Photo: Julia Urwin

Four seasons ago, Jordan Archer was a Northern Premier Division play-off finalist with Stourbridge, having been the Glassboys’ extra-time match-winner in the semi-final against Workington. The forward would depart in October 2017 for Marcus Bignot’s Chester, and he has been as high as League Two in the time since, though never really felt set up to truly prosper.

Nevertheless, he left Southport after a loan spell two seasons ago with positive feelings, which he has recently returned to rekindle. The recent Boston United man has linked back up with a manager in Liam Watson who has more than a little bit of history when it comes to winning promotion from this level, not to mention giving players a springboard into League football.

The Port currently sit just inside the National League North play-off positions, while their returning attacker has been on target three times of late. In this conversation, Jordan shares his feelings on where his football has taken him in recent years, life away from it, and on a sizeable amount of learning along the way for the now-27-year-old…

 

Coming back to Southport, what were the impressions you took away from the club last time, that have obviously now made you want to return?

To be fair, I’ve got a good relationship with Liam, so when I finished my loan at Southport, I still stayed in contact with him. He’d phone me every now and again to see how I’m getting on and stuff, so that was one of the factors. It’s just a good, well-supported club as well. The fans are always behind you in games, and from my first day at the club, I just felt welcome. I just enjoyed my time there. We wanna get promoted this season if we can, so that’s another thing as well, I wanna win something. It’s a good club to be at to be able to win something.

What was the conversation with (manager) Craig Elliott at Boston before the move? Was the plan for you to stay longer there, and it just happened that Southport came in, offering a fee and a chance for you to go back somewhere you’d done well?

Yeah, Craig didn’t want me to go, to be honest. I had a good conversation with him, he was saying he wanted me to stay, and I was just honest with him, I said I needed to play football. The past two seasons, I haven’t played much football, and I think if it was to continue, I’d probably just fall out of love with the game, if I’m honest. I enjoyed my time, though, while I was there; good lads, good set-up, I’ve got nothing bad to say about Boston at all.

Are you still based back home in the Midlands? What has the journey in been like?

It’s a two-hour trip but I just stick a podcast on, to be honest, and the time just flies by. I’m kind of used to travelling, from the past couple of seasons. It’s not that bad, Liam gives me the Thursday off if we’ve had a game on Tuesday and done well, just to save on fuel and stuff. It’s not too bad, I’m kind of used to it now.

You did touch on it, but thinking about your football in recent seasons, some big moves but when was the last time you could say you fully enjoyed it and felt at your best?

I’d probably say Stourbridge, you know? Just because I was scoring regularly, and the fans liked me, I was enjoying it, good set of lads. I was buzzing to sign for Chester, it’s a good club as well, but they had their financial problems and we had to get rid of quite a few of our best players. They were just struggling towards the end of the season and it wasn’t a nice situation to be in, to be fair, with relegation as well. I went to Bury, didn’t really play much there, and financial situations again. I thought Port Vale was gonna be something new, something good. The first week I was there, I scored on my debut against Shrewsbury, and then four days later, on the Saturday against Newport, I dislocated my shoulder. I thought ‘that’s just my luck, to be honest.’ Now I’m back at Southport, I’m enjoying it again. I’ve scored some goals and hopefully it can continue.

What is the approach from a manager that you feel gets the best from you?

I think it’s just somebody who believes in me, to be honest. When I was at Stourbridge under Gary Hackett, he believed in me and I just want to pay people back who believe in me and show faith in me. I think that’s how I play my best football, because I wanna do well for them as well as for myself. By doing that, you get goals and it just comes naturally, and that’s how I’m feeling at the minute. I know Liam believes in me, and the more games I play, the more fitness I’ll get, and hopefully, just score goals and get the results.

Going into Bury, still 24 at the time, (manager) Ryan Lowe was saying it would take time for you to adapt to full-time football but that you were basically exactly what they were looking for. What was the vibe you got? That you were a bit of a ‘project’ or going to be a real part of it from the off?

Coming from non-league, I think I was more of a project, because of some of the strikers they had there at the time. Jermaine Beckford, Nicky Maynard, Chris Dagnall; seasoned professionals who it would have been good for me to learn off. I think it probably just didn’t work out in the end for whatever reason, but it’s football at the end of the day. I think you’ve just got to keep going and see where it takes you.

Obviously you’ve been asked about it before, but what kind of place to be around was the club? To say it was your first experience of the League, did it actually feel like that, with what was ultimately happening in the background?

To be fair, at the start, it was good. I was enjoying it and we didn’t hear anything at the start of any financial situation, anything going on in that sense. When I first signed there, I went into Carrington and the facilities are a joke; everything seems proper professional and I wasn’t used to that, coming from non-league. It was a good place to be around, everything was done properly. I think it was just after Christmas, we started getting wages paid late, and I was thinking ‘is this normal?’ A few of the lads started talking, ‘what’s going on?’ and stuff. It was from then that you started thinking ‘what’s happening here?’ When Steve Dale came in, we thought it was gonna be the start of something and we were gonna get our wages on time, the club was gonna push forward. I think we were in a good position in the league at the time as well, but when he came in, it was just a nightmare, to be honest. I don’t think he cared about any of the players or staff there at the time, didn’t care about the fans, didn’t care about the club. I don’t know what his intentions were, it was just a shambles after that and I just thought ‘I wanna get out of here.’ Towards the end, it wasn’t what I expected.

Turning the clock back a fair bit further, whereabouts have you grown up and which team did you support?

