Life as a non-league striker can be a cut-throat business at times and Josh Quarless speaks to Off The Park about his move to City of Liverpool and season expectations for Liverpool Business Houses side Dovecot.
The sky is limit for Josh Quarless as he continues to find his feet in the Northern Premier League, but a month or so ago, he was plying his trade in the North West Counties Premier Division with Burscough.
Fans, players, officials and managers alike will be familiar with the 25-year-old whether it be turning out on a Saturday or a Sunday with the Dovey. Although, many will remember the attacker lobbing the Bull goalkeeper from just inside the centre circle at Anfield Sports last season before wheeling off towards the opposition line saying: “that’s what I do”.
A towering, charismatic forward Quarless is a figure in non-league who is hard to miss thanks to his distinctive height.
Paul Bowes had taken over as the Linnets manager and the 25-year-old was given the task to deliver, which he did as he helped them surge up the table forming a formidable partnership with attackers such as Declan Daniels.
With his attacking and aerial prowess clear to see, he was influential in keeping Lower Breck at bay – as they pushed for an equaliser – with his invaluable defensive contributions and days later nodded in the opener against Skelmersdale United in a 2-2 draw.
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Fast forward to November and he had been snapped up by City of Liverpool who were looking for attacking reinforcements as they – like many non-league clubs in the region – suffered with injuries.
And on his debut, he hit the headlines for his double with Purps fans dubbing it a ‘flawless Quarless performance’, but the decision to move wasn’t one he took lightly, he said: “It was very, very tough it wasn’t the first offer I’d had.
“With Burscough, because I had been playing so well, the dressing room and the lads there were all spot on so it wasn’t easy [to leave] but in the end come down to wanting to progress and City of Liverpool are a good team, good style of play and it was a case of you just want to test yourself.”
Financial stability and strength in the lower divisions is as important as it is at the top of the Football League pyramid with teams not shy to splash the cash to help them fulfil their ambitions.
Quarless was one of the names on the list that was turning heads and explained what attracted him to the VanEupen Arena.
“It was a case of the other ones [offers] was the footballing projects and where they’re at in team growth,” he added. “I was enjoying my football so much I didn’t want to go to the first move that come onto me. I spoke with Bowser and Burscough in regards to them then, in all honesty, it was Ello [Michael Ellison] and the chairman got on me, we spoke and it made sense.
“You don’t really know who to trust sometimes, because someone’s telling you one thing and then there’s another saying something else but I think I’ve made the right choice.”
With three goals in as many games, he has already made an impact for the Purps after netting 14 times in all competitions for the Linnets.
But what has he changed in his game?
“In terms of my goal ratio I’ve stepped up because that’s mainly what people are interested in. They’re not interested in ‘oh he’s playing well’ but it’s the goal that makes the difference,” he explained. “I’ve always backed myself in what I could do so it’s been no surprise as such.”
A week before he officially could play for Michael Ellison’s side, he was announced as their new forward. With a game to play for Burscough, he insisted he needed to perform as he didn’t want claims to be made hinting his ‘head wasn’t in it’ he tells Off The Park.
“It was good, it was my dad’s birthday, so it was a case of coming in and making an impact. You have to earn your respect when you go somewhere and there’s no other way than to score goals, I’ve done it twice on my debut so I was made up.
“It was a strange one because the goals I’ve been scoring are not ones I’ve been used to in the last 12 months, I don’t really get the easy ones but it’s nice. To be honest, I’ve fitted in well with the lads, sometimes when you go to a new club they don’t really find you but they all trusted me and I got a lot of the ball so I was allowed to be effective.”
His seemingly seamless integration into the Northern Premier League West side was a mix of his confidence and the feeling of appreciation he received from his teammates.
“Can’t fault them, they’re [the fans] are unbelievable,” Quarless raved about the Purps fans. “Even away in Kidsgrove [Athletic] they didn’t stop singing all day.
“Our performance from a team wasn’t the best, wasn’t what it should’ve been and they’re there giving you a kick – so it’s good. I wouldn’t say it’s a new thing for me but it’s nice, definitely gives you a boost and it’s nice to see fans so passionate about non-league footy.”
With two wins out of three, Ellison’s side have begun to get that winning feeling with Quarlless instrumental in helping earn three points. The only blemish in their recent run coming in a 2-1 defeat to Kidsgrove Atheltic, something he describes as a “shock” rueing “sloppiness” but emphasises that they’re looking up rather than down.
Elliott Nevitt, a player who was playing for Warrington Ryland last season, was thrust into the spotlight after a hat-trick in the FA Vase becoming the first player since Harry Kane to do so at Wembley. His match-winning display earned him a move to Tranmere Rovers that summer – after winning a Sunday League double with Campfield.
After the trail was blazed by the now-League Two striker, Quarless – still only 25 – believes he can follow a similar path and make the transition from non-league to the football league in the future.
“My ambitions are keep doing what I’m doing. Keep making as much noise as I can, at the end of the day we’re all footballers who fancy ourselves,” he says.
“I just want to see where I can go and that’s not a case that I want to leave,” he reiterated.
“If you keep doing what you’re doing you don’t know who’s watching, I’m very, very happy at City of Liverpool, I don’t see myself anywhere else but the end goal you have to look at the likes of Elliott [Nevitt] and stuff like that who’ve got good moves if you have a good year someone’s going to come watching.
“But for me, it’s a case of seeing where I go, enjoy the ride.”
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But a chat wouldn’t be complete without discussing the Liverpool Business Houses, a league dubbed the best in the country – a statement backed up by the Campy’s National Cup win – “you know,” he interjects as the conversation moves onto the Dovey.
“The season’s been a little bit stop-start for the Dovey in terms of we’ve had a couple of games cancelled with the referees, it’s a bit up in the air,” he says.
The Business Houses League saw an influx of teams across Merseyside apply for positions in its very own pyramid. But with that, it coincided with the strain of referees in the city amid a shortage of officials which has led to countless postponements of fixtures.
After six games, they have eight points but with two games in hand, successes in both of them could see them rise as high as second in the early stages.
Despite the start, he remains hopeful they can mount a title challenge, adding:” It’s been a mix bag, the first game we got beat by the Molly that come down to fitness, we had a couple of players.
“Some of us play Saturdays but some didn’t so we were a bit off it but in the other games we’ve been doing well it’s just a mixed back. For all Sunday league teams, it’s [about] consistency, getting the same team there, hopefully now once we get a few games on the run we’ll start kicking on because towards the end of last season we didn’t half finish well.
“But if we get a run going, that’ll be us this season – we always fancy it.”