Extending his deal until the end of the season, frontman Jack Redshaw was an FC Halifax Town starter on Saturday as the Shaymen won 2-1 at Torquay United to reach the third round of the FA Trophy. During a hectic festive fixture list, Redshaw netted the winner against Chesterfield, bringing the kind of feeling he wondered if he would ever experience again.
Firing Salford City to the National League North title with 17 goals two seasons ago, the former Morecambe star then endured what felt an endless injury lay-off. The one-time Manchester City youngster, who scored goals in League One with Blackpool, is delighted to be back in the action with Pete Wild’s side, and set on pushing the early-season pace-setters right back into the National League promotion shake-up.
Since feeling his way back into the scoring groove in the past two months, the 29-year-old has four goals so far, and he spoke in detail here about characters and comebacks, his current gaffer’s ‘sit down and have a brew’ open-door policy, and plenty more.
When it came to conversations with the manager about initially joining the club, what was he getting across to you, and vice versa?
The conversation started with Matty Brown. I know him from my younger days and he’d had a word with the gaffer to say I’m coming back from the injury and not too far off from fitness, and ‘would you be interested?’ Matty got back to me, saying ‘the gaffer seems really keen on you, he knows who you are, he’s obviously seen what you’ve done in the past. He says can you give him a call?’ I called him – I forget when it was, because I was doing all my rehab at Salford – and said where I was up to with my rehab, and I should be able to join in full training within the next three weeks. He asked if I could keep him updated with how rehab had gone at the end of each week, so that’s what I did. I text him to say I’d finally been given the all clear to return to full training, and he said about coming in to meet the lads and obviously train with them for a few days. Instead I ended up playing in a game, a behind-closed-doors game against Fleetwood. I played 45 minutes and straight after the game I had a chat with him and he said he wanted me to come in, and he’d offer me a short-term deal until January.
You said it was a weird feeling getting ready for a game again, but what about in the time since? Has it felt like being back in the old groove, or basically still getting used to being a footballer again?
Yeah, it’s been difficult, because when you miss a long time with injury, you can train as much as you want and try and get your fitness in that way, but as much training as you do, it’s totally different, that match sharpness. I came on in the first game (against Torquay, 2nd November) and I played about 20 minutes. After my first start, my body just felt sore; muscles that you haven’t felt for a long time. You wake up the next morning and everything feels sore because you’ve not been used to it. To be fair, I’ve had a good run of games recently, but everyone knows what the Christmas period’s like; I think we had four games in the space of nine days! It’s not ideal when you’re coming back from a long-term injury, but I feel pretty good. I’ve been tired after the games but I’ve been doing everything I can to recover for the next game.
When you were first out with the injury, were they saying ‘it’s a groin injury and you’ll probably be out a few weeks’?
Yeah, when I first picked up the injury, they thought it was a groin tear, so they were doing all the treatment and whatnot for a groin tear. The weeks were passing and it was just getting no better whatsoever. Even the months were passing, because I think it was November (2018) time when they sent me to see a surgeon and he said that I had a hernia, because the symptoms were similar. I think it was November when I had the surgery and he was saying ‘you’ll be out for 4-6 weeks with that.’ After a few weeks, I was still in agony with the same pain, so I found out in the January that it was my hip, and I didn’t get the operation until the end of April, so it got untreated for ten/11 months, I’d say. You end up having problems with things like your groin because of overcompensating; everything in the area just locks up to try and protect that injured spot. I ended up having a few little niggles after surgery, on my road to recovery.
With the misinformation/uncertainty, then all those days in the gym with no football, it goes without saying it’s very difficult, but give me an insight into what your thought process was in those times. Was it ‘I know I’ll get back to playing’ or did the more it dragged on make more doubt creep in?
Yeah, you have your ups and your downs, so some days you’ll feel good, and then the next week you’ll feel horrendous again. I always tried to keep positive and think ‘I’ll come back from this better and stronger,’ but I did actually think about just hanging the boots up for good. That’s a scary thought, and I didn’t want to, but it comes into your mind. I remember when I got the all clear to start running again, and after about five minutes I was in absolute agony with my hip, but I spoke to the physio and he said ‘that’s your body getting used to running again,’ with the force that’s going through the hip. 2019 was probably the most difficult year of my life, with the uncertainty of not knowing what’s gonna happen or where I’ll be, whether I’ll play. I’ve got a family at home, how am I gonna provide for them? You just don’t wanna let them down and that’s the main reason why I kept going. My eldest lad’s nearly nine and he’d not seen me play for a long time, but he’d always ask me ‘Dad, when you back playing?’ and I just always used to say ‘I’ll be back playing soon, son,’ but I didn’t know when I’d be back.
Was there anything you actively tried to do to help get you through it? Spending more time with family, even visualising the first time you’d play again etc.
I’ve always enjoyed being in the gym and lifting weights etc. so when I knew I was gonna be out for a long time I just wanted to get as strong as possible and as lean as possible. I probably got into the best shape of my life when I was out; when I was at Salford, I was just in the gym all day, pretty much every day. It’s the only thing I could do really, just keep fit. When I was at home, I’d just spend as much time as I could with the family. There’s some days I’d come home happy, some days I’d come home moaning, and it’s not really fair on my missus and kids, seeing me down. They were great, they were trying to keep me positive and just saying ‘everything will be right and you’ll get back to playing.’
