From Parkview to Wembley, it’s no wonder Ben Garrity is quick to describe his meteoric rise up the football pyramid as a crazy ‘roller coaster ride’.
Just four years ago, Garrity played for Lower Breck in the Liverpool County Premier League and Oyster Martyrs in the Liverpool Sunday League. Now he and his Port Vale team-mates are on the verge of greatness.
Not only are Mansfield Town standing in the way of a Wembley win, they’re also standing in the way of League Two’s promotion to League One. It’s been quite a rise for the Croxteth-born midfielder.
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“It was crazy. You dream no matter how old you are,” he told ECHO when asked if he would like to switch from local football in preparation for Wembley Stadium.
“Even some adults now dream of playing at Wembley who have never played there. As a child you want to play there.
“The best stadium you can have in your country and this is the crowning glory of it. It’s been a rollercoaster ride but hopefully there are many more trips to Wembley to come.”
The 25-year-old was part of the all-conquering Lower Breck side that swept past all before them during their time in the Liverpool County Premier League. While his Sunday team, Oyster Martyrs, are also series winners both domestically and domestically.
And one word keeps popping up throughout our conversation—sacrifice. Garrity was so determined to be successful that he often sacrificed going out with friends to do his best for both Lower Breck and Oyster.
“I’ve always wanted to go on and play professional football, but I think the reality is that it takes a bit of luck to get picked to become full-time football,” he recalled.
“I just think that when you play on a Saturday and a Sunday you have to sacrifice yourself. I used to love going out with my buddies and having a drink, but when I was at Lower Breck and the Oyster I took it pretty seriously. We always went to Lower Breck on a Sunday and vice versa.
“I couldn’t party all night on a Saturday and then get up on a Sunday and play for the Oyster because you’re still up against tough opponents.
“Probably years ago people could just show up to football and play. But I think Liverpool’s Sunday league is very strong now.”
But it was a move to Warrington Town that put Garrity in the spotlight. Under Paul Carden’s stewardship, the midfielder thrived and became a vital part of a Town side that narrowly missed out on promotion to Conference North at the end of the 2018/19 season.
“When you play with guys who are probably on loan from academies or have come out of academies and people who have played in the league, you learn stuff from them,” Garrity says of his time at Warrington.
“You can see they’re probably a little bit better than you at doing technical stuff. But I would say, especially in my first season at Warrington, we got to the playoffs and stuff like that and it was a huge learning curve.
“It definitely helped me progress in the pro game because it’s pretty intense and serious. It’s not like you show up and play, you train twice a week and travel all over England.
“It was a little taste of what the professional game is like without being full-time.”
All was not smooth for the box-to-box midfielder. After an impressive debut season at Warrington, a move to Fleetwood Town seemed on the cards. However, for one reason or another the transfer never materialized, but Garrity didn’t have to wait long for his chance at the Football League.
“You always hear things that might have been at the game, you just hear things like that, but nothing tangible,” he replied when asked if he knew of the interest of Football League clubs.
“The only solid thing was that at the end of my first season at Warrington, there was a bit of talk about possibly moving to Fleetwood and trying it there.
“But then that fell apart, so I ended up back at Warrington because I had a year left on contract and just had a good first half of the season.
“I started well, scored a couple of goals and then literally a day or two before deadline I was told Blackpool were likely to sign me. I wouldn’t say I was that close to signing anywhere.
“You get your hopes up and then it doesn’t happen. I think I was just like, “Oh yeah, whatever,” if it happens, it happens. But in the end it happened and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Garrity spent last season on loan at Oldham Athletic and while he admits things haven’t gone as planned for the club, for him personally the whole experience of playing regularly in the Football League was just what he needed.
“Oldham has been a huge learning curve for me. In terms of gaming, there weren’t any crowds, so it was a little bit different,” he reveals.
“But in terms of just getting used to league football and getting to know people and seeing what it’s like to practice every day and then have a game on Saturday.
“Last season was a huge learning curve for me. We didn’t do very well in terms of results but I learned so much while on loan and I spoke to them [Neil] Critchley, the gaffer at Blackpool, the season I was on loan and he said it’s going to be so good for you and it was.”
A move to Vale took place last summer, with the former engineer joining the League Two club for an undisclosed fee. Manager Darrell Clarke described him on arrival as “a young, hungry and ambitious footballer with great energy and fitness” and Garrity has explained that the club as a whole is behind his side’s incredible campaign.
He said: “The whole setup at Port Vale. The training, the coaching and the players. Learning so much and putting me in a better position has definitely helped me this season.
“Of course it also helps to do well. It’s not easy when you’re at the bottom. It’s rough but we were at the top end for most of the season.
“Of course that’s good, but Port Vale in terms of location, players and staff have helped me a lot. I just put it down to the club that improved me so much as a player.”
Vale’s clash with Mansfield is set to begin just four hours before Liverpool and Real Madrid clash in the Champions League final in Paris. And although a number of Garrity’s friends are heading to the French capital, a strong army of Vale fans will make the journey from Croxteth to Wembley to support the 25-year-old and he is hoping his side can deliver the goods to the home of English football.
“You don’t just want to play in a normal game at Wembley, you want to play for something and I don’t think there’s anything better than promotion at our level,” he says.
“It’s good, but it won’t be as good if we don’t get this win. Most of my family are coming and some of my friends but some of my buddies are going to Paris to see Liverpool.
“A lot of them miss it, so they’re probably disappointed with that. But I still have a lot of friends from here who are coming. Hopefully we can seal it with a win for them.”
Garrity isn’t the only scouser to make his mark in the Football League this season, having previously played Saturday and Sunday league football. Former Campfield striker Elliott Nevitt has just had a good first season with Tranmere Rovers and Garrity believes he and the 25-year-old are proof that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve your dreams.
“Elliott also had a boss season. He did well and they were unlucky to miss the playoffs,” he said. “I just think no matter how old you are, you have to sacrifice yourself and commit and believe that you can really move on.
“You need a bit of luck to get noticed. Elliott is playing at Wembley and scoring a hat-trick, his name likely to be known two or three years before that.
“He could have been picked himself but being in the spotlight obviously helped him to take his chance and he’s done incredible things this season. i was made for him
“You just have to get involved. Don’t be half-hearted and you also have to work yourself, you can’t just play and play Saturday and Sunday, you have to train all week.”
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But as Garrity prepares to leave Wembley Stadium, he is forever grateful for what Lower Breck and Oyster did for him in the early stages of his adult football career.
“I would never say that an academy is a bad place to start. On the technical side, Academy players are probably always seen better, especially when they’re using both feet,” he tells ECHO.
“But the physical side of the game, I learned all that playing league football for Oyster on Sunday and Lower Breck on Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more thankful for how much I’ve learned just by playing with local guys from my area and people from other areas. The toughness of the league on Sunday and Saturday helped me a lot in terms of the physical side of the game.
“Apart from the intensity and the fitness side, you don’t really get attacked in professional football like you do in the Sunday league or Saturday league.”