Jack Hobbs

Former Player Remembers: Jack Hobbs

Former Leicester City captain and centre-back Jack Hobbs, who won the Young Player and Player of the Year awards in his time at the Club, was an FA Youth Cup winner at Liverpool before making his first team debut for the Reds.
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Jack was also an England Under-19 international and, earlier this season, he spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career in football, which started at Lincoln City, and also included spells at Scunthorpe United, Hull City, Nottingham Forest and his current club Bolton Wanderers.

Fresh from training, and relaxing at the Whites Hotel in Bolton, Jack began by explaining how he started his football career at Lincoln City: "My mum and dad were both in the Navy at Portsmouth where I was born, but we moved to Spalding when I was fairly young.

"I started going to the Mayflower Football Academy and this led to a trial with Lincoln City when I was really young so I did all my youth football at Lincoln.

"After I’d played for the reserves regularly I travelled with the first team a bit. When I was 16 I made my debut against Bristol Rovers at home. I was the youngest Lincoln player to ever appear in the first team!

"I played for about three minutes and made a couple of passes and a header. I was proud to have made my debut. When I look at a photo I can’t believe how young I looked!"

In August 2005, Jack signed for Liverpool: "Initially, I thought I was going to Arsenal but that fell through. Then Liverpool gave me a two-week trial. I did well and I signed on my 17th birthday. We won the FA Youth Cup in 2006, beating Manchester City.

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Jack Hobbs
Jack Hobbs

In 2006, Jack was a part of a Liverpool side which lifted the FA Youth Cup crown.

"In that side, we had Paul Anderson, who’s at Mansfield, Jay Spearing, who later went to Leicester, Steven Darby, who is now at Bolton, Godwin Antwi, Miki Roque, who has passed away, and Ryan Flynn who went to Sheffield United and Oldham.

"Steve Heighway was the head of the youth set up. He was some player. They still sing songs about him!"

In 2007, Jack was selected for the England Under-19 side.

He remembers: "I was immensely proud to have got three caps at that level. It was a bit surreal, as it hadn’t been long since I’d been at Lincoln. I played against Holland, the Czech Republic and Russia.

"I played a few games for Liverpool’s first team in the Premier League and League Cup. I had a couple of games against Reading, one against Cardiff and one at Chelsea, when Crouchy (Peter Crouch) was sent off. I made my Premier League debut against Bolton, when I came on at half-time.

"Then Liverpool brought Martin Škrtel, so I went on loan to Scunthorpe, in the Championship to play some games. Some were at right-back, which was a bit strange. I scored my first senior goal whilst I was there.

"Unfortunately we went down (in 2008, along with Leicester City) but it was a great experience for me."

Jack then explained how his next move was a year-long loan with Leicester City, newly relegated to League 1 for the only time in the Club’s history.

It was a Friday night, Birch did his run and we got the trophy at the end of the game. It was a mass celebration. That was an awesome night.

Jack Hobbs

He added: "My agent told me about Leicester’s interest. It was a big club, too big for League 1. The training ground was brilliant and the stadium was fantastic. Nigel Pearson had come in and he was rebuilding.

"He brought in young players wanting to make their way in the game, like Max Gradel, Michael Morrison, Lloyd Dyer and Andy King, who was already there of course. David Martin also came with me on loan from Liverpool.

"There was massive experience there too with the likes of Matt Oakley, Steve Howard, Bruno Berner and Chris Powell. We had a good blend. It was the perfect place for me. It worked really well for me. It was fantastic.

"When I made my league debut for Leicester, at the age of 19 years and 357 days, I became the world record holder as the youngest player to have played in all four English Divisions!

"When I arrived at Leicester the Club was at its lowest ebb but it rebuilt from there. Nigel, Shakey (Craig Shakespeare) and Steve Walsh were brilliant together. The support we got as players was second to none.

"We had nutritionists, psychologists and sports scientists. It was a good transition which worked really well."

Leicester City won the League 1 title in 2009 at the first attempt.

"I remember we lost at Millwall at home quite early on but it was a great season," he continued. "It was really pleasing to do well because when teams go down to League 1, like Leeds and Leicester, the assumption is they will come straight back out of it, but it is never quite that easy.

"It takes a lot of hard work. High points included establishing a Club record of 23 games without defeat, confirming promotion and the title at Southend, and playing against Scunthorpe, who were also promoted, in the last home game of the season in front of a capacity crowd.

"It was a Friday night, Birch did his run and we got the trophy at the end of the game. It was a mass celebration. That was an awesome night.

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Jack Hobbs
Jack Hobbs

In 2009, Hobbs helped the Foxes to win the League 1 title in his first season at the Club.

