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15 Years of FC: The Jerome Wright Interview

15 Years of FC: The Jerome Wright InterviewThough he barely needs an introduction, Jerome Wright is FC United’s all time appearance holder, notching up 400 appearances over 10 seasons with FC, starting off as a winger who tore defences apart with his pace and guile, then moving to wing back where he became Captain, and lead FC into the National League North and FC’s highest ever league position.

We asked you to send in the questions you want answered, and we put them to him, some a bit random, but no holds barred, no punches pulled, and he came straight back with the answers with complete candour, so sit down and reminisce with Jerome, United’s own.

Which one gets more respect - 147 Break, hole in one or Nine-Dart finish?

I’m a massive fan of snooker and before the lockdown I’d play 2-3 times per week, so I’d prefer to get a 147 as I don’t play the other games, with snooker you mean it if you get a 147. Myself and Liam Brownhill used to play a lot and more recently it’s me and Astley Mulholland and my best break is 67, I typically average a 40 or 50 on a good break though when I’m playing regularly, I’m the best out of the three of us, and we play for a little bit of money each time and they’re both in a lot of debt to me, ha ha!

What 3 items would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?

A snooker table and all the gear to go with it, my spinning bike as I’m always on that, and can I take my missus?

Sadly not....

Ok then, I’ll take a wine press so that I can make my own wine from whatever fruit I can find there, I like a red wine so that would be ideal if I could find some grapes.

Remember meeting me on the pitch at Gigg Lane. You signed my United 1909 shirt.

I do remember the shirt but I don’t remember the guy, not often I have been asked to sign a shirt on a pitch!

How did it feel to walk out in front of 4,000+ in the first game at Broadhurst Park.

I’m only guessing what Premier League footballers walk out to, I was nervous but it felt to me like what a Man United player would walk out to on a Tuesday night in the Champions League against Barcelona, it felt like the whole of the world was there to watch us kick a ball about, it was amazing. On top of the nerves of playing in front of so many people it was also coming from the thought that it had taken so many years to get to that stage and get that stadium built. I’ve got five of these boxes the same size of a suitcase in my house and they’re full of programmes, shirts, scarves, other teams shirts and I’ve got shirts and pictures in frames too. Certain games stand out but I’ve got most of the programmes for games I’ve played in so that one, the first FA Cup game at Gigg, and a few others are really special.

Who is the best player you’ve played alongside at FC?

It’s a tough question this, a good one and I don’t know what the definition of the best is, if you go for the player who’s played or gone on to play at a high level professionally then I’d go for Olly Banks, Tom Davies, Charlie Raglan and Rory, so by that definition they are the best players, and one’s that I’ve really enjoyed playing with, out of those guys I’d say Rory stands out, and Charlie Raglan is an awesome guy but his professionalism is top of the table. I’d also say Greavesy would be up there too because he scored all those goals, but with Rory and Tom the way I look at it is that they had it easy because I did all the hard work and then passed it to them to just tap them in, they’re my best mates but they took all the plaudits for everything I did for them.

When I was left-back I struck up a superb partnership with Luke Ashworth who was centre back and we got to the point where we instinctively knew where each was going to be. If you’re going to press me though my favourite player at FC is who we called the non-league Xaxi, Callum Byrne, he was a quiet lad but some of the things he could do, I never saw him lose the ball once and he was the best player to play with. He made you feel like you were playing next to a world-class player, I was 30 and he made me think differently about how you play football he was that good, an amazing player.

How clearly can you hear chants about you from both the FC and opposition fans and do any stick out in your mind that you can repeat?

The noise is ridiculous, you hear the general cheering and the oohs and the aahs all through the game, and that’s why in non-league FC are the team to play against because of the thousands of people watching, and the atmosphere they generate, but you don’t hear the chants during the game because you’re concentrating on the game, but when there’s a break in play, it’s at those times you hear what the fans are singing or chanting, whether it was Tom’s or Rory’s song or whoever, but otherwise you don’t hear them, just the noise such as when you’re losing and the crowd are dragging you into scoring that goal.

