The news on Thursday 13th April 2017 was dominated by three topics. A rise in violent crime, the personal lives of two former Spice Girls, and a video showing a group of Non League footballers singing along to R. Kelly. So the first question that had to be asked of Billericay Town star striker Jake Robinson was obvious.
Jake, are you and your Billericay Town teammates really the world’s greatest?
No! We’ve no other songs lined up, and we’re not planning to trouble the X-Factor in the groups category, although there might be a couple of decent solo artists in there! But the video did its job. We knew we’d get a bit of stick, but we did it to raise the profile of the club and when the video went viral it worked. But having played at a number of clubs I have no difficulty imagining what will be discussed in the opposition dressing room wherever we play this season. At the end of the day it was a bit of a laugh, and we’ve taken all of the mickey taking since in good spirit.
So, how does it feel to be one of the Bostik League galacticos?
I was just thinking earlier that this is an entirely new experience for me. I’ve never before been part of a team that was favourites for the league and expected to go out and win most games. In terms of the club and where it’s going, it’s almost as if we’re a professional outfit; obviously I’ve played for quite a few professional clubs and it seems like we’re moving in that direction at the speed of light. As a player, it’s really, really exciting. I’ve never seen odds like that before (William Hill are quoting odds of 1/10 on Billericay to win the League)- in a twenty four horse race for the odds to be that short it shows that people are expecting big things from us.
Does that not put you under an enormous amount of pressure?
I guess it does, although it’s not something that, as players, we try to think about. Everyone is going to be coming to us and raising their game, they’ll all want to beat us, so there will be pressure- but you’d expect that. We’ve got a fantastic squad and it’ll be our job to live up to that top billing.
You’ve played for a few ‘characters’ over the years. Steve King v Glenn Tamplin- which is better?
They’re similar in many ways! But actually, despite the image, Steve King is a man who keeps himself to himself an awful lot. He’s put together fantastic squads and is very good at getting the best out of his players; he’s had a lot of success. Glenn is an extravert. He speaks his mind, you’re never in doubt about what he wants from you, but he’s very new to the managerial game so it’s too early to compare. Hopefully he’ll be successful soon, too. What gets missed, perhaps, is the work he’s doing to improve the Billericay community. It’s not just the team; he’s improving the infrastructure, engaging with local people, creating jobs, trying to give the town of Billericay a club that they can get behind and be an actual part of, not just support from the terraces. Away from football he does an enormous amount of charity work, much of which doesn’t get talked about- he may make a lot of noise, but he puts his money where his mouth is. Football comes and goes, players come and go- I think he’ll want his legacy to be what he’s building for the community, not what happens on the pitch.
The signings over the summer have been unprecedented. To add to the likes of Paul Konchesky and Jamie O’Hara you’ve also got Louis Theophanous, Danny’s Walker and Waldren from Welling, Robbie Evans from Wrexham, Ricky Modeste from Dover. You’ve also just been reunited with Sam Deering. How do you feel about that?
Really delighted. Just the other day I was watching a DVD of some of the goals I scored at Whitehawk, and I’d never really appreciated just how much Sam was involved in them. As a striker that’s exactly the kind of player you want behind you; you know he’s going to create chances, you know he’s going to take quality set pieces, and to have him back in the team with me is just fantastic. What with Sam, and the quality we’ll get from Ricky Modeste down the wing- I pride myself on my movement and if you know that someone is going to deliver a quality cross exactly where and when you want it, that’s fantastic. Obviously I’m not going to be able to perhaps challenge some of the bigger defenders in the air, so having people around you who can consistently put the ball on a sixpence- that’s exactly what I need.
Given you’ve played almost three hundred games in the professional world, do you see Billericay Town making their way into the Football League?
It’ll be difficult, but I don’t see why not. It’s moving a lot faster than you would expect; promotion is the aim for this season and, having played in the National League South for four years the squad I’m in now would be more than capable of competing there. If you then manage to get out of that League you’re only one away from the Football League. The ground won’t be a problem with the work that’s being done to it, and if we build momentum and continue to strengthen, then I think we’d have a chance. You need financial backing to be successful these days, and we’ve got that, so who knows?
Taking you back a few years then, you started your footballing life with Brighton and Hove Albion and they’re now in the Premier League. How do you feel about that?
I’m so happy for the club. It’s been a long time coming. I joined just after perhaps their darkest years, and I played when they were based at the Withdean Stadium (an athletics venue on the outskirts of the city). They always had ambitions to get back to the highest level, but it all seemed so far away- we were yo-yoing between the bottom of the Championship and League One, we even went down from League One in my last year there. This promotion is such a fantastic thing for the city, and all through the summer there have been so many celebrations, and everyone is so excited for next season. Now I’m back living in the city I’m a part of that again, and I’m so delighted for everyone, although I don’t know so many people at the club now. It’s great for the club, the city, the entire area.
You are still an enormous part of their history though. The club’s youngest ever goalscorer?
That’s right! I’ve held that record for a number of years and I’ve got nervous a couple of times with the likes of Jake Forster-Caskey coming through, but it’s something I’m very proud of and obviously very quick to mention! It’s one of the highlights of my career. Hopefully they’ll now go and buy a load of experienced strikers and I’ll keep it for a bit longer!
So, a bit closer to home, your brother Lee is a star striker for Newhaven in the Southern Combination Football League. Do you have a competition about who will score the most goals every season?
We generally don’t, because he would normally win by a long way! I think I was just ahead of him last year because I was lucky enough to be in fantastic scoring form although he still got twenty six, but the year before he scored something like fifty goals and I was nowhere near. I love getting down to watch him as often as I can, but we tend to play on the same day so it doesn’t happen as regularly as I’d like. I’m very proud of him, but it’s such a shame that he never got the opportunity to go and try his luck at a higher level. But he’s happy doing what he’s doing and scoring goals every week! And now he’s manager of the Under 18’s at Newhaven, too.
Perhaps he might end up as your manager in the future?
I’m sure he thinks I needs some more coaching, so why not!
Billericay Town will be the side that every other club in the Bostik Premier Division wants to beat. With challenges from the likes of Dulwich Hamlet, who look stronger this season than last, Margate- who will be desperate to get back to success after last season’s relegation- and perhaps Leatherhead, who have left the Jimmy Bullard era behind them with a string of quality signings, you’d have to hope that it won’t be as easy as predicted for ‘Ricay to sweep all before them.
Glenn Tamplin has claimed that his side will be top of the pile for the entire season. William Hill have offered odds that back up that statement. Both have made lots of money from being right more often than not, but football is not always predictable. You’d have to think that both Messrs Tamplin and Hill will need Jake Robinson to be on top form over the next nine months if their forecasts are to be correct.
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