New signing Nathan Arnold spoke to Altrincham press and media officer John Edwards after putting pen to paper at The J.Davidson Stadium on Sunday evening. Not surprisingly, he spoke of his admiration for Alty's managerial duo of Phil Parkinson and Neil Sorvel and likened them to the Cowley brothers, Danny and Nicky, from his spectacularly successful spell with Lincoln City. Perhaps surprisingly, he also revealed he is a fan of Radio Robins and Alty TV! Here is the interview in full.
Q: Welcome to Altrincham, Nathan, what are your early impressions of the club and the people you have met so far?
A: I'm just really excited to be here. It's a fantastic club, Altrincham. It has all happened pretty quickly. Over the past couple of weeks, I have spoken to Phil, the gaffer, and that was all I needed. It was really important that my next move was the right fit, and I feel this is the perfect fit. Getting the opportunity to join this fantastic club and be part of what everyone here wants to achieve next season is exactly what I was looking for. Altrincham had a fantastic season last year, and hopefully we are going to be challenging again, so I'm just really excited and can't wait to get going.
Q: There was an interview with you on the National League website a couple of weeks ago, where you made it clear you were ready to relaunch your career after leaving Boston United six months ago. Was it a case of Phil being the first to react?
A: What it was, if I'm honest, was a case of me sort of cherry-picking a few cubs I would be interested in playing for. I looked at Altrincham and watched a lot of their games last season. Not in person, but on Alty TV. I know all about Radio Robins. I know all the voices by now, I watched that many games and listened to the commentaries. It sounded a fantastic atmosphere against Blyth in the play-offs. That really came across - what a fantastic night. I have played against Alty numerous times as well, and every time I have been up against one of Phil's teams, they have been well drilled and hard to play against, and they have been very football-orientated, getting the ball down on the deck and building from the back. I felt that would complement me and my style, so when I got the call, I very quickly decided this was where I wanted to be. I'm a people person, and as soon as I met Phil, there was an instant connection. I know from experience how important that is, having that understanding with each other, and I felt we really hit the ground running. That means a lot to me, being in the right place and playing for someone who can get the best out of me.
Q: It sounds like it was always in your mind to get back playing again, if you watched that many games during the course of the season?
A: It was. There is a lot of footage out there, and I did due diligence, if you like, when I was looking at coming back and deciding who with. I'd been out of the game a little while, but I was still close to the fire and wanted to keep up with what was happening and who was doing what. Alty TV and Radio Robins was a great way of keeping tabs on Alty's progress and how they were playing. Football is in my veins. I welcomed the break after leaving Boston, because I needed to recharge. I played a lot of games over four or five seasons and wanted a break, mentally and physically. Having had that, I feel a better person for it, and as a consequence, I will be a better player. I know that, and I can't wait to prove it. The challenge is to get back to the levels I'm capable of. At 31, there is still a lot of life left in me as a footballer. I've had a lot of offers at all kinds of levels, but it was important to settle on a club where it would be competitive and a challenge for me. Ultimately, that is going to inspire me to find my best form, and I know that if I'm in the right environment, the club will have a good Nathan Arnold on their hands. I know, from speaking to Phil, there is an alignment there, and I'm really excited.
Q: So Alty have been in your thoughts for quite some time?
A: Yeah. I think, as a footballer, you often react to things. Your agent will phone at the end of the season and say this club or that are showing an interest. For me, it was a bit different. I looked at clubs who might be interested and who I thought would suit me, and the more I looked at Alty in action, the more I liked what I saw. I went toe-to-toe with them for Boston last season, and I have always liked the style of play Phil favours, and I just thought it could be a really good fit for me. Then the conversation happened, and it went from there. I think the fact I showed an interest and had the desire to sign for Phil and play for Alty helped reassure him. I want to resurrect my career, for sure. I don't want to just make the numbers up. I want to have a really good go at it and be part of something meaningful, and watching the games here and the crowd, I just thought it was phenomenal how everyone pulled together. You can see the group now, with players from last season wanting to continue here .. everything looks so positive. You can get a really good feel for the style of a team when you play against them, and Alty have always struck me as a really good footballing side who stick to their principles and identity. That's something you want to be part of.
Q: People may look at what you did at Lincoln, such as scoring a last-minute winner against Ipswich in the FA Cup, and wonder whether it might be a problem getting fully motivated for the National League North?
A: Well, I'm still Lincoln-based, so the fact that I'm willing to travel two-and-a-half hours each way should answer that. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to be part of something exciting that I can contribute to, and Altrincham are a club with momentum, moving in the right direction. I looked at that and thought 'this is going to inspire me and motivate me'. And if I'm inspired, it's going to bring the best out of me. I'm at the right place at the right time of my career, and I believe we can have a successful season.
