Friday, 7 December 2007

An Interview with Iain Jenkins

Walking me down the Deva tunnel, through the blue double doors and into the East Stand, the former Everton youngster sat me down on one of the blue seats with a beaming smile clearly pleased to be back at the Deva. Just as we were about to begin our conversation a distant "Hey Jenks! How ya doing?" could be heard echoing from the voice of our approaching groundsman, Gary Kent. When the Deva is empty it has a strange ghostly echo and feel, but that didn't prevent Gary Kent from reminiscing over previous years with 'Jenks'.

His popularity within the club is there for all to see and will no doubt become a favoured signing by Steve Mungall. Iain explained to me how he became a Chester player for the second time: "I found out that the gaffer here was interested in bringing me back to Chester. I was on a free transfer in the summer and they wanted to get the deal wrapped up as soon as they could. I was quite interested in coming back as well because I know a lot about the club, I was skipper here, won promotion here and got relegated here so I know a lot about the club and I was only too pleased to come back."

But whilst making his comeback debut with the Blues, Iain must have had a bit of shock in the first half when Chester found the going tough against a well organised Morecambe outfit. Iain said: "It was a bit of a battle for the first twenty minutes, there was not much football played. In the second half, I think we showed that we played the better football. We got at them a little bit more and then with the standard of football in the second half, there's really not much difference from the Conference and a Third Division. As you said in the first half it was a bit of a shock for the first twenty minutes, everyone just kept lumping the ball forward and then when we did get the ball down and played we looked the better side. In the end I quite enjoyed the game."

Having made well over a hundred and sixty appearances for the Blues last time round, Iain has many great memories about his first spell around the Deva Stadium. He points to two key highlights that surround the great promotion season under boss Graham Barrow. Iain explained: "There are two highlights for me. The first year I signed here we got promoted and I every single game and the second would be when I became the skipper of the side. I made forty five appearances as skipper. I've had some really really good times here, more good times than bad times and hopefully we can have more good times and start pushing ourselves back up into the league."

Iain has seen a plethora of great characters around the club and was only too willing to begin sharing comic stories about those former colleagues of his. "Eddie Bishop used to bring funny videos on the coaches, he was just crazy. As we are sat here now, behind us is the sponsors box and he had a bet that he could smash the window with the ball when we're training. Mike Pejic was boss at the time and when he did smash the window with the ball everywhere went dead quiet. That's just eddie for you! There's a few good characters around the club now, but it's a young team, a very young team and that's only good for us because if we do survive this year as I think we will they can only get better. Steve Mungall is a getting good side together and he wants a few more signings and the youngsters can only get better."

Iain begun his football career at Goodison Park, signing on as a trainee. During that time, he begun to force himself into the first team making three full starts and two substitute appearances in football's top flight during his two season stint with the toffee men. "I started at Everton, but I was a professional swimmer first. I had a chance of going swimming or football and I had to make that choice, so I started my career at Everton and went to football. I broke my ancle on my debut, and only made another handful of appearances for Everton in the first team. Then I went across to Bradford City on loan, then signed for Chester City, spent five great years around here and then got a £200,000 move to Dundee United. Seven caps for Northern Ireland and that was a great experience going away around the world with the International side."

But the Northern Ireland International had a tough time with injury problems since he joined United from Chester in March 1998. A permanent fixture at left back in Chester's play off campaign of 1996-97, Jenkins talent was spotted and he subsequently made the move north of the border to Tannadice. However, the defender played just four times under then manager Paul Sturrock, mainly due to a niggling back injury, and had found it difficult to get back to full fitness. After a nightmare ten months he was ready to make his comeback in a pre-season friendly against Irish outfit Longford in July 1999, but went over on his ankle, further delaying his comeback preparations. When he regained full fitness he challenged for a permanent first team place but at the end of the 1999/2000 season he found himself out of favour and return to join up again with manager Kevin Ratcliffe, this time with Shrewsbury Town. "I worked my way to Shrewsbury and then back home to my native Chester. In footballing terms I'm still only young, I'm only twenty nine so hopefully, I think I've got another five or six years to offer the club. The way I felt on the pitch today was fine so hopefully things are looking up."

And Iain will be glad to get a full ninety minutes under his belt, especially having had such a torrid time with injuries over the last four or five years. "I hope I've put injuries behind me now. I don't want to see a treatment table ever again! I've been unlucky with injuries at times but hopefully they are all behind me now and as you've seen today I've been running around injury free, there's no problems with the way I run or tackle. I'll be taking one game at a time but I want to play every single game I can for Chester City."

Now Iain is looking forward to the difficult task ahead with Chester City, he firmly believes the quality of football isn't that far off the third division and that didn't give Iain any doubts when he considered dropping out of the football league. "I don't think there's much difference between the Conference and Third Division. I have dropped down to the Conference as I need and want to be playing first team football. Because of the injuries I've had people will look at Iain Jenkins and say 'oh he's been injured'. But I'm happy to prove a few people wrong by playing week in and week out. I know I'm not guaranteed first team football, nobody ever is, but I have that chance rather than going somewhere and sitting on the bench."

Many people will be pleased to see Iain Jenkins return to the Deva Stadium, non more so than Chester City manager Steve Mungall who was delighted to capture the defender. When announcing the signing, Mungall said: "Iain is an experienced player, he's a good defender, has two good feet, and he's a good talker." That'll be exactly what struggling Chester will need if they are to stave off the threat of relegation from the Nationwide Conference, and as Iain concluded our conversation, he thinks Chester have a good future. "No problem, yeah definitely. From what I've seen all week and the way we've shown we can play in the second half today, almost definitely."

No comments: