Photo: Glen Bowman

 

This is the first of a Q&A with players in which we find out a little more about their background and personality, their standout experiences in the game, plus who’s been responsible for livening matters up along the way.

Having played in May’s FA Vase final for Stockton Town at Wembley (even interrupting his holiday in Alcudia to do so), striker Jamie Owens returned ahead of this season to old club Marske United. Winners of the Ebac Northern League Division 1 last year, Carl Jarrett’s Seasiders are third in the Evo-Stik East Division at present. ‘JLO,’ or ‘The Hardwick Messi’ as Stockton captain Adam Nicholson referred to him as, is one who drops very nicely into the ‘character’ category of non-league. So it’s over to him to kick this feature off…

 

Favourite team and player(s) growing up

I’m a Boro fan but back in the day, and I have no roots to Arsenal whatsoever, I loved Ian Wright. The way he came from nowhere basically, and it was good as a non-league player to look up to that, because you never know what’s around the corner, do you? 

Favourite game(s) you’ve played in and why

There’s two I enjoyed; one was last year, one was the year before. The first one was with Hardwick Social I played for on a Sunday, and it was the semi-final of the All-England Cup (FA Sunday Cup) at Guiseley. We played a team called Home & Bargain, from Liverpool; they’re a good side and we were getting beat 1-0 with ten minutes to go. I managed to score two under the cosh and we ended up winning 3-1. We ended up winning the final at Sheff United’s ground. For just a social club we took so many fans, so that’s the one that springs to mind. Growing up, we all just drink there on a Sunday anyway.

Then the second one was against Marske last year for Stockton in the Vase semi-final. The second leg not so much, because we lost the game, but luckily we went through. It was mainly the first game and just the way they underestimated us. I know all the players, because I’d been there before, and we all talk, everyone talks, and they were over the moon to get the draw they did, at Stockton’s pitch (both legs were played there due to pitch issues at Marske), because they’d beat us previously in the season 3-0 there. Stockton were just great on the day. The weather wasn’t great, it was snowing and hail, but that’s my kind of football; bit rough, I like that. It suited us down to the ground.

They’re the two that spring to mind because they’ve given me my best days out in football; Wembley and Sheff United’s ground.

A teammate, coach or manager who taught you something new, made you see the game in a different way, or gave advice you’ve always remembered

There’s two again: Micky Dunwell from Stockton and Carl Jarrett now from Marske. When I was younger, I went to Whitby and I was raw; I just scored goals, I really didn’t understand the game. I just got the ball, turned and shot from anywhere. It didn’t really happen at that level, because it was a massive step, but at the level I was at before, it was working. Carl and Micky then signed me; Micky was player-coach and Carl was manager, at Billingham Town. They’ve obviously gone their separate ways now but Carl taught me the man-management side; to learn how to calm down and not get too excited. More like a father figure, to be honest. Then Michael coached me the striking side, how to hold the ball, because obviously he’s an ex-striker himself and he was a good player. He was the one who made me see the game a bit differently instead of turning, running. He transformed me into a better player.

 

Jamie with his former Stockton Town manager Micky Dunwell last year.

 

Funniest teammate, coach or manager you’ve had (or give more than one example)

That’s a tough one. There’s loads; I’ve played in some mental teams. There’s Jamie Poole, I think he plays for Thornaby now, I played with him at Stockton Town last year at the beginning, and then he played for the Hardwick for about three seasons. I know him well and still to this day I don’t get him. He’s the most weirdest person you’ve ever met; he doesn’t drink, but if there’s a team night out he’s the first man out, and the last man standing, every time. If he’s got an opinion on the game, I think that’s why he left Stockton actually; his opinion wasn’t the same as the gaffer’s. Everyone else just gets on with it; Jamie, he’ll take an argument to the last thing, and it was something silly over warming up. He hurt himself at half-time kicking a ball and he didn’t tell the manager. Michael tells him ‘warm up’ and he says ‘no, I’m injured.’ Michael’s like ‘well you didn’t tell me’ and he’s like ‘well I’m telling you now.’ If you met him you’d know what I mean, because he’s the driest person you’ve ever met. He pulls out these jokes you’ve never heard, one-liners, and he laughs himself, then everyone looks around and ends up laughing at him. I think he’d be the standout person for anyone.

Hardest moment/experience as a player

My main heartbreaking moment in football was again for the Hardwick. The manager’s dad was a massive, massive man at the club, he ended up passing and his dream was to lift the Durham Cup. If you’d seen the Hardwick’s team on paper, this was a Northern League First Division side; it wasn’t a Sunday league side. None of us got paid a penny, but for some reason, they all stuck together, and every single year, we played the Dog and Duck, then we played a good team. I played five finals and lost four on the bounce. A lot of the lads there lost exactly the same and for some reason we just stuck together to try and win it. Every year got worse and worse; it was just in our head that we’re not gonna win. We eventually did, not last year but the year before, and it was the best feeling ever, but also most heartbreaking because he missed it.

What is a typical week like for you, in terms of routine?

