Jermaine McGlashan is best known by now for his exploits in League football, though just prior to his latest move, non-league actually bookended his career. Earning his first pro deal at 22 when joining Aldershot Town from Ashford Town (Middlesex), the experienced wide player spent the majority of 2019/20 with Chesterfield and Ebbsfleet United in the National League. For the new season, though, he will be plying his trade abroad for the first time, with Cypriot side Akritas Xlorakas.

Enjoying back-to-back League Two play-off campaigns with Cheltenham Town, including a Wembley final in 2012, his Southend United would just narrowly miss out on the League One play-offs in 2017. In a career that has also seen him represent the likes of Gillingham, Swindon Town and Wrexham, the Croydon native has certainly learned his fair share. He spoke here from his new set-up in Cyprus, about the twists and turns of recent years, and the road ahead.

 

As we speak now, what’s the set-up you’ve got over there? Are we talking apartment, pool?

Yeah, got an apartment here where they put a lot of the players, particularly ones that come from abroad. It’s a nice apartment, it’s got a pool. You get your meals in the evening at a five-star hotel, a couple of minutes down the road, after training. As we speak, I’m poolside chilling anyway, so it’s not a bad way to start your Sunday!

How did joining Akritas come about, did you have a contact connected to the club?

I’d been speaking to some clubs back home, and with the whole situation, it became difficult with negotiations. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, so I put it to my agent, maybe a different country. I was thinking probably more like Scotland etc. I spoke to Jason Puncheon, who’s out here at Pafos and doing quite well. I said ‘what’s it like?’ and that, and he sold it to me. I spoke to a club that’s quite close to Pafos, Akritas, and my agent put my name about. It was slightly different; had to maybe show them a few videos of my last seasons etc. They did their research and said ‘yeah, come out.’ I had other offers abroad but it happened pretty quickly and I made up my mind.

What have the past few months been like since the season first came to a halt with Ebbsfleet? Obviously not knowing which division the club would be in, plus your own future.

Initially, I was pretty relaxed, because I’d spoken to the owner at Ebbsfleet pretty much straight away after the lockdown, because I’d gone there and done quite well. Obviously I’d gone there under a director of football, Steve Lovell, so I got phone calls from them early doors, but it was sort of pending with the league. That was big for me; I didn’t wanna drop down another level. They got a new manager (Dennis Kutrieb), so the manager that brought me in (Kevin Watson) left, and I got a phone call from Steve Lovell saying that the new manager wants to go a different direction, younger, fresher. Then obviously the news with the relegation, so it was one of those. From there, it was literally speaking to one or two clubs. It was hard with my age as well, people wanted to make sure I was still fresh, I could still do it. So being lowballed, if you like, here and there, with so many players out of contract, even as we speak. Last couple of weeks, it probably started getting a bit nervy, where people started getting sorted. I had phone calls from Billericay and loads of Conference South clubs but I wasn’t ready to go to two nights a week. Again, it was hard, because my family’s there and these are pretty local clubs, and I’ve got a young family. When this option came abroad, I thought ‘I’m so glad I kind of waited,’ because I was getting quite close to signing at Conference South level, and I wanted to stay full-time.

Is there a strong mix of nationalities at your new club? Does English get spoken much between people?

They all speak English but they all speak Greek to each other, so it’s hard for me because I’ve only got one option! I’m picking up one or two words here and there, the ones that get repeated, but football is its own language, so it helps with body language and stuff like that. There are a few other foreigners out here; you’ve got Brazilians, you’ve got a Bulgarian, so there’s a bit of a barrier when the coach is talking. There’s a keeper that’s come out here (Kleton Perntreou), ex-Palace, Carshalton and a few clubs, so we get on quite well, because we’re both from Kent. He can speak the language because he’s originally from Greece, so that’s been massive for me, even just going out into town and that. So I’m pretty settled pretty quickly actually.

It was Aldershot and Cheltenham when you first started coming to the attention in the Football League. Looking back, when have you felt at your best, your happiest in your career? Which has been the most complete spell?

I’d say the most complete spell was probably at Cheltenham. I played my best football there, I was probably more settled, and that was the best manager in terms of believing in me, Mark Yates. As you go on in your career, you realise when you look back who got the best out of you. It was my first chance to move away from London, which was all I knew, so it was a far one. I had a good time at Gillingham, and then Southend I did alright as well. Swindon it didn’t quite work out for me, but Cheltenham I’d definitely say was my best two/two-and-a-half years.

What was it about Mark Yates? You mention him believing in you, what would he say, would he pick you up sometimes when you needed a boost etc.?

I think he just literally knew how to manage me. I knew if it wasn’t quite working for me that he’d have that belief in me and keep me on the pitch. Sometimes you feel you’ve got to do certain things in a game to keep your shirt. A lot of the game plan was through me, and his belief in me made me believe in myself. He signed me for money, when they were top of the league and he didn’t need to. Even that was a big statement, and he brought me straight in, so just having that type of belief does wonders for you. Anyone knows in football, when you’ve got someone that believes in you like that, it’s massive. I just had that confidence going out there, and it helped me especially moving away from London and everything I knew at that point.

