He was the teenage striker plucked from Llandudno Junction FC by Mick McCarthy’s Wolves in the club’s previous Premier League era. Jake Cassidy first came to the attention in professional football as a loan star at Tranmere Rovers, and while he would go on to feature 25 times for Wolves, he has had to roll with the ever-changing picture of the game since.
At 26, the former Wales Under-21 international feels he has learned a lot, and after his Hartlepool United spell concluded in the summer, he has linked up with a club he believes can continue to confound expectations, this season and beyond. Maidenhead United are 4th in the Vanarama National League after ten games, and it was Jake who set the ball rolling as the opening day match-winner at Stockport County in front of the TV cameras. He has been on the mark since in the 3-0 win at Sutton United and the 4-1 home success over Chorley, and as he explains in this interview, it’s all feeling an ideal fit so far down at York Road.
With the season well underway now, how are you feeling, sharpness-wise, enjoyment-wise?
I’m feeling good. Obviously we’ve had a good start, one that probably nobody really expected. We’re winning games, scoring goals and everyone seems to be enjoying it on and off the field, so it’s been a brilliant start.
What’s the manager (Alan Devonshire) been like to work with? Vastly experienced to say the least, what’s his approach like?
He’s been brilliant with me personally and a lot of lads say the same. He’s old school, which probably I enjoy a lot more. It reminded me a bit of when I had Ronnie Moore at Tranmere, that kind of gaffer. I think he knows how to get the best out of players and the best out of the group he’s got. So far I’ve enjoyed it and he’s been brilliant on and off the field with me.
You’ve been part of teams at this level, and maybe within that seen what works and what doesn’t work. When you look around at this Maidenhead team, what gives you reason to think ‘yeah, we could sustain this great start and be there at the end of the season’?
I think, like you said, I’ve been around a few teams, and sometimes it’s worked really well for us, and then all of a sudden it’s changed formation or philosophy and then it stopped going so well. I think with the gaffer here, he knows what he wants from the players and they’ve bought into that from pre-season. I think we’ve just got an honest group, who will work hard for each other, everyone gets along. It’s still early doors but if we can keep the same attitude and application that we’ve had so far, who knows where it could take us?
What about the characters, are there a few in the dressing room?
Yeah, like I said, there’s no egos, as such. You get a lot of dressing rooms where there’s a lot of egos and some lads don’t see eye to eye, but we’ve got a good group. There’s an experienced bunch and then we’ve got a lot of talented young lads there. I think we all just gel together, and so far, it’s working really well.
For you personally, are you keen to get back to playing in the Football League (EFL), or is it in any way refreshing to be out of it, with some of the less desirable aspects that can come with being at those levels?
I just think it’s opportunities. I dropped out of the Football League and enjoyed my time at various clubs, and there’s been opportunities to go back into the Football League but they’ve never really been the right ones, or suited me off the field, and probably on the field as well. With this Maidenhead team, I think the way they play, the manager and the people here, I think that suits me. I know with the gaffer and the way he is, and the way he plays, that he’s going to get the best out of me. Hopefully see how this season goes and then go from there; if that’s a route back into the Football League then great.
Looking back at your time at Wolves, you only left four years ago, but the club’s already very different now. What about you, have you changed much since then?
Yeah, I think so. I think you just learn to grow up more, off the field. When you’re young and you’re at a big club, you get caught up probably in a mindset that a lot of players do and think ‘it’s gonna be like this forever,’ which it isn’t. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, and if you knew then what you know now, you’d do things a lot differently, on and off the field, and your career could have skyrocketed the other way. You live and learn, I don’t have any regrets, because for a lot of my background and where I’ve played, to play at such a big club like Wolves is only an honour to have on my CV and something I can look back on and be proud of.
Getting that move to Wolves from Llandudno Junction, did it feel like things became very serious? Suddenly you’ve got all these extra commitments, it’s your livelihood and a manager can decide your fate, fans can criticise the team at the drop of a hat, and so on. Did it feel like a very big shift in that sense?
Probably not at first, because it was just a massive whirlwind. Going from where I was to then being put in this Premier League club and environment, the standard of players, I think the first year I just sort of was happy to be there and learn off different players and coaches. I’d never had that exposure to a professional club before, and going into it was a totally different world. As the years went on there, you sort of get a grasp of what life is like as a professional footballer at these big clubs. Being in and around it, then not being wanted and going on loan here, there and everywhere, it does take its toll on you, off the field more than anything. You’re moving around, obviously family commitments and everything else. It was a big shock to the system but I’ve no regrets from any of it.
With your partner, Sophie (Walton, ex-Notts County Ladies/England youth international and current Nottingham Forest Women player), will you have a lot of conversations about football? Or is it more that football’s what you’ve both done individually over the years, and when it comes to time together you prefer switching off from it?
Yeah, we’re not too bad. I think a lot of people think we go home and we just hash it out about football all day. I think it’s an escape for us both when we get home. If I want to talk about football, if something’s not going well, she’s always there to listen, and vice versa. Obviously we have a little one now, so he takes up most of our time.
In your time in football, have there been any myths/misconceptions about you, or do you feel it’s been quite fair?
I think everyone’s entitled to their own opinions on you. You learn as you get older that everyone’s not gonna have the same opinion on you, but everyone that knows me and has worked with me will know that I’m a good guy to be around, so I’ll let people have their opinions.
Are you fully off Twitter now?
Yeah, I’ve been off it for probably two years or so. I think just the way it’s all gone – not just me personally but Twitter itself – the last few years, it’s not really a good environment to be reading up on things; not even about yourself, just football in general. So I’ve took myself off that.
Football and family apart, what else do you like having in your life, in terms of other interests?
I enjoy a bit of golf, especially in the last year I’ve got really into it again. I think it’s just a good way to go and clear your head – as long as you’re playing well! I’ve started to enjoy that more, especially since having the little one; it’s just full on, 24-7. Getting out on the golf course is just a bit of a switch-off for a few hours.
Finally, back to Maidenhead, why would you urge anyone who hasn’t already to come down and support the team this season?
I just think that the style of football we play is decent. There’s always gonna be goals down at Maidenhead and it’s a great little club, it’s run properly and from the chairman to the kitman, everyone’s on the same page. It’s all genuine people and they’re all pushing in the right direction, and if we keep going then there’s no end to where this club can go, with the chairman (Peter Griffin) and the manager.
Interview by @chris_brookes