When you’re away sometimes though it would be different, normally with FC we had more fans than the home side so it would still be really noisy, but when there was segregation and the home fans were grouped together they would give you a lot of stick and you could hear it. Most of the time it was acceptable and fairly commonplace such as “you’re s***” and that sort of thing, sometimes at away grounds you’re waiting to take a corner that they’re literally a yard away, flicking your ear as you’re waiting to take a corner or something, that you just have to ignore but especially when I was younger I had a few instances where the abuse became racial, and they stick out in my mind.

Did that spur you on to play better and ram it back down their throats?

No, I wish it did, there were two times I remember, the first I was at Maine Road playing in the North West Counties and playing a local derby and some guy started racially abusing me, I think I was 19 and I didn’t know how to respond, I’d never experienced it and it’s still with me to this day. The second I was at FC and Rory heard and he went mad at everyone, and from that point he spurred me on, I was probably going to crumble but Rory had my back, from then on I knew that if I heard anything similar I’d do something ‘stupid’ but not as far as I would be concerned, racism is never acceptable.

Do you know that FC fans still sing your chant from time to time?

No I didn’t, since I left I’ve only been to Broadhurst once on a Saturday as I’m still playing myself, though my missus plays for FC United Women and so when they’re at home I’m at the ground every other week. It’s nice to know that people still sing it, to have your own chant as a play is humbling, and it makes you feel like you owe the club and the fans 100% every time, that should be a given but you’re only human but that chant kept me on my toes and I gave 100%.

How disappointed were you to leave FC and did you think you were still good enough to have carried on playing for us?

I’ll tell you my perspective, in my last season I was privileged to be the Skipper, we finished the highest the clubs ever got in the league, and we won the Manchester Premier Cup and there were half a dozen or so lads who were late 20’s early 30’s, and the club decided that anyone over 27 wouldn’t be offered a contract for the next season. We were really unhappy as a contract for a non-league player is safety, especially when you’re getting older and you’re starting to make serious financial commitments like a mortgage and kids etc, as you’re still getting paid. We hadn’t asked for more money and the players who were all regular starters but older left, and the club really struggled the following season.

I’m still gutted as I still feel it’s my club, I am Mr Fc and I loved everything and everyone (well most people!) over there. We said before we left it would be a problem but it didn’t make a difference, and unfortunately it bit the club in the bum and they struggled. We knew what it took to win games and I remember we’d have games in training between the over 25’s and the under 25’s and we’d smash them every time. It was devastating to see what happened for us as ex-players and even more so for the fans.

Ultimately I didn’t want to leave FC and when I did I had a massive sulk.

Why did you leave FC for Chester, and why did you come back (we were very glad that you did!)?

Pretty straightforward this one, when I left FC I wasn’t getting a regular start and Chester offered to treble my wages, I don’t understand why fans get so upset with a player for moving for more money sometimes. Chester were putting a great team together and they won the league, it was hard to leave FC but when I was on the bench for three games in a row and this great offer came in.

Was FC your first choice after leaving Chester?

Yep, when I was away that’s when I realised how good a manager Margy was, I knew he was good but I’d only played for him and for Derek at Maine Road. When I was at Chester even though I was getting paid well and we were winning regularly I didn’t enjoy playing for the manager, I’d kept in touch with Karl and his family while I was away and so after the year was up he offered me a chance to come back and the rest is history, another beautiful five years at FC.

Why not as you are getting old now come back to us we will love you through your ‘old age’ and keep you scoring well into retirement!

Imagine, it’s not my choice and that’s a nice thought, I appreciate it!

Who’s he playing for this season

The guys look after me at Wythenshawe, hopefully they appreciate what I’m doing and giving them so I’ve agreed to stay there for the next season whenever that starts.

Any ambitions to go into coaching after you hang up your boots?

Yes, Yes and Yes, I have got one of my badges but they’re the biggest load of BS ever, the amount of coaches I know who don’t know about football but have every badge going, then there’s a load of coaches that are brilliant but don’t have those badges. It’s difficult as the badges cost a lot to do, and you have to do them at the weekends which when you’re working five days a week, playing twice a week it’s a challenge to get them all in.

I am desperate to get into coaching and if you ask anyone I’ve played for I’m always pecking their heads for information, to learn from whoever I’m with.

Would you like to be a future FC manager?

