Matlock Town boss Mark Atkins praised the contribution of veteran midfielder Martin Foster this week as he reflected further on the Gladiators’ 2013/2014 Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division campaign.
At an age of 36, Foster may be in the twilight of his career, but Atkins reckons he could still play a key part on the field next season.
Foster began his career with Leeds United in 1994 but in four years at Elland Road failed to make a first team appearance.
There was a game on loan at Blackpool before a move north of the border where he made 19 appearances for Greenock Morton.
But Foster made his mark in the non-league arena in England, playing 29 times for Doncaster Rovers in the Conference before moving to league rivals Forest Green Rovers in 2001 and playing against Matlock in the FA Trophy when the Gloucestershire outfit came out on top 3-1 in a home replay after a 2-2 draw at Matlock.
In all Foster, made 134 appearances for Forest Green scoring five goals before a move back north to Halifax in 2004, playing 94 times and scoring seven goals.
There then followed spells at Oxford United, Rushden and Diamonds, Tamworth, Eastwood Town and Harrogate Town before Foster signed for the Gladiators at the beginning of the 2012/13 campaign.
Foster has since played 96 games in a Matlock shirt with four goals to his name, and last season a last-gasp penalty at Buxton in a 1-1 derby draw was his only goal in a tally of 39 matches.
“He’s done a great job both on and off the field,” said Atkins.
“He began last pre-season coaching more and the players took to him. His help coaching has taken some of the pressure off me and has allowed Nick Buxton to concentrate more on the goalkeeping side.
“He’s been one of our best players on the pitch and has managed to combine both roles very well.”
It was perhaps a surprise Foster played as many games as he did given the younger players brought into the Town midfield at the start of the campaign.
Atkins added: “We didn’t expect him to play as many games as he has.
“But nobody came in to grab that position by the scruff of the neck and he’s managed to keep other players out.
“We’re really pleased with him and for him and we’re looking forward to more of the same next season.”
Matlock are currently arranging their pre-season programme which is expected to include visits from Football League sides to the Autoworld Arena, while today (Thursday) the Football Association is expected to announce the constitution of the various non-league divisions, so Matlock will have a better idea of exactly who they will be facing when the new Evo-Stik Premier Division season begins in earnest on Saturday, August 16.