— Salford City FC (@SalfordCityFC) July 22, 2017
What’s the manager (Pete Wild) been like to work with this season? He said when we spoke that he wants an open culture around the place; ‘come in, sit down and have a brew.’ Have you had many conversations, or has he generally left you to it?
Since I’ve been there he’s been great. He’ll pull you and tell you what he wants from you, discuss things tactically with you. We’ve changed formation recently and gone from one up top, to two up top, so we’ve been going through that quite a lot. He is open, he’s approachable. I’ve played for some managers where you don’t really wanna go and speak to them, but he’s totally opposite.
And has he actually got a kettle in his office?
Yeah, he’s got a little kettle in his office. I go in there with my hot water bottle and fill that up, put that on my hip!
What sort of approach do you think works best from a manager with you?
I’d probably say…I’ve not really thought about it too much, but I’d probably say I played my best football under Jim Bentley at Morecambe. He got the best out of me and he’s a bit similar to Pete, actually, in ways, where I say you can approach him about anything. He was one who’d put his arm around you; don’t get me wrong, he’d lose his rag sometimes. So, he probably got the best out of me so far, but I’ve played for other managers, without naming names, where it’s been screaming and shouting, and a bit of a hammering. It doesn’t really bother me which approach a manager wants to take. I’ve experienced both sides of it, but some players probably couldn’t cope with the screaming and shouting; you need to know which players want what.
What’s felt the happiest all-round time for you in football so far?
Probably, again, at Morecambe. I played my best football there and it was a good set of lads. I’ve never really been at a club where it’s been a bad set of lads, it’s always been a good environment, and every club has their own sort of banter. I’d probably say Morecambe I enjoyed the most, because I was playing and scoring probably the best I have in my career.
You did very well at Salford and your scoring form was pretty similar, but how different was the pressure, for you personally and as a group?
Yeah, course, it was different, just because of who the owners were. The expectation levels were massive, because of who they are, the budget we had and the players we’d signed; everyone was just expecting us to walk the league. The pressure was on from day one. It was a difficult season because everyone in that league would have wanted to sign for Salford, so it was everyone’s cup final, week in and week out. You’d go to mid-table and lower teams and they’d try and turn it on, because they’re playing Salford City and trying to catch the eye.
How did you find the dressing room at Salford, with the lads who’d been with Jonno (Anthony Johnson) and Bern (Bernard Morley) at Ramsbottom, but then the newer lads coming in as the club was progressing?
It was really good. Everyone had the same ambitions, the same sort of pressure on them to do well. Everyone just bought into what the club wanted and it was a really enjoyable season, to be honest. Like I said before, I’ve never really been in a bad changing room and it was another great set of lads. Players coming from different backgrounds; some dropping out of the League to come and play, and some actually coming up the leagues with Jonno and Bern. It was really good and a really enjoyable season.
And you grew up in Salford as a (Man) United fan, is that right?
Yeah, I’m a Salford lad; probably only about two miles from the ground, and a big Red as well.
Playing in that friendly for Man City (against the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi in 2009), did any senior players say anything to you? Or do you remember anything they said on the pitch, maybe (Craig) Bellamy chirping up or something?!
No, to be honest, I don’t really remember anything being said. It was just a case of going out and making the most of the opportunity really. It’s just one of them things you look back on now like ‘wow, I had the chance to play there with some of those players.’ It was unbelievable.
From your career so far, which players/coaches/managers stand out for being the biggest characters?
Probably the biggest character I’ve played with is Kevin Ellison at Morecambe. You can’t not hear him! He’s always talking, he’s always joking about, he’s that sort of lad.
What would he be like with you as a young lad playing a similar role in the team? Was it putting an arm around you, or ‘watch and learn from me’ sort of thing?
If you speak to him one-to-one, he’d be one to put his arm around you and try and guide you in the right direction, but overall, he’d just be taking the mick out of you. Just having a laugh, that was him all over. I think I was 21/22 when I signed at Morecambe, and you had quite a lot of youngsters coming through who’d just signed their pro deals, and he was always around them, giving them advice and trying to guide them in the right direction. That was good to see from a senior pro.
In terms of complimenting your game, who have you most enjoyed playing alongside?
Probably again have to be one of the Morecambe boys. When I go back to earlier, saying I had my best season at Morecambe, I played a lot with a three up top, with Kevin Ellison on the left, me down the middle and Lewis Alessandra on the right. I’d probably say with them two.
Have you ever had to sing when you’ve joined a new club?
I had to sing a few weeks back when I joined Halifax. I’ve always tried to swerve it at every other club I’ve been at, and I’ve always got away with it, but I crumbled a bit when I came here. There was me and Shawn (McCoulsky) who had to sing, and he got up first and he wasn’t even bothered. I sang ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz; I put in a good performance, to be fair!
Finally, away from training/playing, what else do you like in your life, in terms of other interests?
When I’m outside of football, I just spend about 90 percent of my time with my missus and kids. Other than that, like I said before, I’ve always been one for the gym, so I go on my day off. I’ve always enjoyed doing exercise, always been big on nutrition. I don’t mind eating out now and again, but other than that, you could say I’m quite boring!
Interview by @chris_brookes