Jack King celebrates scoring for Preston North End. Picture: PA Images
By David Richardson
Jack King will be back on a building site tomorrow morning just a week after announcing his retirement from football.
The 34-year-old has brought the curtain down on a unique career in which he played at every level from Step 5 up to League One, where he won promotion to the Championship with Preston North End.
But it will be back to reality when his alarm sounds in the early hours of Monday and work restarts for his dad’s building company – more than 15 years on from when he first started in the trade – although it’s a return he expected.
“He’s always said I need to stop messing around with football and get back to the building site, finally he’s got his way!” joked King, who will eventually take control of the business as his 71-year-old father plans to take a step back. “I’ve always kept in contact with it.
“I run the job on a site and take control of our guys that work there. That’s the role I’ll be going back into to start and then looking at more of an eye to the future in terms of overseeing things from the top.
“I’ve enjoyed my time in football. I could probably play on for a few more years yet, but I made the decision maybe two years ago and confirmed it throughout this season because of this outside interest.”
Indeed, King, who clocked over 700 appearances, first started working in the building industry after he returned to Oxfordshire having been rejected a professional deal at Swansea City.
He joined his local club Didcot Town in the Hellenic Premier Division, being part of two promotions to take the club up to Step 3, and also had a spell at Brackley Town.
King’s versatility and consistency attracted interest throughout his Non-League playing days from the higher divisions and Football League.
His range of passing, technique and mobility always caught the eye whether he played in an attacking midfield role, shielded the back four or at centre-back or right-back.
It is a testament to King’s ability and mentality that when he landed his move to League One side Preston in 2012, stepping up three divisions in the process, he played 45 times in his debut season.
King won promotion with Farnborough, under Steve King, and also the Conference South title at Woking before playing in the Football League at almost 26 years of age.
“In football terms that is quite late,” added King. “I always wanted to get back to playing full-time earlier but it wasn’t so much the timing, more the right club, to be honest. I waited and thankfully it paid off. I maybe thought my time had gone. While I was disappointed to drop out of the pro-game [at Swansea] it is certainly something I look back on now as something that has really helped me.
“I learnt a lot more about the game when I dropped into Non-League than in academies.
“It was a successful time for me in Non-League. I was stepping up a level each year which was pleasing to progress in that sense but also winning things which always helps.”
King is as down-to-earth as they come and that was always recognised among supporters at the clubs he played for, particularly Preston where they would sing his name accompanied with the line “he’ll build you a house” once he had won them over.
“Preston at the time had just come down from the Championship,” he said. “They’ve got a big history, big fanbase, I was under no illusions that me signing was going to pull up no trees with the fans. They were never going to get excited signing a mid-twenties player out of Non-League. I knew I had something to prove. I always had faith in my ability.”
After losing in the 2014 play-offs, King won promotion with the club the following season at Wembley but moved on to Scunthorpe and then Stevenage before returning to Non-League with Ebbsfleet United where he has spent the past two seasons.
In what has turned out to be his last game of football, King kept a clean sheet and scored in their 1-0 win over FC Halifax on BT Sport – a fitting end to his all-action style.
He has taken his coaching badges and isn’t ruling out exploring that side of the game one day, but for now he’ll be getting back on the tools.
“I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with the messages, it shocked me a little bit,” added King, who has received hundreds of congratulations from players, managers and supporters on Twitter. “I’ve always tried to give 100 per cent, it’s something I prided myself on. There’s pros and cons about every job, you’ve just got to try and enjoy it.
“I’ve got no airs and graces about going back to the building site, it’s something I enjoyed doing before and something I’ll enjoy doing again.”