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Margate sign ex-Sunderland, Bradford, Lincoln, Gillingham, Wimbledon, Wycombe, Port Vale player

Isthmian League club Margate sign ex-Sunderland, Bradford, Lincoln, Gillingham, Wimbledon, Wycombe, Port Vale player Billy Knott.

The experienced former EFL midfielder joined his new side in time for their Velocity Cup quarter-final tie against Whitehawk, which finished in a 4-3 defeat on Tuesday, but after coming off the bench in the second half, ended up being forced off with an injury.

The club said via their official website: “Margate Football Club is delighted to announce the signing of experienced midfielder Billy Knott.

30-year old Knott has experience in the Football League having played for Sunderland and Bradford City, as well as spells with AFC Wimbledon, Gillingham and Lincoln City. As well as experience in the EFL, Knott featured at England Youth level from U16, U17 and U20 level.

Joint interim manager Ben Greenhalgh said “Billy is another one of the players that we’ve been really hopeful to bring in. I’ve been speaking to him over the last week and I’m glad we can bring him into Margate FC.”

His experience will be vital in the changing room and we’re looking forward to adding his quality onto the pitch. Billy’s had a brilliant career scoring against Chelsea and being a part of England under 20s and I’m hoping Margate can be the club that gets things back on track.”

Billy Knott has played for England at under-16, under-17 and under-20 level. He joined Sunderland after being released from the Chelsea Academy in 2011.

He made one appearance for the Black Cats, and spent periods on loan at AFC Wimbledon, Woking, Wycombe Wanderers, and Port Vale.

He then signed for Bradford City in May 2014, and remained with the club for two seasons, before he joined Gillingham in June 2016.

Knott joined Lincoln City on loan in January 2017, and joined the club permanently after he helped the Imps to the 2016–17 National League title.

Rochdale brought him in on loan in January 2018, before transferring to Concord Rangers in June 2018.

He switched to Chelmsford City in March 2019 and joined Bowers & Pitsea in September 2020 and later played for Billericay Town, Canvey Island, Great Wakering Rovers and Southend Manor.

A former manager of his, the late Justin Edinburgh, said he was “a very bright talent” while at Gillingham.

Then-Lincoln manager Danny Cowley also said Knott was a “super-talented kid… [who] can be whatever he wants to be”.

Speaking in September 2017, he stated that his growing maturity was the key to his recent good form but struggled for form after being sent off later in the month and lost his place in the starting eleven.

Having struggled with depression for years, his tough time at Rochdale led him to drink heavily and as a result he contacted the Professional Footballers’ Association; speaking in May 2018 he stated that “I know I still have a way to go but I will get through this”.

On the 4th of June 2018, following his release from Lincoln, Knott dropped down two tiers to join National League South outfit Concord Rangers.

He has firmly taken to life in non league, albeit it may have been stop start in recent years.

Knott, 30, is described at being a left-footed midfielder with a ‘high-intensity, high-energy’ playing style. He prefers to play as an attacking midfielder, but can also play on the left-side of midfield.

Youth career
Concord Rangers
2003–2007 – West Ham United
2007–2010 – Chelsea
2010–2011 – Sunderland

Senior career
2011–2014 – Sunderland
2012 → AFC Wimbledon (loan)
2012–2013 → Woking (loan)
2013–2014 → Wycombe Wanderers (loan)
2014 → Port Vale (loan)
2014–2016 – Bradford City
2016–2017 – Gillingham
2017 → Lincoln City (loan)
2017–2018 – Lincoln City
2018 → Rochdale (loan)
2018–2019 – Concord Rangers
2019–2020 – Chelmsford City
2020–2021 – Bowers & Pitsea
2020–2021 → Billericay Town (loan)
2021 – Canvey Island
2021–2022 – Great Wakering Rovers
2022–2023 – Bowers & Pitsea
2022 → Southend Manor (dual-registration)
2023– Margate

International career
2007 – England U16
2008 – England U17
2011 – England U20

Billy Knott said in a 2018 interview on his battle with depression with Echo News: “It all started almost three years ago [2015] in my second season at Bradford,” said Knott. “I wasn’t playing as much as I had in my first season and then I split up with my fiancée. That was when I starting feeling lonely.