What about teammates you’ve felt the strongest sense of connection with on the pitch?

Sido Jombati, the right-back at Cheltenham; he’s at Oldham now. I roomed with him. He’s Portuguese but we just had a different level of understanding and it went on to the pitch, with overlapping, tucking in. He’s probably the best full-back I’ve played with, in terms of having that understanding, and it probably helped me play my best football.

Has there been a most difficult, most challenging time in your career? Has the enjoyment ever been compromised?

The most difficult spell was Swindon. The manager (Richie Wellens) coming in and wanting to change things, and then it was a situation of training with the youth team. I was travelling in, three or four hours, being away from your family, and you know you’re not wanted. It was hard mentally and important to have good people around you at that time. That’s when I decided to go on loan to Wrexham, which wasn’t down the road, and I had a new baby coming, so it wasn’t ideal, but I had to get out and play.

You’re known for what you’ve done in the Football League, but non-league’s been very significant in the other phases of your playing path. What did you notice was the difference between non-league and League One and Two? Mainly the mentality?

There’s similarities with the level because a lot of players were dropping down to non-league, but I do think it is the mentality. You’re getting some part-time teams, so you’re getting players who are working and then going to play. It’s obviously more professional in the Football League-type level, but the set-ups are different, and you’ve got one or two teams, like I went to Chesterfield and I still felt like I was at a Football League club. Then you’re coming up to certain grounds where it definitely feels more non-league! That’s when sometimes it sort of hit home a little bit, but I came from non-league, so I got used to it pretty quickly again.

Could you have played for Grenada, is that the heritage?

Yeah, I was in contact with them. My granddad’s got Grenadian heritage but it was a problem with trying to get birth certificates and passports together, which I couldn’t get hold of. I think they still sort of enquire every now and again. It was something that you always want to do, play internationally, but it never quite materialised. Who knows what could happen in the future?

For some of the standout characters you’ve been around in the game, who springs to mind?

I’d say probably my closest in football is Theo Robinson. He came to Southend and he’s one of the only ones that I’ve properly kept in contact with, because when you’re moving around you lose touch with people. Another character, Nile Ranger, he was different, I won’t forget him! Michael Timlin, on the pitch, you knew that he was getting on to you, but he got the best out of you, so I’ve never played with anyone as driven as he is. It was hard because we’d always argue, but he was the type of person who would buy you a drink straight after. Probably one of the funniest I’d say was Ryan Jackson at Gillingham. We got on, and I’d put Bradley Dack in that category as well.

Have you had to sing when joining a new club, and if so, which songs have you gone for?

Yeah, several times, and I hate it. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, because you’re at a new club, and then you’ve got to do the initiation, everyone’s got their phone cameras out. You can try and play it off that you’re not nervous, but it’s always after dinner as well on an away trip, so you lose your appetite when you know you’ve got to sing that day! I think I went for Drake the last time. I think I had to do the national anthem at one club, so that was the hardest thing ever.

Have there ever been any misconceptions about you in your career, or generally a fair impression?

I mean in this game you get negative sort of opinions, I don’t know if any one thing stuck out. My biggest criticism is maybe scoring more goals, and I’d second that as well. End product earlier in my career was probably thrown at me, because of my pace, and I was getting in a lot of good positions and my return probably wasn’t there. In terms of misconceptions, I’m not really sure.

Away from playing, what other interests do you have?

I’ve done the UEFA B, so I am looking at the coaching side of things. I enjoy the media side as well. I enrolled, before I knew I was flying out (to Cyprus), for the sports broadcasting and writing course. The pandemic had me proper thinking about what I wanted to do, and I spoke to a few players who’d used the PFA to their advantage, so I’ve enrolled in that. I might have to fly back for it, it’s only a couple of days, and then two weeks in the summer. It’s something I’ve looked at, the media and the coaching side. I do wanna stay around the game if I can. I haven’t really looked at everything, because I didn’t know I’d be abroad, but the pandemic was definitely a wake-up call for me.

What was passing the time in lockdown, aside from staying fit etc.? Any series you got into, or new things you tried?

Money Heist, I got into that. I managed to watch Prison Break again, the whole thing. I’m not really a TV person like that, but I was trying to keep myself occupied. I was doing all these jobs around the house; my missus found so many things for me to do! I didn’t really get that much time to myself, I was probably more busy than I’ve ever been, just from being at home.

Finally, looking back at this point, what have you learned the most from your time in the game? Have you changed from that Jermaine who signed his first pro deal?

Oh yeah, massively. I’ve learned so much in terms of how to manage myself. I wouldn’t say I’ve had regrets but you’re always learning as you’re playing. I sort of try and pass that information on to the youngsters where I can, I’m obviously seen as a senior pro now. Just to enjoy it as well. I used to get told it’s a short career, but when you’re young, you’re flying, you’re getting interest, you’re kind of living the moment. I’ve learned football can be a business as well, in the latter stages more than when you’re younger, but it’s something you have to go through to understand. I’m just enjoying it now. This option to go abroad was perfect for me, at a perfect time. I’m just trying to prolong the years I’ve got, while I’m sort of looking at the transition outside of football.

Interview by @chris_brookes

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