Locally born midfielder Ross was at Watford from the age of nine, breaking into the first team while still a scholar. He became a regular in the side under Brendan Rodgers but after the Pozzo takeover he found opportunities harder to come by. He left the club in 2014 and has since played football in several different countries.
Ross spoke to Watford Legends in December 2018.
Hi Ross, thanks for talking to Watford Legends. First up, what are you upto since you left Hamilton?
I’m not playing at the moment. I had a year left at Hamilton but for certain reasons it wasn’t for me. I was speaking to a couple of clubs while I was there and ended up cancelling my own contract. It was a lot easier to negotiate with a new club if I was a free player.
So I left Hamilton and realised that the window for signing for a new club had gone. So I’m now literally waiting for January. I’ve been in talks with a few clubs.
It was just bad timing. I’ve been out and met a new club and had a good chat, it’s abroad again, so I’m just waiting for January.
Fingers crossed for you.
Yeah I’m just having a bit of down time and enjoying Christmas.
Guess you can’t usually do that as a player!
Yeah it’s nice to have Christmas at home and enjoy it for once, normally you’re training Christmas Day. It’s nice to have a bit of time off.
I didn’t have a summer break and haven’t had a break for nearly a year and a half. I would have burned myself out, so I’m taking this time out to rest, so in January I’m fresh.
I’ve learned a lot about my body over the years. Malky Mackay was always on at me, learn about your body, and as you get older you do.
You joined Watford as a scholar, when did you get spotted and how did you come to join the club?
I was playing in a little tournament when I was about nine, I think it was at Wycombe Wanderers, a little 6 v 6. There was a scout there and he spoke to my Mum and I went for trials for a week or so, and that was it, I was at Watford ever since.
As a local boy were you a Watford fan?
At the age of nine I wasn’t, no. I was a glory supporter, a Manchester United fan, they were winning the league every year. When I signed, those things change, you go and watch the games, become a ball boy, you’re watching them every week at home and you become a fan.
To this day I am still a Watford fan. I’m not a football fanatic, but I follow Watford more than United.
You started breaking into the first team at quite a young age. Did you feel ready for the step up?
Going through the youth team and then the Reserves, a big factor was Malky Mackay, he was still playing in some of the Reserve games with me. He gave me the confidence, playing in front of him, and also Matt Jackson and Lloyd Doyley at times, giving me advice. It was certainly an experienced Reserve team. When he became the manager, you knew had confidence in you, and I was used to dealing with him.
I’d played with most of the first team anyway in Reserve games and friendlies, so although it might have looked a big step up, I was blooded in quite early as I was used to my surroundings, and was ready by the time I started.
Can you remember much from your first team debut (against Bristol Rovers in the League Cup)?
Yeah that was my debut in the League Cup, and I think my league debut was away at Barnsley.
I remember the Bristol Rovers game, it was p*ssing down with rain! I didn’t think I was going to start, and I didn’t have any studs, my studs had broken.
We were given Puma Kings in the youth team free, and mine broke two days before the game. It was chucking it down with rain and you had to wear studs, if you slipped you were b*llocked, so I was panicking about that more than the game. I borrowed a pair of white Nikes off Jonathan North so I was playing in a pair of boots I’d never worn before.
I can’t remember the score, I remember my performance more than the result. It was adrenaline more than nerves and it was good to get my first game under my belt.
Did you ever get fed up of being asked if you were related to the other Ross Jenkins?!
I did a little bit.
There was always a few who criticised you after a bad game and said “there’s only one Ross Jenkins”. It got a bit boring.
I stated at a very young age that I was no relation, but it’s my name, I can’t help it. I got a bit of publicity through that, but I did get asked it a lot.
You got a good run in the side under Brendan Rodgers playing with Jack Cork – was that your best period in the first team?
I think so.
If I’m honest, I don’t think I ever played in my true, natural position. I don’t think I ever played the holding role.
I’d played it in the Reserves and Youth Team all the time and I think that was the best football I played. In the first team I always felt I had to push on a bit more. I think even when Liam Bridcutt came in, he went into the sitting role, deep down I wanted to be the holding player. When we moved on and John Eustace came in, he used to sit and I had to push on a bit and it wasn’t really my game.