“It was a slow spiral. I wanted to get married but she was seeing me drunk and we were arguing a lot following a house move from Leeds to Bradford. I was going out a lot and I did binge drink. It is something I accept now.

“But I ruined what we had. I have lost a lot of stuff and some things you just can’t get back, no matter how much you want to.

“I was going to the pub more often and by myself and that was when the drinking really started. I didn’t think it was a problem at the time, but it really was. I felt like that was the only way I could get away from it all.

“I was going to bed and turning my phone off at 11pm but I was still up at 3am or 4am.

“I had little voices going around and around in my head and you want to answer the questions but you can’t do it. As soon as you think you have answered one question, another one appears and it feels like there is no escape.

“I was sitting in the pub and the best way for me to deal with my life was to pass out through drink.

“Then I had football the next day and it felt like nothing was going right in training and because of that I wasn’t playing.

“I was drinking to solve my problems. I wasn’t playing and that hurt me and I got lonely up north. I was living on my own and I just wanted it to stop.

“It came to a point where I wasn’t talking to my family. I normally talk to them every day. I am close to (brother) Sam and we always spoke but I wasn’t talking to him for two or three months at a time.

“I cut myself off from my friends but when I went to Lincoln last summer I thought it would change.

“At the start I was bang on it and wasn’t drinking. I was seeing my family quite a bit and I felt I was getting a handle on it but then I was sent off and I missed three games and it crept back in. I didn’t play much after that as the team was doing well.

“I went to Rochdale [on loan] at the start of the year and I started the first three games but then the pitch got really bad and the team was changed. They got a great result against Millwall (in the FA Cup fourth round) so the manager kept with the same team and the voices came back in my head.

“I was living in a hotel in Rochdale and I was all by myself. I was sat at the bar and I had strangers asking me if I was OK, people that didn’t know me but thought I looked like I was in a bad place.

“That was it for me. At the end of January this year I looked at myself and said ‘enough is enough’.

“I am a family person who minds his own business but I finally accepted someone else needed to help me,” said Knott, who is out of contract at Lincoln City in the summer.

“I contacted the PFA but I found I couldn’t open up at first and I just sat on the phone crying. I couldn’t get my words out and I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. But then I found the right person and I was able to speak to him.

“When we first met face-to-face I couldn’t get a sentence. But over time things got easier and I was able to talk to him about everything I had been feeling.

“He used to ring me and told me to call him every time I felt like I needed a drink.

“He said ‘if you are going to go out and have a drink, just take £20 and don’t take your wallet’. He told me that was a way of taking control of it.

“I am starting to realise that I can have a few beers and I will be OK. After that I won’t have any more.

“People deal with it in different ways. I try and speak to him when I know I am about to do something wrong. It is good to talk and he is a good listener.

“When you hear the voices in your head you can’t tell him everything as there is too much to talk about.

“I have a one-to-one every two or three weeks but he is always available.

“My first instinct now is to talk to him and not to sneak out for a drink and lie to people.

“He said the main thing I needed to do was to fill up my day with stuff to do – the simple things like getting up and having breakfast.

“He said it won’t change overnight and it is very hard but I am moving in the right direction.

“I started to go to training and then to the gym. I had a session on the bike before breakfast. In the afternoon I would have a nap and then spend some time in the gym and the pool before it is time for dinner. I would watch a film and head to bed about 9pm.

“These are small steps but I am a lot further on than I was. I was worrying what to say in this interview and I hadn’t even told my parents I was doing it.

“I know I still have a way to go but I will get through this.”

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