DON’T give up on your dreams is Richie Bennett’s message after belatedly getting the chance to play in the English Football League aged 26.
It is less than four years since Mossley snapped up the striker who had been playing for Springhead in the Manchester League.
Bennett, who joined Carlisle United from National League side Barrow pre-season, has already broken into the first team at Brunton Park.
“There is no reason why other lads can’t do what I have done if you keep working hard and don’t lose the belief,” he explained.
“There is definitely a way back playing non league. I always wanted to play full-time and I was grateful to Barrow for giving me that opportunity.”
Bennett also explained his personal motivation having been released by Oldham Athletic aged 15.
He continued: “I joined Springhead to play with friends and not long after I was 17 became a father.
“I had to go out and get a job and my own place and that drove me on to do better and what I wanted to achieve.
“It kept my drive and hunger to success because I know how hard it is to juggle work and family with football.”
Bennett, who still lives in Derker, added he has known full-time footballers who regard it simply a job and have fallen out of love with the game.
While playing amateur and non-league football, Bennett had a variety of jobs including working in customer care, a call centre and with elderly dementia sufferers living in sheltered accommodation.
Bennett played for Curzon Ashton but picked up a bad injury and after recovering decided to return to Springhead to play regularly rather than sitting on the bench.
He was recommended to Mossley where, in the second half of the 2013/14 season, he scored eight goals in 23 games.
Bennett was soon snapped up by Northwich Victoria, a move that raised his profile as they reached the second round proper of the Emirates FA Cup when they lost 3-2 at Northampton Town having been 2-0 ahead after 86 minutes only to suffer a late collapse. He scored Vics’ second goal.
He then had the chance to go full time with Barrow for 2016/17 season in which he scored 16 goals in 41 starts and six substitute appearances.
“It was a brilliant opportunity and I couldn’t turn down Barrow as they were full time. I will always be grateful to them.”
Bennett added that Jim Gannon at Northwich Victoria and Barrow boss Paul Cox have been massive influences.
He explained: “When you are playing semi pro it is hard to analyse what to do better as you are only training two nights a week.
“You get that extra time when full time and Paul Cox helped me to get where I am today.
“I am not the finished product and still have a lot to learn, but playing full time I can work on my game.”
Bennett remains close to Springhead where his dad Simon coaches the U10s and his younger brother Zach, 9, plays for the juniors.
“I am always down at the club with the lads as I grew up with them,” he said.
Joint Mossley manager Lloyd Morrison has not been surprised to see Richie Bennett go on to play in the English Football League.
“Richie had all the tools, he is 6ft 4in, left footed and would run all day. All he needed was to knock off the rough edges and fine tune his game,” he explained.
Morrison added Bennett was recommended to him by Lee Bennett, manager of Manchester League side Old Alts.
He said: “Old Alts had played Springhead in the premier division of the Manchester League.
“Lee told me they had played against a centre forward and he recommended him to me.
“I was very excited when I first saw him play, though he was very, very raw.
“He played for us during the second half of the 2013/14 season, but Northwich Vics came in for him and we couldn’t match what they were offering him.”
Dave Donlan, Springhead chairman, said everybody at the club is “absolutely delighted” by Bennett’s success.
He said: “Though Richie was a later developer he always had that hunger to succeed. Hopefully we played a part in his development.
“We wish him all the best and hopefully things go well for him at Carlisle.”