I’ve grown up around Walsall; I used to play Sunday league for Wednesfield and Ashmore Park. I signed for Wolves when I was 14 and was there for two years, didn’t get offered a scholarship and I dropped into non-league and I started playing for Chasetown. I’m a Wolves fan, I used to go to games with my dad, my brother. When I started playing football myself, I couldn’t really go, but I’ve always been a Wolves fan.

Your younger brother Cameron’s been doing well on loan (from Aston Villa) at Solihull Moors lately, but I think there’s a few from the family currently involved in the game?

Yeah, my older brother (Aaron)’s at Dudley Town, he’s the coach there. They’re doing well, to be fair. I was training with them in pre-season to stay fit and he put on some good sessions. My brother below me (Lewis) – I’ve got three brothers – he’s a good player, I think he just needs to be settled somewhere, and like me, probably just get a manager who believes in him. He used to be at Aston Villa with my youngest brother, who’s on loan at the minute from there, at Solihull. He’s doing really well and I think it was important for him to get straight into men’s football, because Under-23s football, it’s not the greatest. I think Solihull’s the perfect place for him.

Early this year, you’d been on loan at Stockport and then were back with Port Vale before the season was stopped in March. When that happened, and lockdown came, what did you know about your future? What did the situation look like in general?

Just before lockdown, I think we played a friendly against Burton Albion, and I played well in the game, scored. The manager was watching and he said I was gonna be on the bench and around the team. Obviously lockdown then came and we didn’t know if the season was gonna continue. We were told to keep fit, we were doing the Zoom calls and that. The season wasn’t able to get finished, so I was just told ‘we can’t offer you another contract,’ which I kind of expected. I hadn’t played much, I had a few injuries at Port Vale as well, so I was looking for my next team. I just wanted something that felt right for me, to play games again. At the minute, going from full-time football to part-time, it is a bit different, but I’ve worked before, so it’s nothing new to me. I’m doing a plumbing course at the minute, on the nights, so hopefully I’ll be qualified next July. It’s just something for after football anyway.

Tell me about some of the many characters you’ll have been around in the game, who are some examples who come to mind?

I think the main one would probably be Tom Pope; on the Christmas do, he’s something else! He’s a proper good lad as well. Nicky Adams is a good one as well; he probably doesn’t know but he helped me quite a lot when I was at Bury. If say I wasn’t the best in training, Nicky would always be like ‘keep your head up, you’re doing well,’ and then if I had a good training session, he’d make sure everyone knew. I’ve got a lot of respect for Nicky because of that, but other than that, he’s a good laugh as well, proper good lad.

What about any teammates you’ve felt that extra sense of understanding with on the pitch?

I had a good partnership with Luke Benbow when I was at Stourbridge, just because of his quality, to be honest; you’d make a run and he could find you. Obviously he’d be selfish at times, that’s how he scored his goals, but when he does find you, he’s got that quality. I’d probably say Aaron Forde as well from Stourbridge, he’s a good player. Before I got my move to Chester, he put me in for a few goals, and I like to play with players who’ll get on the ball and their first thought is to look forward and see if they can slide the striker in.

Have you ever felt there’s been any misconceptions about you anywhere you’ve been, or mostly a fair grasp of what you’re about, as a player and person?

Probably when I was at Redditch for a short period; I didn’t really get a chance to show what I was about. I had quite a few clubs interested in me that season and I ended up going to Redditch because Liam McDonald was calling my phone constantly, so I thought ‘yeah, maybe the manager wants me here.’ I was on the bench most of the time, thinking ‘am I gonna get my chance?’ I’d score but then be on the bench the next game. I ended up leaving and going to Bedworth; I think they were near the bottom of the table at the time but I knew the manager Andy Penny, who was really good with me as well, great manager. I ended up scoring 19 goals that season but unfortunately we got relegated. Me and Jamie Ashmore left (Redditch) and I think Liam put something in the paper about me and Jamie not being good enough for the level, so I thought ‘okay, I’ll prove you wrong.’ So I think that was the biggest one for me. I like proving people wrong who don’t believe in me or think much of me.

Have you ever had to sing as a new player anywhere, and if so, which song(s)?!

When I signed for Bury, I think I had to sing on the away trip; I sang Craig David ‘7 Days’. That’s normally a safe one, to be fair, or I’ll sing a bit of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell). They’re my go-to ones.

We mentioned work, but away from football, what else do you enjoy or have a particular interest in for the future even?

I’m quite interested in property, which is something I’d like to try and get into. It’s one of the reasons why I’m doing the plumbing course, so I could fit my own bathroom, for example. I’m learning quite a lot about that. Other than that, going to the gym, just being around my family. I’m quite close with my family, so as much time as I can spend with them, the better really. With lockdown, it’s been quite hard, so we’ve just been on Zoom calls and stuff. I’m very family-orientated.

Finally, as you reflect now on where you’ve been in football, what do you think it’s taught you the most? About yourself, about the game, the people involved in it.

I’d say a big one is just because somebody has an opinion of you, it doesn’t mean it defines you. Somebody could think you’re the worst player in the world, but you go to another team and they could think you’re the best player in the world. I think a lot of players these days get disheartened because a manager is not really taking to them, but you could go somewhere else and the manager could absolutely love you, so it’s best just to keep going more than anything. I think that’s what I’ve taught myself in football. There’s been a lot of times where I’ve probably considered just packing it in, but then I thought ‘do you know what? I’ve come this far, why would I just give up now?’ Just get your head down, keep going and prove people wrong.

Interview by @chris_brookes

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