Oh of course, the FC Managers job is the best in non-league football, Reno is awesome and he’s landed the best job and the only the thing that stops it being one of the best in the country is just the money and scale compared to the Premier league etc. I’ve travelled to places with FC that many professional players wouldn’t have got to, to manage that club gives you opportunities of a lifetime not just in footballing terms, it’s one of the best jobs ever.

Which of the away trips was the best?

Depending on what day you ask me I’ll give you a different answer!

They were unreal, so we went to Sweden and Switzerland, they’re the nicest places in the world, the people so polite, the towns and cities were so clean, I think if I ever won the lottery I’d move to Sweden. Then with Korea, we stayed in the same hotel as the South Korean national side stayed in, we had a couple of people whose job was purely to look after us, in the morning we were given a menu for a three course breakfast and were ordering freshly cooked crab and lobster for breakfast, it was mad.

Then there was Detroit which was stupidly good, we stayed in a hotel and downstairs there was a casino, then we went on a tour of the district where the blues superstars recorded so many famous tracks, we played in Detroit’s stadium in front of thousands, then I was firing pairs of jeans into the crowd with this gun they’d given me – it was mad. There were so many good trips and that’s not to mention the German ones, me and Brad Howard walking round a stadium with a big drum – it was mad! If I had to pick one though, it would be South Korea, trip of a lifetime.

Which is the best club you have ever played for?

It’s FC United, but there’s some aspects of Chester that were top notch and better than FC, everything was prepared perfectly, the travelling, the food, training, everything was done perfectly – you’d be asked on a Wednesday what you wanted to eat on a Saturday, then you’d get your recovery drinks straight after the game. You’d stay over before every away game no matter what so you were fresh on a Saturday, you got paid for the half day you’d had to take off work on the Friday, the preparation was all about being ready for the game. Finally at Hyde Dave McGurk was the coach there and he was the best coach I’ve ever had, he’s unreal, I call him the non-leagues ’Pep’.

Editors Note - This is also the sobriquet that Frank Sinclair gave Neil Reynolds, so they’ll have to fight it out.

When you were playing against Rochdale and Brighton in the FA cup did you feel comfortable at that level?

When we played Rochdale I didn’t feel comfortable at all, there was a guy called Nick Adams and he was killing us on the right, I couldn’t get past any of them though I set up two of the goals, I just remember being tired the whole time, I think because I was so excited in the build up to it and the TV and that, I’d spoken to John Barnes and he’s called me ‘son’ and we had a chat, it was mad.

Against Brighton in the first game I did feel comfortable, I was at left back and was playing against Elliot Bennett, he’d played in the Premier League for Norwich I think, and I felt like Ashley Cole, we were awesome – so I felt comfortable, didn’t feel out of place at all.

I went for trial at York while I was at FC, it went really well and after their manager told me he was going to make FC an offer, but FC wanted too much money. It’s a bit of a sore point because I was a young lad and becoming a pro was a dream, instead I had to go back to work on the Monday and part time football, it’s probably the worst thing that happened to me at FC.

Which player disappointed you the most when they joined FC and didn’t live up to your hopes/expectations?

This is an easy question and if he reads this he’ll know I don’t mean it as a personal dig as we still text but Matt Walwyn, he scored for Fylde at Wembley, but he was the biggest let down I have ever known in 15 years of playing, he was enormous, he’d have one good game in five, he wouldn’t put it all in, it was such a disappointment – we used to joke he had the body of Cristiano Ronaldo but the heart of a pea, if I had to pick 10 players to go into a game that you know you had to scrap for 90 minutes he would be nowhere near that list. When he wanted to he could score some amazing goals, then nothing for weeks. I’d try to call him out, I tried to be really pally just to try to get him to do what he could but I couldn’t get through to him, so frustrating.

You’ve seen many players come and go in your time at FC, but which former FC teammate do you think was most influential on you and your own personal career?

Rory taught me what it is to be a proper teammate, you can fight and scrap on the pitch, even with each other, as long as you were both aiming for the win, we’d be screaming at each other during the game but afterwards we’d be buying each other a pint. Callum and Liam taught me how to possess the ball, they were proper footballers whereas I was a great athlete first, so I learnt that aspect of the game from them.

