Billy Backs Bloods
Monday 18th January 2016 @ 09:49 by Mark Phillip
Droylsden Football Sports

Pictures courtesy of Derek Lloyd photography and Rochdale FC

Despite lying 16th in the Evo-Stik First Division North table, Droylsden still have a chance of reaching the play-off spots this season.

That’s according to Billy Hasler-Cregg anyway.

billy rochdale

Since joining the club last September, the Rochdale loanee has made a dramatic impact at the Butchers Arms.

As well as improving himself on a personal level, the 19-year-old has also helped the Bloods steer clear of the dreaded relegation zone.

Buoyed by a string of impressive performances – which include a 4-2 win against Scarborough Athletic in December – the youngster is hoping to maintain his fine form.

Prior to the Bloods postponed game against Farsley Celtic last Saturday, the youngster spoke to Reporter Sport about his time at the club so far, where he hopes to be in the future, and what it’s like to make the transition from academy football to the non-league scene. “The move to Droylsden came about because my manager at Rochdale, Keith Hill, thought I would benefit from playing men’s football” he said.

“He felt that it would help me reach the standard which I need to be at.”

Having signed professional terms with the league one outfit last June, Billy is still waiting to make his senior appearance for the club.

However, he’s hopeful that his time under Droylsden boss Dave Pace will serve him well for years to come. He added: “My time at Droylsden started off slowly, I was in and out of the starting side, but I feel that I’ve now won the trust of the coaches here and my performances of late have proved that.

“I’ve played seven full games in a row, scored some goals and feel as though I’m playing really well.

“Dave Pace is great, he’s very demanding and expects a lot from his players as any good manager does!

“It’s very clear that he loves the club, it’s his team and he’s very proud of it so I think his passion is a great asset to Droylsden.”

Despite dropping down a few levels to gain some much needed experience, the striker – who scored in the Bloods 1-1 draw at Trafford in their last encounter – was more than happy to do so.

In fact, he admitted that the experience has been a real eye-opener so far. He added: “I honestly had no idea about the standard in this league, but it’s better than I thought.

“There are some really good players about who could possibly play higher up!

“This is my first experience of non-league football, both watching and playing, but it’s safe to say that I’m enjoying it. It’s certainly what football’s all about.”

Thankfully for Billy – and Bloods fans in particular – the nippy winger has extended his loan with the club until the end of the season. “I’m settled at Droylsden and I’m playing regular football which is what I want” he said.

“I’ll stay as long as I can in terms of what Rochdale want and in what I feel I need to do for myself for my long term future.”

Before joining Rochdale in 2013, Billy played for Burnley for nine and a half years.

While Some footballers take rejection heavily, Billy viewed things differently. Speaking about his time as an apprentice, Billy said: “My two years as an apprentice were very enjoyable.

“I played lots of games for both the youth team and the reserves, scored lots of goals and was given a lot of opportunities.

“My youth team coach, Rick Ashcroft has always been brilliant with me, supported, guided and improved me, along with Chris Brown too.”

In previous years, people have often placed emphasis on the gulf in quality between professional and semi-professional.

However, having sampled both versions of the game, Billy has come to believe that non-league football deserves more respect than it’s shown. He said: “When I play in reserve games, we often play against Premiership and Championship teams who sit off slightly and give you an extra split second, but in this league every player works hard and wants to get as close to you as possible.

“It’s helped me to understand when I have time on the ball and when I need to play it in one or two touches to avoid getting absolutely smashed.”

Like every ambitious player, Billy is striving to become a permanent figure in the Rochdale first team.

The teenager is doing all he can to ensure that his ambitions come to fruition. He said: “I train almost every day with Rochdale and then train with Droylsden on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

“We usually do a sharp, tight touch session on a Tuesday and Thursdays are more match related.

“The structure is well planned in order to suit the everyday lives of the lads in the team.”

Describing his professional contract with Rochdale as a ‘fantastic opportunity’, Billy wants to repay the faith shown by his boss. “I have a good relationship with the Keith Hill.

“I understand that he wants me to do well and I always try my best for him because ultimately he has given me a fantastic opportunity with this contract.

“He constantly demands that his players work hard and retain possession of the ball, and I know that the latter of those is the aspect of my game that he wants me to improve on and playing for Droylsden has given me the chance to focus on that.”

Although he has his sights set on a football league career, Billy is focused on the task at hand.

While the odds of Droylsden reaching the play-off’s are slim this season, Billy believes that there’s no harm in dreaming. “We have to think realistically about a promotion push.

“We can definitely go on a run and win a lot of games in the second half of the season, but the teams already up there are going strong and have been pretty consistent all season, so we’ll just have to do everything we can to get as close as possible.”

A mini renaissance throughout the festive period saw Droylsden claim eight points in four games.

Perhaps it’s not the quality expected of promotion contenders, but given their dismal start to the season, the points prove that the club have finally turned the corner. Billy agrees. He said: “The team spirit has swung in the complete opposite direction to when I first came to the club.

“The boys are confident and we now go into every game feeling as though we should win.

“The lads who have been starting have formed a great cohesion and understanding and I think that’s showing in this recent run of games we’ve had.

“Even if we haven’t won, we’ve played well and are disappointed not to have the three points and that just shows how far everyone has come because we’re disappointed even with a draw now.

“I’m just very happy to have been able to add my style of play to the team and fortunately for me it’s working at this moment in time.

“I particularly enjoyed our recent 4-2 win at home to Scarborough, as I managed to score, get a couple of assists and picked up man of the match, so that was a big honour.

“Hopefully I can keep performing as well as the rest of the boys are doing because we have some great talents.”