready to try something new away from Bristol, and it proved to be one of the best things I ever did as I got to see and experience another part of the country and play in-front of 25,000 fans every home game.
“I didn’t really realise how big a club they were until I joined, and they’d take fans up and down the country so as soon as I was 4-5 games into my spell there I realised it was the right decision. We were also lucky enough to win automatic promotion to the Championship.
“I’m six or seven games away now from 550 league and cup appearances, and I’ve managed to be involved with four promotions. If you’d have said that to the kid that got released as a fifteen-year-old then I wouldn’t have believed you so it just goes to prove that hard-work, dedication and being mentally strong proves that you can achieve great things.“
Enjoying life as a Cobbler…
“My time with Northampton so far has gone really well, I’ve enjoyed it. The aim when I joined was to give ourselves a chance of promotion and be in and around the top seven which we’ve managed to do so far.
“It took us a while to get going because we had a lot of new signings and it takes time to gel and find a style of play and it seems we’ve done that now and we’ve put ourselves in a good position. We want to kick on again over the last nine games and see where it takes us.
“We’ve got players in our dressing room who’ve had experience of the play-offs before so we feel we’d be ready should we need to go down that route.
“There’s been a few games this season where I thought we’ve been really decent and played really well. I remember playing Crewe at home, both teams were in good form and the game could’ve gone either way but it was a really enjoyable one, end to end with both teams going for the win and thankfully we came out on top quite connivingly in the end.
“Burton Albion away in the FA Cup was special too, that’ll stick in the memories of the supporters for a long time.
"Then both games against Derby were enjoyable, particularly the first game at home when we were more than a match for them and could’ve got a result on another day but for me, the most enjoyable games are still to come as there’ll be plenty to play for once we’re back up and running again.
“I also enjoyed the Morecambe game and the goal I scored is up there with some of my favourite throughout my career.
“Over the last 6-7 years I’ve dropped a bit deeper in midfield, so my goals tend to come from outside the box or are a bit more spectacular like that one. Hopefully when I finish playing, I can put 10-15 of my favourite goals together and look back on them, and I’m hoping to add a few more between now and the end of the season.”