Taken from Saturday's programme with Plymouth Argyle, David Mitchell caught up with midfielder Jack Sowerby who is settling back into life at Highbury.
It is fair to say that Jack Sowerby’s Fleetwood Town career has been on the slow burner in terms of appearances, with fifty-eight made since his debut at home to Colchester United back in August 2015. That day was so long ago that he struggled to name the opposition when asked!
“I remember coming on when Antoni Sarcevic went off. I wasn’t on the pitch for many minutes but should have scored! It was a good start, though. We won 4-0.”
Jack is the only player from that squad of eighteen who is still at the club. On that day, he became the seventy-seventh player to make his EFL debut for Fleetwood Town. Only the two Ash’s, Eastham and Hunter, debuted earlier from current players. That figure has now risen to 134 players showing that the lad from Preston has been round a while.
It has been a slow fifty, much in the style of Geoffrey Boycott, to quote a cricketing analogy. However, with forty-five appearances in the last twelve months, for Fleetwood and on loan at Carlisle United, there are signs that the twenty-three-year-old is rapidly gaining maturity as a professional footballer.
Since returning from Carlisle, he has become a regular in Joey Barton’s midfield. The time spent at Brunton Park has been a big factor in that development. Jack went on loan in August 2018, after signing a new contract for Fleetwood in the summer. He returned to Highbury at the end of January.
“I needed to get out on loan, play a few games and get some experience. I definitely came back more confidently after my time at Carlisle. It was a big squad at Fleetwood at the time I moved north, and other players were coming in. I was in my early twenties and just needed that opportunity to move my career forward. I needed to play week in, week out and get loads of games under my belt. It couldn’t have turned out for the better. I got twenty-eight opportunities in a fairly short time.”
John Sheridan has clearly been an important influence for the midfielder player, managing him both at Fleetwood then at Carlisle.
“There’s no doubt about that,” Jack agreed. “I started nine games under him towards the end of the 2017-18 season at Fleetwood, when we got ourselves clear of relegation, and then went to Brunton Park when he was there.
“Having signed the new contract for Fleetwood I knew that my longer-term future was here, but it was important for my immediate development to get more match time. I was coming on from the bench during the first few games for Carlisle, then there was an injury or two, so I got chucked straight in and kept my place. I really enjoyed it. Playing every week has given me more confidence and I’ve grown up into a man, so to speak.”
Jack’s loan period coincided with a second at Carlisle for fellow Fleetwood player, Ashley Nadesan.
“Nadders going to Carlisle at around the same time made my decision easier because it’s important to have familiar faces around you in a new environment. I also knew Paul Murray from Fleetwood days. He was coaching me here and when he spoke to me about what Carlisle were offering me it just seemed the perfect fit.”
I asked Jack if he was a fan of long journeys, with Carlisle’s position being right up near the Scottish border!?
“Travelling north wasn’t too bad because I car shared with Nadders and Adam Campbell from Morecambe. “It made things easier. Nadders is a nice, quiet guy to be around and we went from the Ibis at Preston and picked Adam up at Lancaster. The weather tried its best to stop us on occasions, and made us late a time or two, but we never failed to get there for training or matches. Away games seem a long way from Carlisle, but I didn’t have to travel the length of the country as players like me would be picked up from Manchester.
“On coach journeys, I like my films and TV series so I get my lap top out and can watch them all day! I’ve seen Nadders improve at Carlisle. He’s had chances and scored goals as well as getting assists. Like me, he’s definitely become a better player and has been getting regular chances since he got back to Fleetwood. “He needed that goal at Burton Albion and that will kick start him, I’m sure.”
Jack paid tribute to the support he received from Carlisle fans: “The support is brilliant, away as well. Even as far as London they would turn up in numbers and it was a real pleasure to play in front of them. Being the only EFL team in Cumbria, it is important that they do well. You can see what the history of the club means to them when you are in the ground and walking into the changing room.”
Curiously, two of Jack’s seven Fleetwood goals were in matches at Brunton Park, both in the EPL Trophy. “They might have helped when it came to signing but I did wonder how I’d get greeted by the fans! It’s always nice to score goals, though, wherever they are!”
Back in Squires Gate days, Jack scored for fun as a striker in the North West Counties league. Now he has to bide his time for clear chances, but scoring is no less important to him.
“I do believe that I have an eye for goal, as I showed at Squires Gate, and scored five from midfield for Carlisle. My next aim moving forward is to add goals to my role within the Fleetwood Town team. As midfield players, we need to help the strikers out with goals if we are going to be where we want to be as a team.”
We talked about several other strikes in Fleetwood colours, including the day when he got off the mark with a sweet finish after just three minutes at home to Peterborough in October 2016.
“I will always remember that one. Then there was the televised goal in the FA Cup against Chorley in November 2017. I came on at right wing back. We were down to ten men and I managed to sneak in ahead of the keeper, getting the outside of my foot to it. It was slightly unorthodox but important!
“The only goal at AFC Wimbledon away last March was important for a different reason. The conditions were horrendous, and they were trying to get it called off. There was very little effort made. We scored early and were determined to see the game out. It was to be the only goal.”
For a player associated with this rapidly developing club for four years, Jack must have seen some changes on and off the pitch.
“We were training at Fylde Rugby Club in Lytham when I came into Barry Nicholson’s Development Squad as a nineteen-year-old. I had scored a lot of goals in the North West Counties but when Graham Alexander was manager here, he knew what type of player I was because he had coached me at Preston. That’s when I came back to midfield professionally.
“What we have now at Poolfoot is amazing by comparison. There is everything we need. Credit goes to the Chairman for taking us in the right direction. I’ve enjoyed playing under Joey Barton. He is obviously a fellow midfielder and he’s given me the chance to learn new things and develop my game to become the best I can.
“We aren’t the exact same midfield roles, but he has given me the chance to learn how other roles operate within the team. I have also welcomed input from the other new faces in the coaching staff. “The gaffer has brought in experienced players and you are learning from some who have been to the very top of the game.
“Now I’m back in League One, after a spell in League Two, I’m seeing similarities, but the higher level is definitely quicker and more physical. I’m looking to play well and keep my spot for the rest of season. One game at a time, win as many as we can and see where it gets us.”
Patience has now started to reap benefits for this much-improved footballer.