Remember Simon Carden? One game Margy subbed me off while I was om the other side of the pitch, I was sulking and taking my time with my head down, we were losing and Simon said to me “are you injured?”, I said “No! I don’t know why he’s taking me off!” so Simon said “Well f****** run off the pitch then!” – I thought he was asking about my health but he was making the point that if I’m going off, go off quickly so that the sub can come on and try to affect the game. I’ve never forgotten that – he was making the point that it’s not all about you, it’s about the team, and since then I’ve taken that mentality onto the pitch ever since.

What was the most challenging game you played with FC and why?

We played a friendly game against a load of veterans in Germany and we didn’t touch the ball once, it was horrible.

The hardest competitive game was against Brighton because we were used to having the ball, we weren’t used to playing people who were bigger, faster, stronger, we were usually the bullies and we were getting bullied, getting no space, being pushed off the ball, and at times you felt like a little kid looking at the dugout wanting Margy to wave a magic wand. Because the FA Cup games were one offs your adrenaline took you a long way, that you wouldn’t get on a normal Saturday.

Which felt better, winning promotion to the national League north or when you beat Rochdale, and how did you feel at the final whistle in that game?

With the promotion it was more relief because of the number of years we’d failed, and during the season we were winning game after game, it was a really special feeling and you just wanted to be playing or at training, we’d get offered a night off training and we’d say no as we just wanted to be around each other. We could have won the league with so many games in hand so it was relief but in a way we knew we were going to win the league.

With the Rochdale game, I’d worked in the day, then gone to the game, it was on TV, the crowd was ridiculous and then scoring in the last few minutes was unbelievable – I still watch that back every now on then and I can show my friends and family, I fast forward to when I slotted Nicky Platt in and then when I hoofed it for Norts for the winner.

What do you think of Reno and the way the current team is faring?

I’ve never met Reno other than playing against him a few times, I think the most recent time was when he was at Bamber Bridge, his teams have always been organised and play nice football, and gave us a good hiding a few times, they are never a typical long ball game, so it’s no surprise that he’s been so successful given his past performances. I’m glad that FC have got through the bad patch because you never want that for something you love. The whole club seems to be in a much better place now. Tunde is a beautiful young man and when I knew him when he was at FC he was a bit timid but he’s turned into a beast and he should get a chance at league football.

Be honest, have you ever had a toilet accident mid-match and powered through OR had to leave the pitch?

It’s not a daft question because you drink so much before the game, then you get given energy drinks or this drink called pre-match which is pure energy, and it goes straight through you, so at 2.45 the toilet is the busiest place as everyone is in there. I haven’t done it myself but I have seen someone pretend to do their laces on the pitch and had a crafty wee, unfortunately they got spotted by the ref and booked, not sure what the rule they’d broken was though!

Best Squad night out?

Wow – I think it has to be South Korea, they treated us like kings, then game itself had break-dancers, fireworks before the game, then the game was shown live on big screens around the town. Before the game we did a full press conference the night before in the Hilton hotel. The Bucheon 1995 players said they’d take us out in town after the game so we met up and we went to the clubs, straight into these VIP areas and we turned round and Adam Tong was on the stage in his shades and everyone in the club was copying his dance moves, it was weird.

We also went to Germany and James Spencer and Spider (Jon Worsnop) went missing and they sent us videos of them on this rooftop party at a hotel, Spenner came back with a mohawk. There was so many things that went on that I can’t share though.

Is it true your superman underpants are in storage at the national football museum?

I sold them to a fan in return for a donation to the Development fund, someone had photographed them on the pitch and she contacted the club and offered £100 for them. To be truthful I couldn’t give her the old ones so I bought a brand-new pair and gave her those, the other ones had been worn all season.

Would the fans still be able to carry you off the pitch on their shoulders like they did after that FA tie at Norton and Stockton or have you put a few kilos on since then?

No, I still look after myself so every day I’m running or on the spin bike so I’m still in good shape – the only thing that’s bigger about me at the moment is my hair as I’ve not been able to get to the barbers.

So there you go - thanks to Jerome for his time and honesty - if you’re free on a Sunday when FC Women are playing at Broadhurst then he’d be happy to chat to you on the sidelines.

First Posted ~ 17:46 Sun 28 Jun 2020
News ID ~ 8731
Last Updated ~ 17:00 Fri 19 Feb 2021