Fleetwood Town legend Nathan Pond insists his incredible rise through the footballing ranks isn’t finished yet.
The centre-half’s testimonial season at Highbury continues on Thursday night with a special question and answer session and the launch of a limited edition brochure celebrating his time at the club.
But Pond, who has enjoyed five promotions already with Fleetwood, believes he’s not yet reached the pinnacle of his career – targeting a run in League One next season.
The 29-year-old said: “I don’t think this is it.
“I can make the next step up and play at the next level. We’ve beaten four sides from League One this season.
“I don’t see why I can’t be playing at that level. I’d love to get the chance.”
It’s been an incredible rise for Pond, who joined the club as a midfielder in division one of the North West Counties League.
He has since celebrated promotion from the NWC, both tiers of the Northern Premier, the Conference North and most recently the Conference Premier, all in the space of eight seasons.
But the Preston-born defender admits he didn’t make the most glorious of starts.
“I still remember that first game,” he said. “It was against St Helens, we lost and I can’t say I was really very good.
“I played at centre-half that day. I don’t think it was one of my best.”
It’s a position Pond has made his own, so much so he is now keeping big summer signing Ryan Cresswell out of Graham Alexander’s starting 11.
It was Micky Mellon who first asked him to switch from midfield but Alexander has persisted with Pond, who had to wait for his shot in the Football League, having initially been loaned out to Grimsby.
In recent weeks he’s been reunited with old pal Alan Goodall, the full-back flung into an unfamiliar holding midfield role.
But Pond is glad to have his long-time team-mate there.
“Goody’s like me,” said Pond. “He’s gone out on loan and had to wait for his chance.
“But he’s been great in that role and it’s good to have him there.”
There aren’t too many players around Highbury who share Pond’s memories of their non-league days, Town having fielded more than 50 players since arriving in League Two.
But behind the scenes there are still one or two who have been part of the Highbury adventure as long as the man known to all as ‘Pondy’.
“There’s Danny (Moore) the kit man and Ted (dressing room steward Ted Lowery), but that’s it really,” said Pond.
“There have been a lot of lads over the years and I’m still in touch with plenty of them.”
There’s one former team-mate Pond is expecting to hear from on his big night at Highbury. “Jamie Milligan’s been texting me,” he revealed.
“He says he’s got some questions prepared. I think I know what to expect”
An Evening With Nathan Pond takes place in the Parkside Suite at 7.30pm on Thursday . All are welcome