"On a personal level, it was a great season for me. I was in the PFA League 1 Team of the Year and I was the Club’s Young Player of the Year too. I was immensely proud of that. It had come at an important stage of my career when I was trying to make a name for myself."

Jack signed a permanent contract at Leicester City in time for the next season (2009/10) during which he made 49 appearances, reaching the Championship Play-Offs, winning the Player of the Year award and sharing the Players’ Player of the Year award with King.

"In the close season, we made a few good signings to really push us on to do well in the Championship," Jack remembered. "Chris Weale, Richie Wellens and Martyn Waghorn (on loan) were signed and Paul Gallagher arrived in September.

"We went from strength to strength, consistently winning games. I shared rooms with Bruno and we’d talk about how we could grind out wins."

Reflecting further on the 2009/2010 season, Jack continued: "A real highlight for me was when I was selected as Leicester’s captain. Scoring against Huddersfield was nice as well because I don’t score very many!

"That season, we played against Cardiff five times. These games were home and away in the league, an FA Cup tie and the two Play-Off Semi-Finals for a place in the Premier League. They were good battles.

"We’d lost 1-0 at home to them in the first leg of the Play-Off Semi-Final but in the second leg, we turned it round and won 3-2 taking us to penalties. We lost the penalty shoot-out so we ended the season just a penalty kick away from Wembley.

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Jack Hobbs
Jack Hobbs

Jack skippered the Foxes in the Championship Play-Offs.

"We were so close to promotion to the Premier League that I thought that we would build on this and take it further the following season, but this didn’t happen.

"During the close season, Nigel left for Hull City and Paulo Sousa came in. It was difficult for everyone at the time. Paulo had come from Swansea, who for years had been a passing team. They had always given us hard games, especially at their place. He wanted to do this at Leicester.

"He immediately changed how we played. It was frustrating because in the two years up to then we’d built a good identity and good foundation and then it all changed. I remember the first game of the season which was at Crystal Palace. We were 3-0 down at-half time.

"The changes were a big shock to the Club in general."

With Leicester City bottom of the Championship, Sousa was replaced by former England and Manchester City manager Sven-Göran Eriksson in October 2010.

Reflecting on this, Jack continued: "Different managers have their opinions about players and I wasn’t one of Sven’s players so it was a tough time.

"I played regularly in the first half of the season but then the manager brought in Curtis Davies and Sol Bamba."

In February 2011, four months after Eriksson’s appointment, Jack went on loan to Hull City to rejoin Pearson, Shakespeare and Walsh.

Jack recalled: "I have great memories of Leicester. I really enjoyed it there, especially in the first two years. Sven hadn’t played Fryatt and he went up to Hull at that time too so I enjoyed my time there. I went there on loan at first and then signed permanently in the close season.

"Pearson made me captain at for the 2011/12 season. If you did something to annoy him or did something wrong, he’d be firm with you but he was always fair. If you didn’t push the boundaries too far, you were fine. He put a lot of trust in me.

The fans, staff and everyone involved at (Leicester City) were always so supportive and welcoming and I wish Leicester and everyone involved with the Club all the best in the future.

Jack Hobbs

"He seemed to believe in me. If any manager has got the best out of me it is probably him. However not long into that season he went back to Leicester (in November 2011). It was so strange how he went back but you can understand it from Leicester’s point of view.

"When he took me to Hull it was a similar situation to when he first took me to Leicester. There were a lot of high earners from when Hull were in the Premier League who maybe didn’t have the attitude that Nigel was looking for.

"A lot of those players left and he brought in others. He was building on this. Nick Barmby took over for a bit and then Steve Bruce came in.

"Unfortunately I did my knee towards the end of that season but I came back the next season, played quite a few games and we got promoted to the Premier League (in 2013). That was absolutely amazing, but I left in the close season.

"Steve said I was not what he needed so I moved on again, but it was nice to get the promotion to the Premier League."

In July 2013, Jack moved to Nottingham Forest: "I just had constant injuries there. The first three or four months were good. Then I picked up my ankle injury, which was a stress fracture, and after that I had problems with my back and my foot.

"I was in and out of the team which was massively frustrating. After I left Forest at the end of last season, Bolton asked me if I wanted to train with them. I joined them at the start of preseason, trained well and they have offered me a year’s deal. They’re a really good set of lads."

As for the future, Jack said: "I think I’d like to stay in football when I finish in some capacity. As well as coaching, I’ve also thought about physiotherapy, sports science or even media work, but I’m not sure yet."

Lastly, Jack returned to his time at City: "I really enjoyed my time at Leicester. I look back with great memories and realise what a great time it was.

"The fans, staff and everyone involved at the Club were always so supportive and welcoming and I wish Leicester and everyone involved with the Club all the best in the future."

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