Jason Jarrett played over 100 times for Wigan Athletic, winning two promotions during his time at the club.
Pre-interview Jarrett remarked that I should be wary of the amount of calories in my hot chocolate, but I dare not tell him this is my second of the day or he might start to pass judgement. With AGL enjoying the extra chocolate and marshmallow topping, and JJ his bottle of water (it’s just bloody rain if you ask me), we began…
How did your move to Wigan come about?
I was doing well for Bury and played well against Wigan a couple of times during that season which alerted them to me. I think Bury went into administration at the time so had to sell their best players and Wigan took advantage of that basically.
I was sold on the cheap [£75,000] along with Paddy Kenny and Chris Armstrong (to Oldham) because of the financial trouble Bury were in.
Not many will remember this but you actually played at Springfield Park against Wigan Athletic…
Yeah, that’s right. It was my debut for Blackpool, an FA Cup match – Wigan won 4-3. I can’t remember if I started the game or not.
You came on in the final minute, Blackpool scored just after you came on if that’s any consolation.
Ah right, well it was almost 18 years back but I can vaguely remember the stadium and going in there thinking ‘they need a new stadium, these lads’.
Were you ever on the end of a Jimmy Bullard prank?
There’s so many things that went on with Jimmy, most of which tended to involve him being naked. He tended not to wear clothes much of the time, whether that be at training or on the coach.
Out in Barbados he was no different but there’s nothing specific I can repeat. Jet skis, late nights and lots of partying, that’s all I can say about that.
Why did you reject a contract at Wigan in the summer of 2005 and move to Norwich?
It’s simple really, I just wasn’t happy with the contract on the table. I wanted to stay – they knew I wanted to stay – but when it came to discussing terms I wasn’t happy with the contract. It wasn’t something that could be resolved either. I’d been at the club for three and a half years so I was disappointed with the offer.
Do you think you were taken advantage of at that time?
I wouldn’t say I was taken advantage of. I had a bad injury during that season and instead of offering me a contract while I was injured they let my contract run all the way until the end which I was upset about. I’d been loyal to the club and I only had months left on my contract but they still decided not to offer me anything until the last minute so I was disappointed with that.
When it came to the negotiations Wigan probably thought they had the upper hand because we were in the Premier League now.
Were you especially surprised with it because the contract length was substantial, yet the terms still weren’t great?
Yeah exactly. On paper I was still going to be one of the lowest paid players even though I had been there for almost four years. I felt that I deserved more because of that and because I had shown at times during that final season how good I can be. If I had signed the contract, okay it would have been three years, but I still would have been one of the lowest paid.
In hindsight would you have liked to stay at Wigan?
In hindsight you could say yes, but I’m not one of those people who looks back on the past anymore. If I had stayed, maybe two weeks later I could have been knocked over by a bus – so there’s no point in looking back and thinking what might have been.
I would have obviously liked to have stayed at Wigan longer because Wigan were my favourite club, but it’s happened now so there’s no point in wishing for anything different.
A lot of Wigan fans were shocked to hear of the depression you went through in your career after leaving the JJB. When did this start?
It started not long after I left. When I moved to Norwich after Wigan I quickly became homesick and I found myself in a bad place. Firstly I was regretting not staying at Wigan, and secondly I found myself in Norwich not playing and not being able to perform the way I used to. It all escalated from there and began to get gradually worse over the years.
During this time did you receive any support from the Players Football Association (PFA)?
No, because back then I didn’t have the courage to tell anybody about what I was going through. It wasn’t that the PFA weren’t there for me, I just wasn’t opening up to anybody. Nobody pulled me aside to ask why I wasn’t performing very well so I had to deal with it myself for a long time.
When did you first tell someone what was going on?
Properly, not until about four or five years after I first started suffering from it. It got to the point where I had to stop playing football altogether because it was getting me really down. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do on the pitch.
Do you think footballers who go through depression receive enough support?
I think it’s gradually improving. Clubs and players both need to be educated further on it though, it’s not a bad thing for either to have that knowledge about depression.
It’s going to benefit the clubs because if a player isn’t in the best frame of mind – why wouldn’t they want to help the player to be in a better state to perform better? It makes sense that there should be more people and places for footballers to turn to. It’s alright being physically good, but really it’s all about your mental game.
The PFA are improving and it’s something I’m working on too. I’m a therapist now and I want to go more now the sports route to hopefully footballers can come to me if they have any problems.
How much of a part did depression play in you going from winning promotion to the Premier League, to playing for the likes of Airbus UK and Chester City?
It played a big part, it ruined half of my career. In what should have been the peak of my career I wasn’t able to perform the way I could have done. If you don’t perform, gradually you’ll fall to a lesser club, then a lesser club, and so on. Having said that I did end up playing over 300 league matches during my career, it wasn’t all bad. I look back now and think ‘at least I was a footballer’ – I don’t allow myself to think about it in a negative way anymore.
How did your time at Wigan compare to sitting in a restaurant with your Salford teammates waiting on the result of a Darlington match to see if you had won the league?
Salford was a good little adventure but what we had at Wigan was totally different because you spend virtually every day with your teammates and you don’t at sides like Salford. Those three years were special at Wigan, so much so that we probably could have even won back to back promotions if we didn’t bottle it in the first season [in the Championship].
Nobody really spoke about aiming for promotion from the Championship [during 2004-2005] but we just knew that with Roberts and Ellington up front, who were on fire, we’d probably win most games.
Were you back to enjoying your football late on in your career at Chester City?
If I’m perfectly honest I didn’t particularly enjoy my time at Chester. Not because of the club – it’s a good little club – but the fact I was still battling against myself to a certain extent even in non-league. Salford [in 2014-2015] was probably the first time in a while I was back to enjoying playing football.
What’s the funniest thing you saw/heard from the crowd during your career?
I remember we played Millwall at The Den and the fans were fighting each other, which was quite funny. Also one time we were down at Crewe and an old man behind the dugout wacked Leighton Baines on the back of the head when he was on the bench. Bainsey was only about 17 at the time too so it was hilarious!
Not including any promotions, what was the best thing about your time at Wigan?
The players and the fans. Me, Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts driving into training every morning playing FIFA while one of us drove. If you lost we’d pull over and you’d have to drive. It used to take us about an hour to get to training in Ellington’s car even though it was only half an hour away.
What were the pre-season tours like?
Paul Jewell used to take us to Holland all the time, he loved it. It was a small village in Holland, the training facilities were good but it was boring. The hotel rooms weren’t brilliant and there wasn’t much to do, but it was a quite popular destination for football clubs.
What’s your all time 11 of players that you’ve played alongside?
GK: John Filan, RB: Graham Alexander, CB: Arjan de Zeeuw, CB: Jason Shackell, LB: Leighton Baines, CM: Danny Huckerbie, CM: Graham Kavanagh, CM: Jimmy Bullard, ST: Jason Roberts, ST: Nathan Ellington