Chesterfield: Ollie Banks aims to stay away from the kitchen

Ollie Banks

Chesterfield's Ollie Banks is savouring every day of being a professional footballer.

He started the season with an away game at Worksop for FC United of Manchester in the Northern Premier Division, playing in the seventh tier of English football and supplementing his income with work as a kitchen fitter.

Just over four months on, the 21-year-old has been given the Football League's Young Player of the Month award for November after scoring four goals in six matches for the Spireites.

Motivation to perform comes in all forms - for Banks, released by Rotherham in May 2012, it is the reality of life away from the professional ranks that drives his performances on the pitch.

"I was fitting kitchens with a guy who lived near me so every time I go out on to the pitch I'm playing to keep that shirt," the 21-year-old told BBC Sport.

"I'd start work at 7.30am and then rush home and get changed in the car and turn up to the ground late. It became the norm but it was shattering.

"The experience of working 12-hour days and then going to play football gives you that motivation to get back to this level. It makes you appreciate things more."

Banks can now add his name to a list of previous winners that includes England internationals Wilfried Zaha and Jonjo Shelvey, and highly rated Derby midfielder Will Hughes - as well as Spireites team-mate Tendayi Darikwa.

Not bad going for a man who spent last season on a nomadic journey more befitting a veteran than a player trying to find his way in the game.

After leaving Rotherham he initially joined Conference North side Gainsborough Trinity on a short-term deal and from there it was on to Scarborough Athletic, North Ferriby United and FC United of Manchester.

Come the close of the season Banks had represented four teams in three leagues in one campaign.

"I didn't really get an opportunity until I joined FC United in March," he said.

"That was the first place I got a run of games. I'm not sure why I never got a chance elsewhere because I thought I did well when I played and scored some goals. Maybe my face didn't fit.

"I never once lost faith in myself. I knew I would do whatever I could to get back here.

"I find playing in the League now easier than I found that level. I feel comfortable at this standard. There's a lot of good players outside the Football League and quite a few could do a job higher up."

In September Banks was offered a trial by the Spireites and, after getting up to the fitness required for the intensity and physicality of League Two, has been one of the side's standout players.

Last month he scored four goals in six games, including two against Rochdale in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in just his second start.

After the hard work he put in to get back to the Football League, Banks admits it has been an emotional time.

"I had a bit of a tear in my eye when they said they were offering me a deal because it felt like all my hard work had paid off," he added.

"It was a massive relief to get the deal here but it was actually hard to tell the guy I was working with that I wasn't going to be coming back because I'd become good friends with him. He always knew this was what I wanted though so he was very understanding.

"Making my debut here was a great feeling. It felt like it had been a long time coming and it was probably one of the best days of my life.

"You can't describe what it feels like to score and you miss that so much when you don't. Those goals that day meant more to me than my goal for Rotherham because of everything that had happened between times."

A season that started with an away trip to Worksop could yet take in a trip to the home of English football.

The promotion-chasing Spireites are through to the Northern Area final of the JPT where they will face League Two rivals Fleetwood for a place at Wembley.

Should they reach the final for the second time in three seasons it is hard to imagine anyone who would appreciate the occasion more than Banks.

"I was playing in the North East Counties League this time last year so to play at Wembley would be a dream. We'll be giving it our all to make it there.

"The gaffer has given me a chance here and I want to repay him."

Banks has gone from playing part-time to national recognition in just over three months. His drive to stay out of the kitchen could take him all the way to the top table of English football.