Q: Alty fans will know all about your achievements with Lincoln, but could you tell us a few of the finer details about your game? Do you favour the left flank or right, for instance?
A: I'm right-footed, but I play on the left and like to come in off that flank. I know all about JJ on the right. That's what he's called, isn't he? I've done my homework! He's a fantastic, positive player, and I believe I can add a bit of balance by operating on the left. He's had a really good season, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know him on a personal level and working with him as a winger on the training ground. We can improve each other, I'm sure. But, yes, I have a tendency to come in off the left, but I can go both sides. I like to create one-on-ones with the full-back.
Q: Any worries on the fitness front after six months out?
A: The challenge is getting back to absolute peak fitness for the start of the season, but, for me, it's the lifestyle. Ask any athlete, and it's the lifestyle, the way of life. I haven't played competitive football since October, but I always keep myself in shape. That's how I've always been. I always knew I'd be coming back to football at some point, so I looked after myself, as I always do. I am grateful for this opportunity, because there may have been a question mark about my hunger and desire and motivation, but that is intrinsic in me. I don't need a carrot dangling in front of me. I don't need anything outside of myself to motivate me. The challenge for me is having a real good go at the National League North, and I'm ready for it.
Q: Your peak years were under the Cowley brothers at Lincoln, now it's another young, up-and-coming managerial duo in Phil and Neil. Can you see any similarities?
A: Yes, for sure. One of many is the immediate rapport. I remember talking to Danny and Nicky in the summer before I started at Lincoln and knowing instantly they were going to be good for me. You get a gut feeling they are the right people for you to work under, and I got exactly the same feeling with Phil and Neil. I'm open to whatever input they give me. I want them to improve me and help me get back to the level I'm capable of, so I can really contribute to more success for Altrincham. That's always in my mindset. Whenever I arrive at a club, I always say I will try and leave it in better shape than I found it in. It's going to be very hard to do that at this club, because they have done so much over the past two years. They are on the up, with real momentum behind them. I know Alty are ambitious and want to be in the National League. It's a good time to be coming here, to be part of things and to keep the club moving forward.
Q: There was one particularly spectacular season you had with the Cowleys - how do they make it work?
A: Probably their style of play was different to here. They went back to front and had a big man up front in Matt Rhead, who was very effective. You look at the methods here, and it is completely different, playing out from the back and getting on the ball. But then you look at their people skills, their personalities, and you see the likenesses. Just speaking to them, you can tell they are really good people. That's how they come to have a happy player on their hands. Being around people like them, and enjoying my football, is the way to get the best out of me. And, of course, in both instances, they are red and white!
Q: Apart from scoring spectacular goals for Lincoln, you laid on plenty for others - are you looking forward to being a supply line for the likes of Jordan Hulme?
A: Watching all those Alty games last season, it was clear there are so many really good, talented attacking players here. Someone like Jordan will complement the crosses I like to get in. I think he will enjoy getting on the end of those. He is a brave boy. I have seen him score all kinds of goals, and it's about me fitting into the style that will keep him thriving. I would describe myself as an old-fashioned type of winger. I like to get crosses in on the run, but I also try to mix it up and cut in and find team-mates for combination play. It's exciting because we've got a really good goal threat at the top end of the pitch. It looks like the players play with freedom and enjoy their football, and you can see the end-product with the way teams have been ripped apart at times. Playing against Alty has been kind to me, because I seem to have scored quite a few goals against them. I'll be aiming to do that in an Alty shirt now. When the rest of the lads report back for pre-season, I know they will be hungry to get started again, because once you've had a taste of a successful season, you just want to carry on.
Q: Are you looking forward to playing in front of Alty supporters - they do love a winger here?
A: I like to get bums off seats. I don't want to sound corny, but I would love to build a rapport with Alty fans and have a really good connection with them. It's something I have managed to do at every club I've played for. Fans want to come and watch entertaining football. They want to see goals and assists and crosses coming in, and hopefully I can supply that in abundance. When I signed for Lincoln, there were 2,000 fans there for my debut against North Ferriby at Sincil Bank. By the time I left, they were getting gates of 10,000, so never underestimate what is possible in football. I have come here to win things. I'm ambitious about that, and I know Phil and the rest of the players are. I look at Altrincham and think it's such a good club with huge potential. Hopefully, I can have a good few years here and be part of something special.
*TOMORROW - it's the manager's turn to have his say on Nathan and also provide a squad update. Look out for an interview with Phil Parkinson on the website tomorrow.