The current campaign has held plenty of promise for Rod Orlando Young, with five league goals as part of his contribution for a Gainsborough Trinity team harbouring high hopes of pushing further up the Northern Premier Division table. Like a surging run halted by a cynical challenge, though, it has all seemingly been chopped down before it can reach any sort of brilliant conclusion.
Along with so many of his peers, the 25-year-old is raring to be out there on a match day, and fit and able, with only the continuing wider circumstances dictating otherwise. The attacking talent is left for the moment at least to concentrate on that ‘next time’, which we all hope is edging ever nearer each day.
In his second spell as a Gainsborough Trinity player, he has continued to feel right at home. In this one-on-one, we find out what taps into him best as a player, how he hails originally from much further afield than even his east London upbringing, and why we (and Rod himself) have probably been writing his name wrong…
Back at Gainsborough this season, and it’s hard to get the full picture when there’s limited or no fans at games, but what have your impressions been of the club and the way things are done overall up to now?
I’ve had two spells and it’s always been the same. I’ve been in there and they’ve looked after me well. The chairman’s been great, both the managers I’ve had have been great. There’s a lot of players who will tell you that the set-up at Gainsborough welcomes players from all kinds of levels, whether you’ve played pro before or you haven’t, whether you’ve come from a working environment. It welcomes everyone.
What is it that specifically allows that to be the case?
I think it starts from the top really. I genuinely believe it starts from the chairman, because Richard’s a football man and he’s from the town, his business is in the town. It starts with him caring about the actual club instead of just being an investor. Everyone is looked after, including the Under-18s, Under-16s. Obviously the gaffers have also implemented what he started, to help players settle in and feel welcome, and genuinely, after Richard, I feel it’s the fans. It’s the fans really that have helped me settle in and want to play for Gainsborough.
We’re obviously talking about a painfully-disrupted season, but that aside, how happy have you been with your personal season?
I’ve moved from down south to the northern sector of football, so for me, it was finding the right club, which is quite local. Gainsborough stood out, because the fans when I first started were excited to see how I played, and because of circumstances, I didn’t manage to sign. So this year, I almost came back with a point to prove. I started off well, scoring goals, playing week in, week out. Out of position sometimes, but for me, it’s more about playing. Obviously with COVID, it’s put a halt to it.
— Rod Orlando-Young (@Rod8Young) September 13, 2020
Since the Northern Premier season went on hold, what has that meant for you? How does continuing to train fit in with whatever else you do outside playing?
It’s been hard, I’ve got to be honest. With all these restrictions, you can’t just go and organise a session with seven or eight of you, so I’ve struggled in that sense. I’ve had to just go into full-time work now really. With full-time work, you finish at 5/6 o’clock, it gets dark, and there’s not much to actually do once you finish. There’s no gyms open. I do the basics, I go for my runs and I do my workouts, but it’s just not the same.
On that point really, how have you found the mental challenge this season, even before the season was officially suspended? The uncertainty, not knowing if games would be called off, and so on, because it’s not even just players, it’s managers, people behind the scenes as well who’ve found it all especially difficult.
Exactly. It’s played a massive part in how we think and how we actually behave. We started the season off and everything was alright, then you’re being told ‘actually, next week might be off, because that team might have 11 COVID cases or whatever’, so it starts to play on your mind. For me personally, it got to a point where it was still a bit uncertain, and I was thinking ‘I don’t see the season actually going on, what am I gonna do?’ The players, some of them have businesses, and they’re thinking ‘what am I going to do, because my business has been affected by COVID, and now football as well?’ Some are thinking ‘is this the last year I’m gonna play?’ I have slipped into the mentality of ‘what if we don’t finish the season? What if I don’t get another club? What if this is it?’ All of that, so it’s not been great.
We will get on to more positive things! But last March, when everything initially stopped, were you still a Buxton player at the time? What did the overall situation look like for you at that point?
I was at Buxton, I was playing, everything was good. I got told to come back in for next season and stuff like that, but the first lockdown, people probably didn’t think a year down the line we’d still be in this situation, so we tried to keep going as much as we could.
A lot of personnel change at the club over the summer, numerous players coming in. What was your situation, to be thinking you were playing for Buxton, to then actually be with Gainsborough this season? How did that come to be?
The manager who signed me (Paul Phillips), he signed me on the Friday and he left on the Sunday, so it was a bit like ‘am I wanted here, what’s gonna happen?’ I played out the season and it got to the summer, so I messaged the gaffer (Gary Hayward) saying ‘what’s the plans with me?’ It wasn’t really certain, it was ‘yeah, come in, we’ll have a look’ kind of thing. So for me, I felt ‘wow, what am I actually going to do? My contacts aren’t great around here, I haven’t really played enough to build up a portfolio of what kind of player I am.’ So I was wondering what was going to happen next. Then I was at work and I got a phone call from (Gainsborough Trinity boss) Curtis (Woodhouse). It didn’t take long into the phone call and I was like ‘yeah, I’m happy to come down’, because I obviously knew the club.
So we’re mentioning being up north, and that being away from home, so whereabouts have you grown up?
I’m from east London, Newham, and I’ve always played football down that side, or further down that side. I’d never explored football up north and I just moved with the missus, bought a house. So I grew up in east London and I started playing quite late. Started playing at 13 and I got picked up by Exeter at 15. Then I’ve always lived away from home really. I’m in Chesterfield now. I was actually born in Jamaica; I still hold my Jamaican passport.
