Friday, 8 June 2018

NEW HINCKLEY AFC MANAGER JAMES JEPSON IS INTERVIEWED BY THE MOWDOG ABOUT HIS CAREER SO FAR...

The James Jepson Interview...

I came across James when he was instrumental in orchestrating a fine first period for Kettering in a play-off final against Slough Town. He had taken a knock though and his influence was subsequently curtailed, so much so that Slough roared back after the interval to win 2-3 and get promoted... 

His appointment as Hinckley AFC manager for the 2018-19 season, who will be playing their home matches at Ibstock's old ground, set me thinking about an interview with him.

He was really amenable and his replies were full of interest as you will read below...

Let's hope that he make a success of this next phase in his soccer career... 
WHERE'S JESUS?

I asked James which pro-team he followed as a youngster...

"This is going to sound varied but as a kid, being a schoolboy at Notts County I followed them and my dad is a big Notts County fan, so that has stuck ever since. My other English team is Manchester United for obvious reasons, for I don’t think there is a stadium in the world that compares to the 'Theatre of Dreams'. Also, growing up, me and my brother loved Italian football (still do) and so I have a soft spot for Juventus too."

Apart from Notts County, JJ revealed that he had had trials elsewhere too...


TREASURED IMAGE...
"After leaving Notts County (I had been there from 7 to 15 years of age), I went on to sign for Lincoln City at youth level. After Lincoln, I had trials with Shrewsbury Town, Mansfield Town, Colchester United & Grimsby Town before starting my career away from football in banking and now in I.T." 

I wondered how James had begun playing non-league football...

"After Lincoln City I started playing locally and it just spiralled from there. I started to get noticed, I was moving up the non-league ladder and then I snapped my cruciate ligament and was out for 9 months. Sadly I did it again but I was out for 2 years on the second occasion and so nearly 3 years out of the game affected me mentally and physically. I then had the opportunity to go out and play in the Australian National League, so that inspired me to give it another go and get fit. I was in Australia for a year and a bit and loved every minute of it. 
RATHER UNDERSTATED...


WHO NEEDS SUNSHINE?


I came back to the UK and after the taste of professional football in Australia, I managed to move to better teams each year, winning trophies. So all in all, I have no regrets..." 


JJ has listed all the clubs he has actually played for during his career:


"There have been a few but here goes...


NO CAPTION NECESSARY...

STEELMAN...

I KNOW HIS MARKER WELL!

JJ'S OPPONENT STAYS WELL BACK, IN ORDER TO BE SAFE FROM THE DANGERS OF FLAILING HAIR...

NEVER AFRAID TO SAY HIS PIECE, EVEN AT WORKSOP...

Lincoln City, Gedling Town, Sutton Town, Sorrento FC, Morley Windmills SC (both Australian National League), Hucknall Town, Gresley FC, Kings Lynn Town FC, Kettering Town, Stamford FC, Slough Town, AFC Rushden & Diamonds, Rugby Town, Bedworth United, Corby Town, Quorn FC, Worksop Town & Hinckley AFC..."
When asked about the most successful part of his playing career, James responded:


"From the age of 29 I changed my diet and as I was playing with better players, I had to be sharper and stronger, both physically and mentally. 


I won the Midland League with Gresley FC and the following season helped them to establish themselves back at the Evo-Stik level before securing a move to Kings Lynn Town FC, where again I was able to win the league. 
THE MOATMEN...

In hindsight it wasn’t a good move in some respects as I was carrying an injury (hernia) which restricted me when striking the ball and also when attempting to move freely. However I played my part in winning the league and met some fantastic people. 
THE BUBBLY FLIES...



I then re-signed for Gresley but it was never the same; it’s true what they say about never going back... I didn’t see eye to eye with Martin Rowe, the manager, who would start me and take me off and then drop me without reason. I got back in the team though and we played against Kettering Town away in the FA Cup and I played well, so that four days later I signed for Dean Thomas at Kettering. 
RATHER NEAT...



I didn’t want it to end like that at Gresley but I felt a bit let down. 


From the moment I signed for the Poppies, I loved the club, the fans instantly liked me and referred to me as ‘Jesus’ because of my long hair and beard. 
"OPEN YOUR EYES AND THOU SHALT SEE..."

We went on a 24 match unbeaten run and secured a play-off spot but we lost in the final 3-2 to Slough Town from being 2-0 up at half-time, at home too. 


The next season under Scott Machin & Tom Baillie, we won the league at a canter. Walking out every game we knew we would win, we had an unbelievable squad and I made actual friends who I speak to most days, which isn’t the norm in football."

Tom Baillie spoke to me about James:

"He was a great lad, a great person both on and off the pitch. The fans took to him very well, in fact famously. In my time as a manager, he was one of the best signings I made, as a player and as a person.

We keep in contact regularly and when at Kettering, he was the focal point really, both for the experienced players and the younger guys. He was a big part of the togetherness we had at the club. He could be serious and he would also be a part of all the fun and games.

A fantastic bloke and level-headed, James was always destined to become a manager and I wish him success. He has all the ingredients and the style to do well on the football side and on the managerial side of the job..."
I asked JJ when he had been at his happiest playing the game...


