Matlock Town have received a huge blow on the eve of their opening pre season friendly with Chesterfield when news broke that club captain John Johnston announced he could not commit to the Gladiators for the coming season.

Increased work commitments for Johnston and his partner mean that Johnston will be finding a club closer to his North Staffordshire home and he is expected to join NW Counties League outfit Irlam.

Johnston was Matlock’s top scorer (discounting Jonathan Margetts goals) and fans player of the season last year, a hugely popular figure at the Proctor Cars Stadium who as captain, led by example.

Johnston joined the Gladiators from Guiseley in September 2022 and immediately won the fans over with some dazzling displays down both the right and left flanks.

His disappointment in having to make the decision is clear to see.

“Unfortunately since agreeing to sign work commitments for me and Charl have changed and with having two small kids I’ve been unable to train for the past few weeks. I’ve made the decision its not right to coommit. I’ll be unable to travel to training going forward. The club and me have tried everything possible to make it work but it’s just not going to work and it wouldn’t be right to half commit to something.”

Johnston did not rule out completely a return to Matlock at some point.

“For now I’ll be going back and playing local football for a season and who knows what next year will bring, I wish you all nothing but the best of luck and hopefully I’ll be back down to support at a game soon. To all involved at Matlock Town, fans, players, board and Chairman, I can’t thank you enough for the last two seasons. Me and my family have loved every minute of it. Being made club captain will always be a privilege for me.”

Matlock boss Nicky Law echoed the disappointment of everyone at the club.

“The deal with JJ was sorted  but I then had a call from him while I was in the USA stating that due to personal changes within his family, he’d be unable to commit to us because of the travelling from his home in Stoke to training and to games. He has asked that his contract be terminated to enable him to drop down a level or two where the commitment wasn’t the same as it is here at Matlock. We had long discussions and we have reluctantly agreed to his request. JJ’s a tremendous player so it’s a big blow to us but I’d like to thank JJ for his efforts in his time at Matlock and wish him and his family the best of luck going forward.”