Friday, 3 December 2010

209 Jason Peake

Position : Midfield (also  played  at  left  back)

Played : 1993-94  to  1995-96 ; 1998-99  to  1999-2000

Appearances : (first  spell) 95 ; (second  spell) 81

Goals : (first  spell) 6 ; (second  spell)  11

Jason is another milestone in the story as the first player we have come to who made appearances for us in the new millennium. He first arrived as part of a swap deal with Halifax with spare defender Alex Jones going the other way in March 1994 (Mick Docherty later tried to take full credit for this) . He started out at Leicester under David Pleat making 8 appearances and scoring once plus 6 games and a goal while on loan to Hartlepool in 1992. In August 1992 he signed for Halifax on a free transfer and while that gave him first team football it took him into the Conference in 1993 where he languished until we rescued him.

At first Sutton wouldn’t allow Jason to replace Steve Doyle in the middle so he was stuck out on the left and didn’t show what he could do until the game at Wycombe in April when Doyle had to play in defence and Jason took the opportunity to run the show. Jason was comfortable on the ball, nimble-footed, could spray it accurately around the pitch and score spectacular goals. The downside was that he wasn’t enthusiastic about tackling and was prone to becoming lethargic and disinterested when things weren’t going well (the second half of the 1995-96 season being the prime example).

Having proved his worth in the Wycombe game he replaced Doyle in the side in 1994-95 and started well (the game against Blackpool in the Auto-Windscreen Trophy where he played alongside Alex Russell is still fondly remembered for their complementary virtuoso displays). Unfortunately when Kevin Formby was injured he was preferred to the useless Darren Oliver at left back and played there for the rest of the season. He was useful in that position but couldn’t influence the game in the same way. Back in his rightful position for 1995-96 he was probably our best player in the promising first half of the season but largely went missing after Christmas when things disintegrated after the Liverpool game. Despite that he was ever-present and one of our few saleable assets.

Jason then proved he had no sense whatsoever by taking up an offer to join his old manager Jimmy Case at Brighton, a club in absolute turmoil due to fierce protests by fans who were more concerned about evicting the Board than winning games on the pitch. We got £120,000 from the Tribunal for him which I thought was generous. That didn’t stop him getting fiercely abused by Dale fans when they played us in October so much so that referee Uriah Rennie felt obliged to ask us to cool it. The Brighton fans (those who still went to games that is) weren’t much keener on him; he was exactly the wrong sort of player for their plight and after Case was sacked the new manager Steve Gritt dropped him and he played no part in their last-ditch escape from relegation. Early the following season Gritt managed to offload him to Bury - no fee was involved- and Jason played 6 games for them, three at full back, three as sub.

In the summer of 1998 he was available again and we became interested under Graham Barrow, the manager apparently not holding a grudge from when Jason refused to sign for him two years earlier. There’s a curious tale here. Before the season started my mate had a letter printed in The Rochdale Observer castigating the Board for not providing enough funds to the manager. Something in that letter so incensed director Graham Morris that he called him in to a meeting with himself and Barrow to refute the charge. As you would expect Barrow was inclined to my mate’s side and afterwards discussed transfer activity, asking him for his opinion on Jason. My mate referred him to the goals video of 1995-96 where he would see that Jason was involved in nearly every goal, a slight exaggeration perhaps but on the money. You’d have thought that Barrow was merely flattering him but when the first programme came out Barrow’s notes announced Jason’s signing with the video point, word-for-word what my mate had said. Now granted you don’t appoint a football manager for his writing skills but you would expect him to be able to provide his own assessment of a player not plagiarise one of the supporters. It was just one of many factors that persuaded me he’d lost it that season.

Jason played 38 games that season scoring 4 goals but never really looked comfortable with the style of football we were playing. He had a happier time the following season as the creative player alongside Dave Flitcroft or Gary Jones and scored a personal best 7 goals including a wonderful Dennis Tueart scissor kick against his old club at Halifax. However it ended very sourly when we lost two re-arranged home games against Peterborough and Northampton in April which would have secured us a play-off place. Jason featured in both games and Steve Parkin singled him out as the scapegoat accusing him of “going missing”. It’s always easier for a manager to castigate a player he didn’t sign (and Parkin would do it again) but we knew there was some truth in it.

Anyhow Jason wasn’t happy with the deal offered in May 2000 and signed for Plymouth. He did well at first scoring twice in ten games but as at Brighton, the incoming manager (Paul Sturrock) didn’t rate him and before Christmas he’d been loaned out to Nuneaton. That was the end of his League career. He signed for Nuneaton permanently in February 2001 and played 54 games before retiring through injury in 2003.

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