IT'S COLD THEN...
"I would say at Kettering Town, for when I signed for them they were 18th in the league and on my debut I got the Man of the Match award, as we won 2-0. I left the pitch to a standing ovation with the fans singing my name (the nickname!) and from that moment I was in love. I still go back and visit once or twice a season, although sometimes you can be too familiar with a club and it tarnishes what you have achieved, so I go with my dad when I can and the whole club welcomes me so well. I gave away my championship medal to auction for the club last year which goes to show my love for the club." 

I asked which managers James has learned good advice from over the years... 


"I’ve played under some top managers... Tommy Brookbanks was brilliant, he would be so calm and tell the boys to pass and express ourselves but you never wanted 'the hairdryer' from him... I only had it once and it wasn't nice, but he got a reaction from me which is good."

Tommy Brookbanks commented:

"I've got a lot of time for James. I played with his father at Basford. James is a fine player who I had with me at Hucknall and he was superb on the pitch and off it. He proved to be a great left-back for me although he went on to play in midfield. 

A really, really top lad who I’m sure will go on to make a real success of management. He's also got a fine assistant in Jon Ramshaw, who I’ve known for a long time. I wish them both all the best and they know I’m here if they need anything..."


"Gary Norton at Gresley was excellent and he loved you to pass the ball, if you weren’t having a good game he would put his arm around you and tell you it was going to be OK. He was very positive and didn’t complicate things."

Gary kindly did a phone interview for me about James and this was the gist of the conversation:

"I had lost touch with James until recently but I do know that he has gone into management at Hinckley. I have gone back into management here at Gresley after five years, although I'm on the board as well... I covered the last few games of last season for the club and I accepted the chance to be the boss this season. We have arranged a pre-season match with Hinckley so it will be good to catch up with James.

I had a lot of time for James as a player and he was fantastic in the dressing-room. He was a bad loser and that was great for me as the manager, for he did my work for me if some players weren't at it, being not backward in coming forward and having a go at them but in the right manner.

He was a fantastic signing for me and I wish him the best of luck in management, for which he not only has the right temperament and the right character but the right contacts too..." 

 
JJ LOOKS LIKE A WORLD WAR ONE SOLDIER AT THE FRONT...
James continued:

"Gary Setchell at Kings Lynn was one of my favourites along with Neil Fryatt, his assistant. As mentioned previously, I was in and out of the side and perhaps my hidden injury didn’t help along with my style being totally different to the team's. He was unbelievable, he would make you feel invincible. Neil was a purist about football and he gave me so much good advice and I still speak to him now. 


Scott Machin and Tom Baillie at Kettering were great. Scott was all about high standards and could diversify from one player to the next. He knew when to voice his anger and when to give you an arm around the shoulder. Tom was very positive too and a good football man and it's really strange that no club has offered the pair the chance to manage again. 

Ryan Hindley at Worksop along with Stuart Lowe were brilliant. Ry had a difficult job of managing a club whilst undergoing a takeover. Once it was done and Ryan left, they didn’t win many games last season. It was a shame because the squad he built was excellent but it just needed time. He also helped me personally and would offer support and somebody to talk to when he didn’t have to, so I will always remember that. A true gent... 
DPD: 'DELIVER, PLAY, DEMOLISH'...


John Ramshaw was excellent and I learnt a lot from him at an early age, as to what is required to be successful. He made the game simple and everyone knew their jobs. I am delighted that he is working with me at Hinckley now. 

Dean Thomas though was my favourite, he was a top player for Notts County and I used to watch him from the terraces. He made me fitter, stronger and a better player. He insisted on training as you play and I was gutted when he left Kettering. The one piece of advice he gave me still sticks with me everyday and it was this: 


'...to be the best you can at everything you do...’ 

He believed in me and I owe him a lot." 

I was interested to know what qualities James would look for when signing a player... 

"Sometimes managers complicate the game, they work on statistics and the first things they look for are strength, pace and players working hard. Working hard is a given though, for example a technical player works hard by passing and creating, not by how far he runs during a game. Each player in the team has a different role. My first question is always: 


"Can he play?" 
"I'M SPARTACUS..."
NO, JAMES, YOU'RE JESUS...


James listed players who have impressed him during his career... 

Marc Goodfellow, 'The King' as I call him, was the best I’ve played with by a mile. He was just so classy and it was effortless for him. Of course he had played for Stoke City, Bristol City & Burton Albion to name but a few and he was eventually playing for Gresley FC in the Midland League which surprised me, yet he turned up for every game. As a midfielder you looked up and he wanted it. There were games when I was applauding him whilst the game was on. A top player and great guy too. 
Andy Gooding: I played with Goody for 2 years at Kettering and we just understood each other. He always wanted the ball and never hid. Even when things weren’t going his way, he would always want it. I certainly improved by listening to him, for good players are always available and find space, so it was easy for me to give him the ball as he seemed to be always on hand. His vision and range of passing were different class. A fantastic player and now someone who is a close friend." 

A DEFENDER IS LASHED BY JAMES' HAIR...

PLAYING FOR HINCKLEY...

