THE BIG INTERVIEW
Chorley’s footballers thought they had been let off the hook earlier this year.
When veteran midfielder Jamie Vermiglio recently announced his retirement from playing, a wave of relief swept through the Victory Park dressing room.
It was not that the Magpies stars did not enjoy playing alongside the 32-year-old club stalwart – quite the contrary in fact as Vermiglio was an integral member of Garry Flitcroft’s squad.
But his liking for playing a practical joke – particularly on his team-mates – left many Chorley players quaking in their boots.
So when Vermiglio decided to hang up his boots, it appeared the days of looking nervously over their shoulders were a thing of the past for the Magpies squad.
Unfortunately for them, Vermiglio has accepted the offer of a first-team coaching role at the club, which means he can continue his ‘reign of terror’ in the dressing room
“Let’s just say I have done a few wind-ups in my time,” said Vermiglio with a smile on his face.
“I like to have a joke and a laugh.
“One of my favourites jokes is when a new player signs, I pretend to be a journalist and get in touch asking them questions.
“I set up a fake Twitter account in the name of local sports reporter Oliver Smith of the Chorley Guardian.
“Obviously Oliver knew all about it, but I would get in touch with the players pretending to be him and ask them if they wouldn’t mind answering some questions for me.
“I would do a pretend interview.
“I have dome it with Chris Almond, Harry Winter – I have done it with a few of the lads.
“So I would give them a set of questions and they would give me a set of answers.
“I would then write a dummy article and manipulate their answers so that it makes them sound pretty bad – like they are bigging themselves up all the time.
“I would send the article back to them via email and ask them if it’s okay.
“Usually they would get back to me saying the article is not right and that they never said all those things.
“I would respond by saying, ‘Sorry you’re too late, it’s already gone to print – it will be in the paper’.
“Obviously then I would print out a copy of the article and pin it up in the dressing room for all the lads to see.”
Hidden behind his ‘journalistic guise’, Vermiglio has managed to pull off the prank on a several occasions – even enticing the players to answer the daftest of questions.
In response to Vermiglio’s inquiry about his favourite nut, Chris Almond answered ‘cashew’.
“I have done all sorts of stuff,” said Vermiglio, who during the day is a deputy headteacher at Locking Stumps Community Primary School, in Warrington.
“I got our captain Andrew Teague with a good one which I don’t think is really printable.
“But I have always been big on team spirit and camaraderie.
“Playing jokes on people and having a laugh is all part of that. I have always thought that is important whatever profession you are in – whether it’s football or in the workplace.
“I think it is important that people have a smile on their face and are getting along, especially in an environment like football, it is always good to have a bit of banter and mickey-taking.
“At Chorley, I have been an instigator of a lot of that I suppose.”
Vermiglio’s sunny disposition may be the result of the adversity he suffered earlier in his playing career.
It was around six years ago – while playing for AFC Telford United – that the midfield man began to be dogged by agonising pains in his legs.
Ignoring the discomfort, Vermiglio thought the pain would eventually disappear .
He continued to play until his form began to suffer to such an extent that he was advised to seek medical advice.
The results of a MRI scan concluded that he had suffered a stress fracture to his fifth lumbar vertebra, causing a disc to slip and it was that which causing the pain in his legs.
Vermiglio had played virtually an entire season unaware that he been afflicted by the condition.
And it is not an exaggeration to suggest that he was one hard tackle away from potentially suffering paralysis and being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Advised to stop playing altogether by his specialist, Vermiglio refused to give up on his football career and managed to return to the game after an operation.
Unfortunately, his back has always been problematic since then.
He has been forced to miss several games a season over the last few years and ultimately it is the reason why he has hung up his boots at the relatively young age of 32.
“It was during the 2008/09 season when I was playing at Telford,” he said.
“I was getting this pain in my legs and back.
“I think I had played 30-odd games – I was taking pain killers – but it just got to the stage where enough was enough and I needed to get it checked out.
“It was eventually diagnosed as a small fracture in the spine which resulted in the bulging of the disc.
“The specialist advised me that I should not play football any more and that I should stop immediately.
“Obviously I found that advice to be particularly hard to take.
“So I sought a second opinion and I underwent a minor operation which sort of got me through to the following season.
“A lot of people said I was stupid to carry on playing football.
“I could have been paralysed or done a lot of long-lasting damage.
“But football is all I’ve known and I just could not face giving up – so that’s why I continued to play.
“Since then I have been okay, I’ve managed to deal with it. I have learned how to manage the pain but I think during the back end of last season and the start of this one, the pain has been quite bad.
