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.
Credit – Marcus Davis photography
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.
2 thoughts on “A Catch Up With: Rodney Jack…Jack…Jack”
Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying Torquay Talk content, and especially this Rodney Jack interview, which certainly got me thinking about Rodney Jack, that season, and that match against Scarborough. I was 13 in 1998, and it was Rodney Jack brought me to Torquay United. I mean, I’d been taken to Plainmoor a number of times in my younger childhood days – I was even at Wembley Stadium in 91 for the Blackpool match, aged six – but it was the 97-98 season, and Rodney Jack, that made Torquay United stick.
Let me tell you, that match against Scarborough, which has of course gone down in Plainmoor folklore… nothing has ever, ever come close to the atmosphere on that magical that night. The Mexican waves going all the way around the ground; the songs of que sera sera; the warmth of a late-Spring floodlit football match in a packed-out ground (I think I remember our fans occupying the away terraces on that night too.) If you could bottle that experience, you could sell it for millions. The team were so good that night, Rodney Jack was electric, he just has this pace, this extra gear which took him past defenders with ease. Oh and Steve McCall’s goal, just bloody brilliant! That was the night I fell in love. I still treasure the match day programme.
Of course we all know what happened in the final, though I wasn’t at Wembley for that. It was actually the weekend my Grandad died, and because of this the whole weekend is so vivid in my memory – it’s the only play-off weekend where I can remember every match. Colchester beat Torquay 1-0 on Friday night. England drew 0-0 with Saudi Arabia on the Saturday. On Sunday, Grimsby beat Northampton 1-0. And on Sunday, Charlton beat Sunderland on penalties after a 4-4 draw after extra time, in what must surely go down as one of English club football’s greatest games.
Of course, Rodney Jack left for Crewe that summer, Kevin Hodges went to Argyle, taking Paul Gibbs and Steve McCall with him. Funnily enough, I remember the Torquay v Scarborough match the following season (0-1 to them,) as it went down in the annals for me and my dad as the worst match we’d ever seen (well, I think the recent Solihull match might have finally taken that crown!) Sadly, that play-off defeat was the demise of Scarborough, who were relegated in 99.
Sorry that your writer, Luke, says he never got to see Jack play. I suppose we all have greats that we wish we’d seen play (Tommy Northcott and Robin Stubbs for me, but way before my time!) In an age where the term “legend” is bandied around for anything, Rodney Jack stands in amongst the very best and most worthy of the title.
Nice to read about how appreciated Rodney was at Torquay though, of course, I knew that already. As the owner/manager of Lambada FC, who brought Rodney to England in 1995 on our UK Tour, I can vouch that he was a wonderful lad with a fantastic attitude who I knew was going to make it. I brought him to Torquay near the start of our Tour for two reasons: the first was to make sure no other club got to see him play as I knew he would be snapped up and the second was as a replacement for another of my lads, Greg Goodridge, who I brought to Torquay two years before and had now signed for Premier League QPR. Of course I have followed Rodney’s career closely over the ensuing years and we still chat on Facebook, even though he lives in the North East of England and I am coaching in La Liga in Spain. He remains one of the best footballers I have had the pleasure to coach in all my career. As TUFC fans will agree with, I am sure.
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