So I never felt I had a good, solid season in my position. At the time I didn’t complain, because I was young and playing first team football, so I was doing as I was told, but looking back I probably wish I’d played more in a position I was more comfortable in.
You also won a few caps for the England u20s. How as that?
It was really good, it was something I’d always wanted to do. To get called up for the u20s was an achievement.
It was a tough one because the u20 tournament was after the friendly I got called up for, and I was in the first team at Watford so I had a decision to make. I spoke to Malky Mackay, as I wanted to go and play for England, but I also wanted to play for my club. It was one or the other.
I chose club football over going away with the u20s, because I felt at the time I was progressing; I was in the first team, I had a good relationship with Malky Mackay who had brought me through and believed in me, and I wanted that to continue. I don’t really regret that.
You played under a few managers – Aidy Boothroyd, Brendan Rodgers, Malky Mackay, Sean Dyche and Gianfranco Zola. Did you have a favourite?
It’s a tough one, I think everyone was very different in their style and philosophies.
Sean Dyche was my youth team coach and Malky Mackay I’d known since I was a kid there. I didn’t play much under Zola, but his tactics and philosophy was very similar to Brendan, and I enjoyed Brendan’s style and liked him. Boothroyd was a little bit early and I didn’t play too much under him, although I joined in training.
I couldn’t give you a favourite if I’m being honest. I enjoyed all aspects of each manager, I probably played the most under Brendan and Malky Mackay so I’d probably have to say them two for the trust they put in me coming through, but I haven’t got a negative word to say about any of the managers.
After the Pozzo takeover, there were a lot of players incoming and the squad was huge. Was that a difficult year?
It was yeah, it was tough. It was a big transition.
Obviously we knew what was happening, they were trying to take the club forward and we understood that. But there were a lot of players coming in and I just feel at the time, it wasn’t just me it was a number of players, I just wanted a few more games to prove myself under the new manager with his philosophy and tactics. But it never really happened, we got one game and that was it really.
Personally I felt the way the club wanted to move forward with the tactics, the manager and the style of play, it would have suited me down to the ground, but obviously they had their players they wanted to bring in and that means players have to move out, and unfortunately I was one of those who had to move out.
They had their plan and vision, and what can I say, they’re in the Premier League now, they’ve executed it well.
You went out on loan to Plymouth and Barnet that season. I think you picked up an injury at Plymouth which cut short your time there?
I didn’t enjoy the quality if I’m being honest. It was a big step down from what I was used to. I’d been training with players who’d played in Serie A, players like Marco Cassetti who’d played in the Champions League. To come out of that environment and go down to League Two, where there are some good players but they’re not world class. I had to adapt to the philosophy and tactics.
I quite enjoyed it, I just felt the quality was a big step down. I probably wish I’d taken a loan abroad, I had an option but at the time I thought I’d stay in English football and show myself and play games was probably the best opportunity, from the advice I was getting.
Plymouth wasn’t a bad loan, I scored down there.
Bit of a screamer that goal wasn’t it?
Yeah it wasn’t bad! Then Barnet I scored with an overhead kick, a Eustace special…
Of course! Then you moved to Crawley. I think I read you became quite disillusioned with football at this time.
Yeah, I’d obviously played League Two with Plymouth and Barnet. When I left Watford I had a bit of a tight hamstring. I missed a few months just doing some rehab so my main goal was to get back playing football.
Crawley isn’t too far for me, so it was best to get fit, play some games and move on from there, but it probably wasn’t my best decision to go back into League Two. I just got really frustrated with the football and I wasn’t enjoying it. Something needed to change and I didn’t want to get caught in the cycle of moving club to club and not being happy. I wanted to get away and start enjoying football again.
So that’s why you went to Romania?
Yeah I just thought, you know what, something different. I wasn’t happy, something needed to change, so why not change it dramatically. So I packed my bags and went to Romania.