THIS SCULPTURE WON THE TURNER PRIZE...

ROCK STAR?

NEAT KIT...

James' select team from his career is as follows:

GK- James Lindley... 


Played alongside him at Hucknall Town, he was superb at everything and looked amazing too! He could distribute with either foot and was a top 'keeper, now retired. 

RB- Jamie Barrett...


Baz won’t be happy being at right-back but he was our captain at Gresley and what a leader he was! He could play anywhere and do a fine job. (Gresley FC player/coach...)

LB- Nathan Fox...


Foxy is still in his prime at 25, with a fantastic delivery from wide and he loves to get forward. Another one who should be in the professional game now but he still has a chance. (Hednesford Town...)

CB- Bret Solkhon... 


Mr Kettering himself! I have never seen him play below seven out of ten and it's no surprise that he is still performing well for Kettering now. Scores vital goals and is a superb leader. (Kettering Town FC...)

CB- Michael Nottingham...



'The Sheriff' came to Gresley and was so calm on the ball, made it look so easy and has gone on to win the Conference North title twice with Salford and Solihull Moors. Recently he has signed for Blackpool. (Blackpool...) 

RM- Steve Spriggs...


'Hollywood' as he’s known, for he is such a confident guy and could go either way. Give him the ball and he would do the rest. (Newmarket Town...)

CM- Andy Gooding...


Already mentioned him earlier, never hid and always wanted the ball and his passing range was the best I’ve seen. He could ping it, dink it, curl it, or smash it... A real technician! (Retired...)

CM-George Thomson... 


Thommo is someone who would shoot from anywhere and you always believed it had a chance to go in. We shared some laughs together to and from Kings Lynn... A top player. (Harrogate Town...) 

LM- Marc Goodfellow...


'The King'. No other words needed. (Retired...)

ST- Dubi Ogbonna...


Dubz was a special player and at Kettering he was unplayable. He scored a perfect hat-trick during his second game for the club. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Maybe with a bit of extra luck we would be watching him on the TV now. Both feet are good, he is strong, skilful, super confident, quick and his finishing is always so calm, with him often passing the ball into the goal or rounding the keeper. Brilliant! (St Ives FC...)

ST- Donal Flynn...  


I played with Donal for a local side after my release from Lincoln City and he made it look so easy. He could kill the ball dead and bring the midfield into play, then always wanted it back. He had been a professional for Mansfield Town & Galway United. It was heartbreaking that he had to retire due to injury at an early age... 

Subs:


CM- Myself... 

ST- Phil Massingham... 


My best friend from school, we won the league together at Gresley FC and it was brilliant. He scored 4 in one game at ‘The Moat’ (Gresley FC's ground) and he hit the second from the half-way line straight in the top corner. It was the best goal I’ve seen whilst playing and fans at Gresley have said that it’s also the best goal ever scored at The Moat. On his day he was as good as anyone. (Dunkirk FC...) 

ST- Shane Tolley... 


(I saw him play a few times for Truro City! Editor...)

Tolls was a great lad, always smiling but when he played he was so angry and you knew about it if you didn’t give him the ball. A goal machine everywhere he’s been. (Retired...) 

ST- Stefan Moore... 


(Ex Villa of course and older brother of Luke. Vila's FA Youth Cup winning skipper v Everton, whose captain was, er, Wayne Rooney... Odd how the two careers took different paths... Editor.)

I was only at Corby Town a short while but Stef came on loan from Solihull Moors and he was a joy to play with. He’s obviously played at the very top and you could tell. Brilliant striker. (Leamington FC...)

CM- Mark Clarke... 


Clarkie will go mad that he’s not starting in the above eleven but he was a proper footballer, could do everything and helped me a lot when I was a young player, always encouraging me and trusting me on the ball. (Retired/ Long Eaton United Manager...)

LB- Jordie Gough...


Goughie was only young when we were at Gresley but he played like a man. A hammer of a left foot and a superb left-back. (Chester FC...) 

ST- Nat Watson...


A fantastic player, can play anywhere and a nice lad too. Ghosts past players like they're not there. (Coalville Town...)"

James' own strengths and weaknesses?


"Management is new to me so I am still to work that out. I was at Rugby for a short period of time which was an eye-opener and I am taking the positives from that with me whilst working on the things I didn’t do so well." 

When asked about a memorable goal he'd scored, JJ replied:

"I scored a free-kick for Kettering once, to equalise away at Aylesbury which was perhaps my best. I curled it into the top corner with help from a post." 

James then mentioned his favourite professional players through the years... 


"My favourite player of all time is Diego Maradona. He is in my opinion the best ever. My other favourites are Totti, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pirlo, Paul Scholes and Zidane, to name but a few."

James reckons his parents, who have probably missed only a handful of games since he was seven years old, are the folks he'd like to thank most for the career he has had but also his brother, Lee. 
JAMES ATTEMPTS TO WALK IN A STRAIGHT LINE.
AND FAILS...


He wants to solely focus on being a success at Hinckley for now. There are going to be ups and downs, he knows that but he is looking forward to the challenge...

Thanks to James 'Jesus' Jepson... 












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