By Damien Wilkinson
Look around the current City squad. See any long serving team members? Thought not.
Following Lee Bullock’s departure at the end of last season,
James Hanson Jon McLauhglin is the club’s longest serving player, joining in 2009, and currently having played over 130 60 games.
Given the rapid turnover of players, including an increasing use of loan players, compounded with the manager merry-go-round seen in recent years, the average length of service of the rest of the current squad is perhaps better measured in months rather than years.
Indeed it’s hard to see the day of the loyal club servant returning any time soon and the likes of Wayne Jacobs and his 11 year playing service, not to mention his stint on the management team, being repeated.
Time then to review Wayne’s career focusing on his time at VP and show some well-deserved respect to an oft unsung City player.
Sheffield born Wayne Jacobs began his career at Sheffield Wednesday in 1985 as a youth player, before making the step up to the first team with 6 appearances in 1987-1988. A more productive time at Hull City followed with 129 games, and Jakes began to carve a reputation for consistency and was one of Hull’s better players during this period. Unfortunately, towards the end, he suffered a cruciate ligament injury and was never to return to first team action, Hull boss Terry Dolan dispensing with his services during Christmas 1992, with Hull also in the midst of financial worries.
A solitary season at Rotherham followed and whilst 42 matches dispelled Hull’s concern regarding the injury, he was released at the end of the season.
Rotherham’s decision was to be Bradford City’s gain, as Lennie Lawrence signed Jacobs on a free transfer amongst a flurry of pre-season activity in 1994, which also saw John Taylor, Jon Ford, Shan Murray and Richard Liburd join the club.
After a reasonable first season from an individual perspective, the next season would see the unlikely late season surge to the playoffs, Blackpool and Wembley capping promotion in some style.
The following season commenced the start of a recurring theme for Jakes, notably that of having to deal with pretenders to his left back berth. I seem to recall continually thinking at the time his days were surely numbered, but as the likes of Andy Kiwomya, in a wingback role, and Lee Todd were all heralded but seen off by Mr Consistent.
Fast forward to the first Premiership season and the arrival of Andy Myers from Chelsea, who started with the number 3 shirt and as first choice left back. Not for long! Jacobs finished that season with more appearances as Myers struggled to capture consistent form. More of the same followed the next season with Ian Nolan the latest victim.
The start of the decline then occurred, as City dropped down the divisions and, even more fundamentally, suffered two administrations. Jacobs remained throughout, seeing off yet more challengers, such as Paul Heckingbottom and Lewis Emanuel who came and went. However, injury during 2004 followed by spells in and out of the team, culminated in an extended time out of the side and 2005, in his testimonial season, saw time called on Wayne Jacobs playing career at City. Fairly typically this was a low key end to 318 matches and 12 goals in the Claret and Amber. He did manage to come on for the last seven minutes of the 4-2 win over Bournemouth at VP, receiving an emotional send off.
Halifax Town and Chris Wilder then beckoned and the job as assistant player manager, with the curtain finally coming down on his playing days after 11 appearances for the Shaymen. Wayne’s previous management experience being limited to a stint in 2003, being a one match stint, prior to Bryan Robson becoming manager, which also involved dropping a certain Dean Windass from the team!
Following Stuart McCall’s appointment in June 2007, Wayne Jacobs was to many, a surprising choice as assistant manager, but he obviously couldn’t resist the opportunity to return to the club. This level of surprise was to manifest itself during McCall’s reign somewhat unusually, in the form of a frequent questioning of Jacobs’ capabilities by a vocal minority within the fan base. Compare this to the relative and anonymity enjoyed by current number 2, Steve Parkin and I wonder whether this was mainly due to a reluctance to avoid abusing the initially untouchable Stuart!
In a similar manner to his long standing custody of his left back spot, Jakes retained his role following the appointment of Peter Taylor in 2010. Taylor then publicly gave Jacobs strong backing, as if to quell the previous doubters, and Jacobs became an integral part of Taylor’s backroom team. However, the team slipped as the season progressed and with Taylor eventually falling on his sword, the last gasp win against Stockport, incredibly just over a year ago, also marked Jacobs’ last involvement, and he could be seen shedding a tear after the final whistle. Jacobs was then put on “gardening leave” shortly after – an ignominious end for a loyal City servant.
Understandably, Jakes initially returned to the club in a limited capacity, mainly through associations with his admirable charity work, and “managed” a supporters’ side in a fund raising match at VP last season, but seems to have rekindled his love affair with the club in the current season.
Indeed, this was amply shown at a recent Skipton Bantams meeting, where Jakes was invited to a Q&A session (the night after the Arsenal match so spirits were very high!).
Jakes spoke very passionately about this time at the club, and his strong positivity and belief shone through. This ranged from helping convince the dejected players in the dressing room after the Blackpool first leg defeat that they could turn things round, to a strong feeling earlier in the 1996-97 season that City would secure First Division safety in the final game.
He talked about the difficulties of having to drop Dean Windass from the side in 2003, given his long association with him and his family. The resulting frostiness took some time to get over, Deano eventually conceding Jakes had done right thing (which clearly meant a lot to Jakes). Regarding the fall from the Premiership – Jakes lamented that the team spirit was destroyed by the recruitment of highly paid players, who the club incredibly dared not show the training facilities to, prior to them signing.
The various managers throughout his career were discussed – Jakes not really having a bad word to say on any of them. Of his time as assistant manager, he noted that he would frequently offer strong opinions, but if these were not taken, he would respect that and provide a united front with either Stuart or Peter Taylor. Interesting he felt Peter Taylor had not quite realised what he would encounter within the club with regard to facilities and infrastructure, and this rankled from the outset. As for Stuart, Jakes feels that he will one day return to City to complete some “unfinished business”.
The role that his strong faith has played throughout his career came across fervently. At the current time, Jakes feels he is best served carrying out his role associated with the One In A Million School project, and has no immediate plans to return to football coaching in a full time capacity.
It was also clear that he is following this season with keen interest, and it was interesting to hear his views on Phil Parkinson’s tactical formations and the strong team spirit that has emerged. This was fondly compared to the City promotion squad of 1998-99 which Jakes felt was probably the best side he had played in – all strong characters in different ways, could play a bit (!) but could also get stuck into battles if required.
Looking back Jakes was around during promotions, relegations, administrations and in particular the Blackpool play off semi-final, Wembley, final day of the season triumphs against Hull, QPR, Wolves and Liverpool tell only a small part of an incredible journey, which unfortunately also included personal tragedy. Wayne Jacobs always conducted himself with the utmost dignity and deserves our respect as a true City Gent. Cheers Jakes and hope your long association with the club continues!