— Kev Richards (@RTFC_tog) January 28, 2017
Just to try and make absolutely sure, is Orlando-Young your last name? Or is Orlando your middle name, and Young’s your last name?
Orlando’s my middle name, Young’s my last name. It’s confusing, because my dad wanted it to be double-barrelled, and my mum didn’t! So it was a bit of a conflict. I’ve always been told different things, so, just have them both!
So the correct way would be not double-barrelled?
Not double-barrelled, yeah.
In terms of managers you’ve had, what kind of approach have you found gets the best from you? Which managers have understood that best so far?
I think someone who acknowledges that I’m there. Sometimes there’s managers who don’t, and it’s not their fault, because they’ve got a lot going on, but if a manager says ‘you’ve been crap, but I know you can be better’, that’s all I need. Some players might need a bit more telling, bit more explaining. For me, it’s more like an ‘arm around the shoulder’ kind of thing, to get me playing at my best. There’s been three managers, I’d say, that’s got the best out of me, with just the little things, like just having a chat with me. The first was Mark Robson; he took over at Norwich (City) when I was Under-21 level. He kind of saw something in me that I probably didn’t see at that age, and he gave me the confidence to keep going and keep going. I didn’t work with him for long, it was only a year, but he helped me have a successful year. The second one, I played for quite recently: Steve Castle at Royston Town. Very good manager; for me, he’s the best manager I’ve worked with. Simple, tells you how it is, but he praises you when you need praising. He’ll tell you when you’re off it, and he’ll drop you, but if you’re gonna be honest with me, I’ll take it. Lastly, I worked well with Lee Fowler. The reason why he’s up there is because I’ve worked with him recently and he’s a great coach, great man-manager and he’s just straight to the point. They would be my top three, apart from obviously Curtis Woodhouse now. I’ve asked for minutes, he’s given me my minutes. He’s helped me around the training ground, he’s given me one-to-one coaching and things to improve. As time went on, these things were getting better and better, but the season had to be put on hold.
Enjoyed my short time @ilkestontown_fc, big shout out to all the fans that came and sang from 1st to 95th. A special mention to @fatmanfowls for allowing me to do what I do best and create memories I’ll never forget. All the best for the season 💪🏾 #silkyilky pic.twitter.com/CVwMHF6g1t
— Rod Orlando-Young (@Rod8Young) May 25, 2019
If there’s a position, a specific role within a system, that feels most natural to you, where is that?
Wide right. I mean I’ve played everywhere, this season more than ever. I started off at left-wing-back, into centre-midfield, as an attacking midfielder, false nine, right-winger, right-back. Just not centre-half – not yet!
For players you’ve played alongside, are there any who particularly stand out, where you just read each other’s movements and that link-up just feels natural?
Obviously I’ve played with a lot of players, but I’ve not played with those players you describe as often. But for me, it would be Reco (Fyfe); little number ten we have at Gainsborough, and I played with him at Ilkeston for a year prior. Anyone’ll tell you at Gainsborough, well they’ve called us the Cole and Yorke, haven’t they?! I don’t have to look for him, he doesn’t have to look for me, it’s a bit more telepathic.
What kind of character are you in the typical dressing-room environment? Are you right amongst it, or does it depend on that environment?
I’m a strange one, because I like to be amongst it, I’m all about team spirit…but there’s some days I can’t be arsed with it, I don’t wanna hear any of it! (Laughing) But I am the one to get the music going and get the dancing going, get everyone up and ready for it.
Who are some of the standout characters you’ve been around in the game so far, just as examples?
There’s one guy, Grant Shenton. Oh, what a guy. Before you even get into the changing room, you hear him! He’s got stories for days; he’s been everywhere, hasn’t he, so it makes sense! Then at Gainsborough now, Adam Chapman. They’re similar players in how they keep everyone together, whether they’re chatting rubbish, or it’s about the fines, whatever it is.
Have you ever had to sing when you’ve joined a team, and if so, which song(s) have you gone for?
Well as you know, I’ve played at so many different clubs now, so I’m running out of songs! I’ve given them some Marvin Gaye, some Afrobeats, and I try giving it my all, because I’ve got a bit, I reckon! More recent, I did Marvin Gaye ‘Sexual Healing’; gaffer loved that one!
You mentioned getting it going with the music, the dancing, are you typically team DJ?
Pretty much always team DJ. It takes me maybe a week, two weeks to get comfortable with the lads, and I listen to some of the rubbish and I’m like ‘no…no…no!’
So is that your role now at Gainsborough, or does anyone else get in there?
No, because I sit right next to the speaker, don’t I?! I try and get there a bit early…
Lastly, away from playing, away from work, what else do you have, in terms of interests that bring that enjoyment, that switch-off time etc.?
I’m quite simple, I’m a person who likes to shut off. I like my walks, so I like to just go and have a think and relax, try and clear my mind before I get back to my house to start everything again. I play badminton as well, which I can’t do at the moment, and I do go for a swim. So that’s like my getaway time. I’ll play a 90-minute game and go swimming straight after. Bit weird, I know! But those are my likes.
Interview by @chris_brookes