Last seasons top scorer JJ O’Connell looks back at his time in the north east, rates the lads trims and previews the season ahead.
Firstly, that goal at Brackley away. How good did that one feel?
It was pretty special. We knew before the game how important a win was, we really believed we could win going there. Most importantly the goal was for the team, the fans and the club to keep us in the league. The goal itself, I don’t think I’ve hit one better. I joke with the lads, when I’m within 30 yards of the goal, I see nothing else other than trying to score. It’s bounced down lovely, I had people shouting at me to set it off, I thought why not have a go and luckily it’s flew in the top corner. To then have my mum and dad behind the goal and to be able to celebrate with them, it’s up there with the best moments in my career.
You’ve been up in the north east for (checks Wikipedia…) 8ish years now. What is it about the place that keeps you here?
The passion for football and how nice people are. I didn’t realise how much football means to the North-East, it’s not just supporting your team, it’s a way of life! It’s been my life since I was 7, I love playing, I love watching it and when I moved up here the passion for football is something that I loved from the first day. I’m from London but the North is definitely a friendlier place to live.
Going into your second year at Blyth now you’re obviously a firm fan’s favourite 😅 what kept you here this summer?
How welcome everyone made me when I joined Blyth and how brilliant everyone is with me. I had 4 offers over the summer to move on, I considered them all like you have to in football. After speaking with my girlfriend and family, I made the decision to stay. My Dad’s always told me to play where I’m happy and how the supporters and the club were with me last season, I couldn’t walk away. It’s a pleasure to represent the club.
Rhys reckons you gan through a bottle a shockwave an hour? How do you keep the Barnet in peak condition?
VO5 the yellow bottle of hairspray, works wonders. A bottle of that before each game and the Barnet isn’t moving. Most people think the goals I score with my head, come off my actual head. I can assure you that VO5 should probably take credit for the headers.
Speaking of Rhys, how long do you reckon till he’s off to Turkey for a transplant?
It’s got to be soon, it will be interesting to see what his hairline looking this time next year. The front of his hair and his eye brows are in different postcodes they’re that far apart. He’s a good lad though.
Being loved by both Gateshead and Blyth is an odd one. After all those years at Gateshead, what was it like moving on from them?
It was tough, Gateshead was all I had known since I moved to the North-East in 2014. I made friends there that are my best friends up here now. All good things come to an end and it was time for me to move on. Rivalry aside, I have nothing but good things to say about Gateshead, I’m glad I joined them and it made me call the North-East my home.
Similar question to the other lads, but a few fans perhaps have some trepidations going into the new season. What would your message be to supporters?
You all pay your hard earned money to support us, you’re fully entitled to your opinion and view of things. Since I come to the club, your support has been incredible. Get behind the team like you always do, we’ll have tough times this season without a doubt. That’s when we need you most, we’ve got young lads who will make mistakes. I’m 30 now and probably make more mistakes than anyone in a game, keep being positive with us all but especially the young boys. As always, we need to make sure we work hard above anything else and keep going for 95 minutes. Myself, Budds and the other senior lads will make sure the lads know that. We’ll try and give you a team that represents the passion you supporters show and a team you can be proud of.
Lastly, who has the best and worst trims at Spartans?
Probably Matty Cornish and Danny Barlow with the best, you can tell they’ve not been in senior football too long as they’ve still got strong heads of hair. Worst, it’s got to be Rhys for his bleeding hairline, then Lewis McNall just for sheer sloppiness. Puts absolute 0 product in it ever, it’s mad considering he works at Amazon and Jeff Bezos gives him 10% off when he cleans Bezos’ office. You’d think Macca would buy some product, I’ll have to put him in touch with my VO5 representative and get it sorted.