AS a footballer that values loyalty more than he does money, Scott McGowan feels happiest when he is paying back.

And that includes cheering on those that shout his name.

He stood on the touchline when Davenham Dynamoes under 11s hosted their Hartford counterparts a fortnight ago and waited for Archie Spencer, who was playing for the home team, to spot him watching the game.

“He seemed chuffed when he did and that made me smile,” said McGowan.

“It was a nice moment.”

A few hours later the boy, an 1874 Northwich supporter like his dad Ben, returned the favour for a North West Counties League fixture at Runcorn Town.

All clubs, particularly those owned by their fans, want players like McGowan.

1874 do, and the 31-year-old became only the fourth player in their history – and the first since Ryan Jackson three years ago – to sign a contract last week.

It helps, of course, that the striker is pretty handy on the field.

He has scored 69 goals for them, more than 40 of those during last season when they reached the semi-finals of a national knockout competition and within a win of playing at Wembley.

Form like that attracts admirers, and already three rival teams have asked to negotiate a transfer with him this term.

McGowan said: “It’s flattering when other clubs notice you, but I’d no interest in talking to them.

“I want to stay here as long as I can, and so it was a no-brainer when I sat down to talk about a contract.

“It caught me by surprise if I’m honest; it’s a big statement, and uncommon for a club at our level to offer one.

“As a player, it’s proof that they back me and that means a lot.”

Paul Bowyer and Wayne Goodison, 1874’s joint managers, have made no secret of the fact that McGowan is their guy.

To prove as much, they called his phone on the same day they were appointed as successors to Ian Street and asked him to sign.

The front man had started the season with Northwich, but returned to former club Congleton Town after growing frustrated at what he perceived as a shortage of opportunities to show what he was capable of.

That was in March 2017, and he’s not stopped scoring since.

Even during a troubled start to the current campaign, which has yielded only two wins in nine league games, he has netted five times.

Not that he’s satisfied though.

He added: “We wanted to use last season as a springboard into this one.

“Things are improving, but too often we’ve beaten ourselves by making mistakes.

“And that’s at both ends of the field; we’ve conceded daft goals, but we’ve also not made the most of chances we’ve created.”

If that sounds self-critical, that’s because it is.

McGowan is a senior player, both in terms of age and the length of time he has been with the club, and he takes that responsibility seriously.

He knows younger players are looking at how he’s handling a delicate moment for the team.

“I want that burden,” he added.

“Sometimes you want to be the one that provides that spark; I’m never going to frighten somebody in a 50-50 tackle, but if I can do the right thing or set a good example then that can be as effective.

“We’ve not had any luck, but that’s only part of it.

“What is encouraging is there isn’t anybody feeling sorry for themselves, and that will help us to turn things around sooner I’m sure.

“A run like the ones we had in the FA Cup and FA Vase raises expectation, which is natural.

“But we still back ourselves – that mentality hasn’t changed at all.”

Nor has the affection supporters feel towards him.

Contracted or not, McGowan insists nothing will change.

“At 1874 it’s a different feeling to at my previous clubs,” he added.

“I feel at home; it’s a club that does things in the right way, and I like that.”

Archie would approve.