Player Interview: Alnwick Town v RFC - Rothbury Football Club
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MATCH PREVIEW: Alnwick Town v Rothbury – George Dobbins League Cup

James Jackson and Tony Brown are no strangers to Alnwick Town’s St. James’s Park.

The Rothbury midfield duo have played an integral part in the Hillmen’s rise up through the Northern Alliance and are relishing a return to the ground in the George Dobbins League Cup this weekend.

Both players spent many seasons pulling on the black and white shirt at Town before bringing their wealth of experience and talent over the B6341 to Coquetdale. They were key performers when the Reds lifted the Second Division championship in 2018/19.

Now approaching the veteran stage of his playing career, Jackson looks back on his time at Alnwick fondly. He started out at Town aged 11 in manager Ray Smith’s side that he carried through into Senior football as the Reserves.

“On one of my first appearances I remember scoring a delightful chip up at Wooler and jumping on the still current Alnwick chairman Tommy McKay in celebration – a tale we both love remembering!” laughed Jackson.

 “I made the jump into the Northern League first team in my late teens. That was a fantastic experience and it was something which made Alnwick so unique for this area -without a budget we were forced to play and give local lads a chance.”

“I snuck away to Chester-Le-Street for a season after three or four seasons and regretted it so made a swift return with my tail between my legs and returned for another three or four seasons where I scored a few more goals and peeled the top off a few times resulting in numerous bookings,” continued the skillful ball player.

“It’s hard to pick a single highlight from my time at Alnwick as we weren’t the most successful team but in comparison to our budget and the teams we were playing we did well and we had a cracking team spirit.”

The Reds’ attempts to get the game switched to mid-week to avoid a clash with players and fans travelling down to Wembley for Newcastle United’s Carabao Cup Final on Sunday have proved unsuccessful and the side will be weakened by unavailability.

“It’ll be a great day, for both clubs as a showcase for local football but also as a measure for just how far we at Rothbury have came. Six years ago this fixture would’ve only ever happened as part of a pre or mid-season friendly behind closed doors for fitness. Now we’re playing one league apart, it’s crazy! I’m looking forward to the game, but it would’ve been nice to play it midweek,” continued Jackson.

“Alnwick Town is a great club with some amazing people behind the scenes. It’s a club that often gets a lot of stick from the local and surrounding areas which I’ve never quite understood fully, but they’re having quite a successful period so all the criticism has gone quiet… hopefully if we get a result that abuse will return but in the end I really do hope for Tommy, Rob, Ian and the 472 that Alnwick Town return where they belong one day soon and that is the Northern League!”

The talented Tony Brown is also approaching veteran status and has his fingers crossed that he will return from a short spell of illness for the fixture.

“I still can’t believe this is the draw to be honest – I spent the best part of 20 years at Alnwick all the way through the juniors and into the Alliance Premier with the first team, winning promotion to the Northern League and a Benevolent Bowl along the way,” said the popular Alnwick lad.

“They were brilliant, brilliant times. It’s a club I still love and it’ll be great to catch up with old friends. All that being said, like James says it’s the perfect opportunity for our lads to show we can compete and to prove they aren’t out of place at that level, because ultimately that’s where we want to be,” he continued.

“I haven’t played as much as I’d have liked this season for various different reasons but the lads have been excellent for the most of the season so hopefuly we can get the result. Ideal scenario for me, Rothbury go through and Alnwick make it back to the Northern League come May.”

Rothbury officials emphasised they would greatly appreciate any travelling support to come over the moors to cheer the Division One side on as they go into the tie (1.30pm kick-off) as underdogs against the in-form Premier Division black and whites.

Words: Jon Tait