This is not the end for me at Harrogate Town, insists Joe Leesley after Stockport County loan move

Joe Leesley in action for Harrogate Town against Solihull Moors. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Joe Leesley in action for Harrogate Town against Solihull Moors. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Joe Leesley said that the decision to make a temporary switch to Stockport County was a “no-brainer”, but insists that he remains hungry for more success with Harrogate Town.

The 25-year-old has joined the Hatters on loan until January having found himself sidelined in recent weeks and excluded from Simon Weaver’s match-day 16 for the fixtures against Chorley and Torquay United.

Having begun the season with a bang, netting a screamer against Solihull Moors on the opening day, Leesley started Town’s first five matches before being dropped to the bench when Weaver switched from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-3-3.

And having made no secret of his desire to play regular football in the past, the 2017/18 National League North Player of the Season said that the chance to join up with Stockport was too good an opportunity to turn down.

“The gaffer was honest with me and said that he didn’t expect that I would play much in the coming weeks,” Leesley revealed.

“Obviously he’s changed the formation and brought in a couple of new players and from a career point of view, I can’t have another season like I did last year where I barely played after Christmas.

“I just needed some game-time and when the gaffer said that Stockport were interested it was a no-brainer.

“They’re a big club who get 5,000 people at every home game and it was the right time for me to go out and play regular football.

“It wasn’t an easy decision because I love it at Harrogate Town. Some of my best mates are at this club and I enjoy coming to work every day more than I have done at any other club, but I think it’s the right decision for my career at this moment in time.”

Leesley joined Town from Alfreton in June 2016 and has been a first-team regular throughout his time at the CNG Stadium.

He has made 134 starts, contributing 34 goals and no fewer than 71 assists, totals he is still hopeful of adding to in the not-too-distant future.

“Hopefully I can do well for Stockport and that will put me in good stead to come back to Harrogate in January and contribute there,” Leesley added.

“If I get the nod off the gaffer and I’m in his plans then of course I’m happy to go back. Harrogate Town are my employers until 2022.

“That’s the plan, but if it turns out not to be the case then I need to be somewhere where I am playing.”

Leesley was dropped from Town’s starting line-up after a 4-2 loss at Dagenham & Redbridge last month and admitted that he wasn’t surprised by his omission from the starting line-up for the following match, despite an impressive start to the season that yielded one stunning goal and four assists.

“A week is a long time in football and things can change quickly,” he added.

“I did okay in pre-season and was determined to nail down my place in the team. I thought I started well in the first four games but I let myself down against Dagenham.

“My performance was nowhere near good enough and I expected to be on the bench for the next game.

“I didn’t help myself with that display, however the disappointing thing from my point of view is that I didn’t really have the chance to try and get back in. I don’t like to use the word, but I feel I’ve been a bit unlucky.

“I understand why the gaffer felt he had to make changes though and I respect his decision. Doing what he thinks is right for the team and trying to win games are more important than worrying about individuals.”

Although happy for Leesley to make a short-term move away from Harrogate, boss Weaver insists that this is not the end as far his Town career is concerned.

“The door is absolutely still open,” he said.

“I want Joe to go there and get plenty of minutes and do well and come back here razor sharp in January.

“There’s been no fall-out. He’s a good, honest lad and I understand that he is frustrated, I would be the same in his position.

“I think he just needs a change to kick-start him and get things rolling.”