I’ll concede from the off that I never saw Rodney Jack play. His pace, skill, goals and character could all be an elaborate lie and I’d know no better.
At the tender age of seven, I was flirting with Torquay as my second team. I probably checked the play-off final scores with my dad, but at the time, I can guarantee the name David Beckham meant more to me than Rodney Jack.
Yet as I pen this article, sat on a Northern Rail Manchester to Wigan rail replacement, I’m more anxious to do him justice than I would had it been David Beckham that agreed to speak to me.
I idolise Rodney Jack in the same way I do Bob Marley, or Keith Moon – and I was never fortunate enough to see those play in their respective fields either.
“Legend” is a status so easily dished out these days, quite often without real merit – especially at Torquay, where I suppose we can be forgiven for taking what we can get.
To me, a legend, whether famous or infamous, is the star of a story that can be told for generations to come. Rodney Jack ticked that box.
Hi Rodney, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to @TORQUAYTALK – I’m expecting this article to be particularly well received, you’re still enormously well regarded in Torquay – there’s a bit of a cult following for you!
RJ – Fantastic to hear, I always had a good bond with the fans and the public, it was a pleasure to play for the Club – I really did enjoy everything about living and playing there.
It is a beautiful place, I think we take it for granted sometimes – was there anything you particularly enjoyed about it?
RJ – To be honest, It reminded me of home, it was a huge change moving from Saint Vincent, but Torquay is its very own unique version of the Caribbean! I remember it taking me a long time to adjust to the weather, about three months but being in the south west helped – I spent a lot of time by the seaside relaxing; it really is a beautiful town.
Was it hard to adapt to life in the UK?
RJ – It was a new chapter, but I did really miss my mum and family. Thankfully, and this is probably why I was so comfortable there, it really did remind me so much of my country – the weather, the beach and the restaurants, it all made it easier, almost as if everything I was missing was close by. Everyone was so kind as well, they went out their way to make me feel welcome.
A unique town, with an equally unique Football Club – do you have any particular highlights from your time with Torquay?
RJ – The whole experience, I loved it. Both teams I played in were really enjoyable and it’s an experience I look back on so fondly. I had a really close friendship with Paul Gibbs, who I still speak to today. I speak to some of the others occasionally as well – it was a really close team.
How about lowlights?
RJ – The ’98 play-off final. It was both my fondest memory and my biggest disappointment. Nobody can ever take it away from you playing at Wembley, you just can’t describe how it feels walking on that pitch. The day itself was so heartbreaking though; I actually thought as a team we played well, it just wasn’t our day.
I’ve heard a lot about the proposed move to Newcastle, what exactly happened there?
RJ – I’d only been at Torquay and in England for a year, but I’d settled and I was playing really, really well, scoring all the time. There was all sorts of interest flying around but to hear the legendary Kevin Keegan was interested was really flattering. They had an all-star team at the time so it was an easy decision, I travelled up in September ’96 and went on trial for a week. It was a good trial, I was keen to sign and they were keen to sign me – the deal fell through due to issues with my work permit… the rest is history.
You scored your fair share at Plainmoor, how did it feel?
RJ – Starting well is important and my first goal was massive, it helped me enormously and I just relaxed after that. The supporters at Plainmoor were always so supportive and wanted me to do well.
How about that Scarborough game?
RJ – That game was incredible; it was the start of Rodney Jack really, if you know what I mean. More so though, It was a special one for not just myself but the whole team, I’ll always remember it.
Just what was it about your style of play that made you so popular with every team you played for!?
RJ – I was fast, skilful and very direct – the key components.
It certainly won the plaudits at Torquay, you’re always a safe bet for at least the top three in best ever player polls and a terrace favourite – do you any favourite chants?
RJ – There was one that stands out but the words are a bit…much, if you know what I mean…
Haha, we’ll leave that one there then… I feel I need to mention my tortoises are called Rodney and Jack…
RJ – Great names for your pets!!
I’ve since been told somebody else named their Rabbits after you as well…
RJ – …
Rodney Jack played 93 times for Torquay, scoring 27 times. He moved to Crewe Alexandra for a Club record fee of £650,000 where he would go on to play 163 games, cementing himself as a favorite at Gresty Road. Spells at Rushden & Diamonds, Oldham, Southport and Nantwich would follow. He now lives with his wife and children in the North West. He represented Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 45 times, scoring 23 goals – he remains the only player to leave his home country and play professional football in England.