BIG INTERVIEW: Jack King reflects on highlight of his career at Preston North End
Jack King cut a rather imposing figure when he joined Preston North End in the summer of 2012.
Heavily tattooed and with a shaved head, King looked like the type of bloke you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alleyway.
Appearances can be very deceptive though with King always coming across as a good sort in his three seasons at Deepdale.
When I contacted him out of the blue to do this catch-up interview nearly five years on since leaving North End, he was only too happy to share the good memories of his time in Lancashire.
“My time at Preston is something I will remember really fondly,” King told the Lancashire Post.
“Being there was the highlight of my career. On and off the pitch I made a lot of good friends.
“A lot of the players who signed at the same time as myself were still there when we got promoted in 2015.
“There were the usual ups and downs which you get in life but it was a close dressing room and to get promotion at Wembley was the cherry on top of the icing on the cake.”
King was plucked from non-league football to sign for North End in 2012.
He had played for Didcot Town, Farnborough and Woking, having been in the youth system at Swansea City.
Joining North End gave him a late arrival into the full-time game, shortly before his 27th birthday.
King signed at a time when Graham Westley was rebuilding the PNE squad, one of many new arrivals ahead of the 2012/12 season.
He was brought in as an attacking midfielder but played all manner of positions over the next three years.
Reflecting on that first season, King said: “It was always going to be tough when something like 20 new players had come to the club.
“There were going to be hits and misses but plenty of the lads stayed around.
“Paul Huntington is still there and John Welsh only left the other year.
“Coming to the club, I knew it was going to be hard work because of the way Graham Westley liked to work.
“We all bought into it – the majority of the squad were signed by Graham and we gave it our all.
“Training was tough and long, different to what I had experienced. Graham left because we were weren’t high enough in the league and then Simon Grayson arrived to push us on and get promoted.”
King went on to make 102 appearances in a North End shirt, scoring 10 goals.
The first of those games holds happy memories for King, who is now 34.
“I made by debut against Huddersfield in the League Cup, a game played before the league season started,” said King.
“That night I scored in the first half to give us the lead and we won 2-0.
“This was my first time playing in the League Cup and it was an unknown for me. So to score at Deepdale quite early on was a big moment.
“The other highlight has to be getting promoted, the day at Wembley was unbelieveable even though I didn’t play.
“Everyone in the squad wanted to get the club into the next division.
“I can look back and know I did my part getting Preston to where they wanted to be.
“I still follow their results and know some of the lads, Alan Browne, Tom Clarke and Ben Davies.”
King left Preston after the Wembley experience to join Scunthorpe United.
From there he went to Stevenage and is currently with National League side Ebbsfleet – in February he scored their winner against Chorley.
With the National League having cancelled the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it could be that King played his last game.
With his 35th birthday coming in August, he is considering stepping back from football and going back into the family groundworks business.
Said King: “I signed for Ebbsfleet a couple of years ago when Daryl McMahon was manager – he was a former team-mate.
“It’s been a difficult couple of years off the pitch because of a few issues off the pitch for the club.
“Being captain, I’ve had things to deal with.
“It’s looking like this might have been my last year in professional football.
“ I’d like to play some more golf and get my handicap down. Perhaps I’ll have a break from football and see how much I miss it.
“My dad isn’t getting any younger and still has the family business.
“I just think it might be time to get back to doing some real work and help him with the business.
“We do groundworks, the foundations, my dad has been doing that for 50 years.
“The company is based around Oxfordshire which is why I have tended to play for clubs in the south.
“If I do stop playing, that would give me the chance to get back to Deepdale to watch some games in the future.
“I speak to Alan Browne and have mentioned coming up to have a catch-up.
“Since I left I haven’t been able to get to games because I’ve been playing for other clubs.
“It would be nice to come back for the odd weekend and see the place again.”