I work normal shifts; basically, I have to do eight hours. I can either get up and go at 6, be in at half 2, or go at 8 and be in at half 4. I work wherever I play, so basically what happens now is it’s a three-days-a-week commitment. Obviously wages go up in this league, the travel’s more, it’s a bit more professional so they wanna do a three-day week. Luckily for me, training’s not too bad because it’s in Billingham; most of the lads are based in Stockton, Middlesbrough anyway so it’s not too bad. But you do sit down and think to yourself ‘is it really worth it?’ It’s a lot of time. I’ve got two kids myself and it’s hard to basically function. I got in the other night from Sheffield at 1am, and I was up at 6 for work. Luckily, I’ve got a good, understanding gaffer (at work) who likes football himself, so he’s always asking about results and that. To be honest, it’s really tough and I can see why a lot of lads at this level don’t pursue it. I’m definitely enjoying it, because it’s tougher, and I like a challenge, so I’m definitely gonna see it out.

Funniest or most memorable/surreal thing you’ve seen at a game

Maybe last year in the Vase. I don’t know what round it was but we played West Auckland, and a fan jumped onto the field and attacked our centre-half. We were getting beat and I scored to take us to extra-time, and then I scored again in extra-time and we won 2-1. It was near the end of the game, maybe the 116th minute, something like that, and one of the players for West Auckland, he had a bit of banter with one of our players, nothing serious, and they both kicked out, but nothing got said, they just walked off. One of the West Auckland fans jumped the fence and just ran at our centre-half, and they both proper got into each other. It was Dale Mulligan, the lad he attacked, and Nathan (Mulligan) plays, so he ran over and defended his brother. Young Kev (Hayes) tried to keep everyone apart and he got himself sent off for it (Nathan Mulligan and West Auckland’s Anthony Bell were also sent off). That’s probably the weirdest thing I’ve seen, someone jumping a fence and attacking a player. I’ve played in some rough places on a Sunday as well! But for something to happen in a Vase game in front of a lot of fans was very weird.

Is there any change you think could be made to the game at this level?

I think travelling. I know they’ve restructured the league, but I left the house at something like quarter past 9 and we went to Wisbech, and I didn’t get back in my house until maybe 11 o’clock at night. It’s a 14-hour day, and if you divide that, an hourly rate of what you’d get on a Saturday working, you probably get more at work, but like I say, I like doing it regardless of the money. I just think if they can get a better restructure of this level and give other people opportunity, I know a lot of my friends who are capable of playing at this level and would step up if it wasn’t so far to travel. I could name loads who’d love to give it a go, but at the end of the day, work’s the main thing at the minute for them. That’s why it stops a lot of players going forward at this level and the Evo-Stik Premier.

Anything people might not know about you (an interesting fact, hidden talent etc.)? For example, your sister Bianca also plays, have you got any other siblings who do?

They used to play – until they found the bottle! Both my brothers were good; I’m sure my older brother was on the books at Middlesbrough at one point. They obviously found drinking and partying. Me and my sister, we just got into it and stuck at it, I think. It’s hard (to come up with hidden facts) because everyone where I’m from knows me and they know how daft I am. I am just out for a good time, to be honest. I wanna play and win, but I also don’t wanna take it too serious. I don’t wanna take it home and ruin the rest of the weekend.

Any misconceptions about you, or a rumour you’ve heard about yourself in the past that wasn’t true?

Everyone thinks I’m a dirty player because of the way I am; stocky kind of player. If you actually look at my disciplinary record, I think I’ve had two yellows in the last six years or something. I’ve never been sent off, ever. To be honest, I think I know when to shut up; I know how to push a ref too far, not too far. I get people saying I’m on steroids but I’ve never been on them in my life; I just go to the gym, at the end of the day! And to be honest, I eat; I’ve got a dad’s bod now.

Who’s the life and soul of the dressing room at Marske (other than yourself…)?

It is a good dressing room, there’s no one who takes anything too seriously. They’re all up for a good laugh. We’ve got a new lad called Brad (Plant), and he’s only a young lad, he’s 19, but Carl’ll shout at him at half-time and he’ll have a go back. He’s got a little bit about him. His dad’s a little tough guy from Redcar so Brad’s definitely taken it on. He’s gonna be a good player. He’s up for a good laugh and he likes a night out as well; he always has to bring his ID because he looks about 10.

Finally, what have you enjoyed most about being back at the club so far, and why should people come down and support (or continue to)?

Marske’s definitely up there as one of, if not the best bunch of fans I’ve ever had. Back when I was there in my first spell, no fans sang in the Northern League; these sang week in, week out, in the snow, in the rain, it didn’t matter. I think we won the league that year and no one’s even heard of us before then. They’ve pushed forward as a club, with and without me, they’ve moved right on. I know the kind of changing room Carl has and it’s just togetherness. He wants good lads, hard-working lads, and he knows if you’re having a stinker, he just wants you to work hard. He’s not gonna beast you if you’ve had an off-day. Everyone from the committee, the chairman, they all help each other out in little ways. The old chairman, Peter, used to have a garage, he used to take the players’ cars in and do them cheap or for free. It’s just like a little community that helps each other.

Interview by @chris_brookes

Baltic Publications Limited

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