EXCLUSIVE: Interview with brothers and rival Huntingdonshire captains Chris and Mike Hyem
- Credit: Archant
Two brothers, two captains, two teams in two different leagues. The story is evolving as the season plays out, but it is looking increasingly likely that it is Chris Hyem and not his brother Mike, left, who will be celebrating promotion to Step 4 football next May.
With Godmanchester Rovers second in the Eastern Counties League, their skipper Chris is excited by the prospect of lifting a championship trophy, while Mike Hyem, the captain at Huntingdon, admits their chances of the United Counties League title are slim with leaders Spalding United proving downright unbeatable.
“I can’t see anyone getting past Spalding this year,” said Mike. “So this year is a race for second and we will build on that next season.”
When Mike left Godmanchester for Huntingdon during the summer, he admits he did it for money. But the 25-year-old also made the move because he wanted to play in a stronger league and a better standard of football.
Now it looks like it might be Mike’s older brother, Chris, who will be the one celebrating promotion at the end of the season, with both teams flying high in their respective Step 5 leagues, but with one element dividing their two challenges: Spalding United.
With just one promotion place available from each of the two team’s leagues, Godmanchester are second behind a team who haven’t applied, Hadleigh United, while Huntingdon will have to overhaul the big-spending Lincolnshire outfit, Spalding, who have so far won all 17 of their games to lead the table.
“During the summer Huntingdon asked me to come over to be captain and now Mike has the captain’s armband,” said 27-year-old Chris, who lives in Brampton. “It’s kind of strange how we are both captains now because although I had been captain before at Godmanchester, Nick [Hurst] was the captain when we won the Division One title, so I never got to lift the trophy.
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“Mike’s obviously young to be a captain, especially at Huntingdon with the experienced players they have there. Although I don’t feel that old, I am five years older than most of the players at Goddy – I’ve got to look out for them as much as people did for me when I was younger. I’ve got a bit of responsibility here.
Mike, 25, continued: “It’s about respect – the way we both play we will always give 100 per cent and we are good role models for the other players.” He added: “The managers notice that and that’s why we are both captains.”
It was the former Huntingdon manager, Ricky Marheineke, who persuaded Mike to leave Goddy – he was just as surprised as anyone that the player agreed.
Marheineke has now departed to become the assistant manager at Histon and has been replaced by Seb Hayes. Good continuity has meant the club’s great form has continued and, after another great win, 3-2 at Sleaford on Tiesday, Huntingdon are third in the UCL with games in hand and in the last 64 of the FA Vase.
Mike is honest about why he swapped clubs. “Money was one of the reasons I moved – everyone knows that so there’s no point in hiding that fact – and I wanted a new challenge,” he said. “The travelling in the UCL is less and I thought it was a stronger league. But I don’t think it is now.”
It’s a quirk of the non-league pyramid that two teams with just five miles and the River Great Ouse between them should be in two different Step 5 leagues. Huntingdon’s UCL is made up of teams to the west and Godmanchester’s ECL from the east.
“Everyone goes on about the UCL being much stronger that the Eastern Counties but Spalding apart – Spalding are on a different level – we have played all the strong teams and I think the top teams in the Eastern Counties would be quite happy in the UCL,” said Mike.
Godmanchester were originally moved into the UCL during the summer, along with Wisbech Town. But an appeal was heard at Wembley and the club was returned to the Eastern Counties. “You can’t really beat the Eastern Counties League,” said Chris. “The travelling might have been a bit less but the grounds are really nice and the pitches are really good. It is a strong league and the football is good in it.
Mike said: “I think the quality of the play is better in the Eastern Counties but I think the competitiveness and work rate is higher in the UCL. The worst teams in the UCL are still hard games. You do get easy games against the worst team’s in the Eastern Counties.
“In the UCL sometimes the football isn’t as good but the work rate is higher. Certain games aren’t long ball but some games are because of bad pitches.
“But at Huntingdon, the way we try and play is the right way to play football – but other teams in our league do like the long ball.”
The two brothers have met competitively this season – when Huntingdon hosted Goddy in the Hunts FA Senior Cup. When the game went to a penalty shoot-out, Mike Hyem refused to take one. Until, remarkably, it was still equal when everyone else had taken a kick. Inevitably, it was his goal that won the game.
Chris said: “It was gutting to lose but on terms of play I think we definitely deserved to win. I’d like to have a re-match. We felt like we should have won that one.
“The club misses Mike and we would take him back straight away – I think playing in front of a hundred plus fans is better than playing in front of 10 every week…” The banter between the pair is great. “We both grew up playing for Peterborough United youth teams and when that folded when I was about 14, I gave in and went back to playing with my mates. Mike carried on the dream.”
Mike went on to play for Cambridge United, Bishops Stortford and St Neots Town. Chris, in his words, “sat on the bench” for St Neots.
When the midfielders got back together at Goddy it just clicked. Mike was asked to go back when Marheineke left )– but says Hayes is “the nicest bloke ever” and convinced him to stay. In the end, he may well be tempted by a return to Goddy, where Nev Nania and David Hurst would welcome him with open arms ... but, for now, Mike remains westside.