You then moved to Bulgaria and Norway. Would you have liked to spend more time in those countries, or were they always expected to be short-term deals?
Bulgaria I really loved, something I probably didn’t imagine enjoying. When I got there and started playing football, we had a really good manager, good tactics, training was good and the weather was nice. The only thing that kept me from staying there was the club had a lot of financial problems.
It was a shame really, I’d joined quite late in the season and I went to try and keep the club up but we just missed out and got relegated. It’s a fantastic club and I can’t say a bad word about it. It’s professional, the facilities are great, the area is nice and the people are friendly. The weather’s probably the only thing, it rained a lot!
You already said that Hamilton wasn’t great, but I wanted to ask about playing on an artificial surface. As a professional, is that tricky compared to grass?
When I signed it wasn’t good surface, it was like concrete. You couldn’t play the football you wanted to, even if you tried. It was bobbly, it was horrible.
They’ve had it relaid now, but I’d already had discussions about leaving. I wasn’t enjoying the style of football or the tactics, how I believe the game should be played. We had the players to do it but we weren’t encouraged to do it and it was frustrating as I want to get the ball down and play and pass the ball and I wasn’t allowed to do that.
Bit of weird question…on your Wikipedia page, it claims you are 6ft 3in…how tall are you really?!
Nah, I ain’t 6ft 3, I wish I was! I’m probably about 6ft, nowhere near 6ft 3!
I haven’t looked at my Wikipedia in years, I don’t know what’s going on, I’ll have to have a look. Maybe someone got me confused with Ross Jenkins the striker!
You were back at the Vic recently to watch a game (Manchester City)?
I go and watch when I can. It was a bit of a one-sided game which is to be expected, but Watford still had chances to nick a draw or a cheeky win at the end.
Just walking around the stadium, when you play you don’t spend much time in the stands and mingle with the fans. There’s such a different atmosphere and vibe with the fans.
Even just having a better stand up. When I was there, it was the old stand with about five people in it, the corners weren’t filled in and it was windy. Tuesday nights with a bit of wind and rain it was horrible. Looking at it now, there’s not one thing you can fault. It’s the perfect Premier League stadium.
You must want to play on that pitch as well.
That’s a frustration. When I was playing and we wanted to pass the ball around, you couldn’t do it because of the pitches.
I can’t remember who we played at home, it might have been Barnsley again. We had sand all over the pitch. Blackpool away it was sand. Championship pitches now are as good as Premier League pitches. I just wish we had nice pitches back then.
I get back when I can. I used to know all the staff there, not sure I do now. The physios and conditioning coaches, I think they’ve all gone now. The only people I know there I think are Filipo (Giraldi) and that’s about it, oh and Jon Marks. I bumped into him the other day in Wycombe, where I’m from. I saw him in Costa and had a good chat with him. He got me the tickets for the City game.
Obviously a few of the players – Mapps is back there, Clevs, Chalobah, Troy, Cathcart. It’s good to keep in contact with the club.
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|Either Stamford Bridge or Lerkendal Stadion (Rosenborg) - that was rocking!|
|Bit of a random one, but when I was a kid, we played Inter Milan in a friendly and I played against Olivier Dacourt. He’s probably one of the best players I’ve played against, he had everything.|
|Best Ever Player|
|Paul Scholes - he had everything.|
|That’s a tough one, I love my food and I’ve lived abroad. Having said that, in Romania and Bulgaria they have some funny food out there. I’d probably just go with steak!|
|Love a cup of tea.|
|Old school R&B.|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Beach holiday, probably Maldives.|
|Ford Fiesta Zetec, champagne colour!|
|Mercedes, although I’ve been abroad a lot so it’s been sitting on my drive!
|Favourite TV Show|
|Only Fools and Horses.|
|That’s tough, I’m a massive filmie. Saving Private Ryan, I love Interstellar, Snatch, Lock Stock, the list goes on.
|Who has the best beard – you, Marco Cassetti or Aidy Mariappa?|
|Whoa! I’ve had a little trim, so I’d probably say Mapps as I haven’t seen Marco Cassetti in a long time.|