STEVE OLIVER has bided his time for the opportunity to represent Bideford again.
More than a decade after his previous appearance for the club, the goalkeeper will play for the Robins in the Calor League.
After nearly nine seasons in the Toolstation Western League with Ilfracombe Town, the 30-year-old is set for his competitive return at Chesham United on Saturday.
Oliver was just 19 when he was called up at short notice by Sean Joyce, the Bideford manager, for an important FA Cup tie in October 2002.
"Coming back to my home-town club was something I have always wanted to do," said Oliver.
"I had a couple of games for them years ago when I was a youngster and I'm really happy to be given the chance now.
"I was at Appledore and Mark Coombe, who was the Bideford keeper at the time, got injured.
"They couldn't get anybody else in because they were all cup-tied and I played in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup at Heybridge Swifts."
Despite the end of the cup run with a 2-0 defeat in Essex, Oliver performed well.
Although Coombe was later forced to hang up his gloves due to injury, Oliver was deemed too young to be his successor.
That is no longer the case as he arrives at the Sports Ground with a wealth of Western League experience.
By Oliver's own admission last season was not a vintage one and the move from Ilfracombe has given him a new lease of life. In his eight pre-season games the keeper has kept six clean sheets.
"To be honest I had a poor season last season and that just emphasised the need for a change," said Oliver.
"It's probably the worst season I have had. I got married last year and went on honeymoon, so I missed pre-season and never really got started.
"I have done a bit of work in the summer to try and get a bit fitter.
"I'm not getting carried away because it's a big step up but hopefully I can make the grade."
With seven wins in friendlies against lower-league teams, Bideford lost narrowly to Weston-super-Mare and impressed in a 2-0 success against Bath City, of Skrill Conference South, on Saturday. Oliver is optimistic they can carry that form into the league season.
"We haven't played opposition of great calibre but we showed against Bath that we can mix it up with better teams," he said.
"I thought Rob Farkins was outstanding and we'll miss him in the next couple games when he's suspended.
"If we can keep it really solid at the back, like we have been, we always look like we can score.
"Craig Duff has looked really good, Saul Halpin has looked really good and Owen Howe has given us a bit of pace up front.
"The home form is what really matters and any away points are a bonus.
"From what people are saying I think mid-table would be a fantastic achievement for the club."
Having joined Ilfracombe from Holsworthy in December 2004, Oliver helped the Bluebirds to one of their most successful eras.
Under the management of Barry Yeo, they finished third in the Western League Premier Division in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
"I have had some great years at Ilfracombe, the highlights being winning the Les Phillips Cup and promotion from Division One," said Oliver. "It was brilliant times.
"If we were challenging for the league still it would have been a harder decision to make going to Bideford. The fact we weren't challenging made it easier.
"I haven't played Southern League football. It's really my last chance of playing a higher standard so I couldn't turn it down."