“I think it was the FA Cup game against Bamber Bridge about two months – I hurt it really bad.
“I just thought this isn’t good – I could barely walk the day after the game and it was then I decided that’s it.
“It has got progressively worse over time and I just decided it was time to finish.”
Vermiglio is philosophical about the injury and does not believe it prevented him from playing at a higher standard – or even becoming a professional.
“I came into semi-pro game relatively late at 20-years-old,” he added.
“I don’t think I could have been a full-time player.
“When I went to Telford, I did well and I am sure I could have played in the Conference Premier with them.
“But after the back injury I just decided to come back to Chorley which was closer to home and there was a lot less travel involved.”
Once his mind was made up, Vermiglio had decided that he was going to take a complete break from the game and focus on other things in his life.
With wife Carla having just given birth to his second child daughter Emily – he also has a son Sam – there was certainly plenty to keep him occupied.
His busy teaching role at work was also requiring much of his attention during the week and in the evenings.
“It was a massive decision to give up playing,” Vermiglio said.
“I have played football all my life – it’s all I have known really.
“Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday each week of my life over the last how many years has been taken up with either playing or training.
“For that decision to be taken out of my hands really and be ruled by an injury was pretty hard one to take.
“But now that I have got a couple of kids...that kind of puts things into perspective.
“I am not just making decisions for myself – I am also making them for others.
“I want to be able to pick my children up and play with them – do all the normal stuff that a dad does.
“For example when I picked up the injury against Bamber Bridge, I could not pick my little one out of her cot, so that really made my mind up for me.
“So having made the decision to stop, I just thought I would use this opportunity to get away from football completely.
“I think it was just the fact that I have a young family and I also have quite a busy job as the deputy headteacher at quite a large primary school.
“My time is taken up – I work long hours.
“I very rarely get to see my family – I suppose I am just like anybody else who has a full-time job.
“But I had a little break which gave me time to work things out.
“I had been offered something at Chorley and even though I was a bit reluctant at first, I am quite excited now to take up the offer of coaching with Garry.”
Vermiglio’s non-league career began at Victory Park around 12 years ago.
After a brief flirtation with the professional game when he tried to win a contract with Wigan Athletic, Vermiglio was enticed into the semi-professional game by Mark Molyneux, who was then manager of Chorley.
However, it was when former Preston, Blackburn and Bolton midfielder Mark Paterson took control of the Magpies that Vermiglio began to flourish.
When Paterson left to take charge of Scarborough on the east coast, he took the young midfielder along with him.
Although Vermiglio spent a season at the McCain Stadium, the commute proved to be too much of a challenge and he was snapped up by Telford.
He had an enjoyable time at Bucks Head but he conceded the period he will look back on with the most fondness is his second spell at Chorley.
Nobody would believe that Chorley would rise from NPL First Division also-rans to the cusp of the Conference Premier in just over four years.
Since Flitcroft took control at Victory Park, the Magpies have enjoyed two promotions in which Vermiglio has more than played his part.
“The main standout period for me has been the last four or five years playing for Chorley,” Vermiglio said.
“Playing under Garry Flitcroft and Matt Jansen – winning promotion twice and going through a journey through the leagues. It’s just been a great time.
“The first promotion from the First Division North was special for me.
“Obviously I started at Chorley 10 years ago and that’s when my affiliation with the club began.
“I remember playing in front of a hundred or so fans on a Tuesday night to now where we are playing regularly in front of a 1,000-plus.
“The play-off final win over AFC Fylde that year was particularly special.
“There were around 3,000 fans inside the ground and to win 2-0 was probably the best night of my career.
“It was one of the those one-off nights where you needed to win to get promotion. That night definitely stands out for me as I had lots of family and friends in the ground watching me.
“Obviously last season’s promotion was great – winning the NPL Premier Division.
“It’s just been great to be part of the recent promotion successes.”
Although Vermiglio’s days of playing in promotion-winning teams are now over, he is hoping to bring value to his new role as first-team coach.
They have begun the new season in the Conference North in fine style and they currently occupy a position in the play-off.
As Chorley prepare to face Lowestoft Town away this afternoon, Vermiglio sees no reason why the club cannot go even higher up the football pyramid. “I don’t see why we can’t get into the Conference Premier and maybe higher than that,” he said. “We are getting the fans. There’s more money coming into the club because we can attract more and better sponsors.
“Since I come back there’s been a snowball effect in every part of the club and it’s just been a brilliant time for everybody.”