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The Non-League Football Paper

Youth Team Cling-On Connor Jennings Is Goal King

RAGS to riches? Maybe not. This is recently moribund, and still seemingly stricken, Macclesfield Town after all. But if you’re looking for the kind of story that only football and the FA Cup can provide, then read on.

From fan…to fans’ hero. From youth team hanger-on…to the man the Silkmen supporters hang their hopes on. From little brother of Macc left-back James Jennings…to being goal king Connor Jennings, top scorer in the Skrill Premier.

The run of form the on-loan Scunthorpe striker has been on since returning from a five-match suspension in September has been phenomenal.

Without a win all season – and having drawn a blank in front of goal himself – until they hosted Woking on September 21, Macc have lost just once since in league and Cup with Jennings bagging 14 in 12 matches.

The Cheshire club have fallen on hard times since he used to watch James, now a Conference champion and current League Two player with Mansfield, in action at the Moss Rose.

But the younger Jennings has rich empathy with the faithful who sing his family name – for he used to shout it out with them!

Prowess

“I used to go to all of the games when James was playing for Macclesfield so I know a lot of the fans already,” says Jennings.

“He made his debut as a sub in the FA Cup first round win over Walsall in 2006, then was suddenly starting against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the third round. He was 19 and I was only 15.

“I went with my dad Seamus and sat with the fans. Singing my heart out I was!”

Macclesfield Town v Swindon Town The FA Cup With Budweiser - First Round.09/11/2013©Media Image Ltd. FA Accredited. Premier League Licence No.  PL13/14/P4462 Football League Licence No:  FLGE13/14/P4462.Football Conference Licence No: PCONF101/12 TeWith James winning 8-1 at St Albans with the Stags on Saturday, the chance of the brothers coming up against each other for the second time this year was a possibility – until Sunday’s second round draw paired Macc with either Brackley or Gillingham at the Moss Rose.

“We always want each other to do well,” says Connor. “There was obviously a competitive edge when I played for Stockport against him at Cambridge last January, and I thought I’d have a chance of facing him on the opening day of this season with Scunny, but they farmed me out on loan.

“It would be nice to get Mansfield in the third round if we both get through. But then again, we’ll both be wanting a big club if that happens.

“James has had some brilliant draws so far in his career. He’s played against Chelsea, Everton, West Ham – and Leeds twice when he was at Kettering.

“We always want each other to do well, and James has always tried to help me.”

That assistance led him into contact with current Macc manager John Askey in his old youth team role five years ago.

“My brother asked if I could come in and train with the Macclesfield youth team, because I was only part-time at Stalybridge back then, so I’ve known John since I was 16,” says Jennings.

“I didn’t want to go to college, so I just came in and did a bit with them until we went fulltime once Jim Harvey took over at Stalybridge. “John’s a great coach and he knows how to get the best out of me.”

It was at Bower Fold that Jennings first displayed the kind of prolific penalty box prowess that proved too much for League One Swindon last Saturday.

Fifty-one goals in 79 starts at Conference North level earned a move to Glanford Park in January 2012, but his spell in Lincolnshire so far has been blighted by injury.

Mistakes

“I broke my fifth metatarsal a week after signing, which was pretty hard to take,” said Jennings.

“Last season I came back off loan at Stockport and then got injured again, rupturing the ligaments in my ankle.

Macclesfield Town v Swindon Town  The FA Cup With Budweiser - First Round.09/11/2013 ©Media Image Ltd. FA Accredited. Premier League Licence No.  PL13/14/P4462 Football League Licence No:  FLGE13/14/P4462.Football Conference Licence No: PCONF101/12 Te“There’s been a few injuries and a change of manager, so I’ve not had much luck there. It’s
a shame, but that’s football – you’ve just got to get on with it and keep trying.

“I’m going back on January 5, and the third round games are played on January 4, so it would work out pretty well if we get through, but we’ve still got a tough game to get to that stage.

“If I’m honest, I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen when I go back. It’s in their hands, what they want to do with me. I just have to keep my head down, keep trying to do well and then see what happens.”

Jennings’ head has proved something of a problem this season, with a sending off against FC Halifax leading to that lengthy suspension. Like every young footballer should, however, he says he has learnt when and when not to use his noddle.

“Allegedly I headbutted the centre midfielder,” he says.

“We both went together. He ran over to me and the ref thought I headbutted him, but I didn’t.

“I got a five-game ban in the end. It was three to start with, then I went in to speak to the ref, and obviously he didn’t like that, so it was increased.

“That was my own fault, you can’t do that. It was unprofessional of me, but at the time I was frustrated. I’d only been on the pitch for two minutes.

“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes, haven’t you? It gave me time to maybe work on my game, keep out of trouble and then just start my season again.”

And from that double against Woking, it really has got going. Hopefully it won’t come to an abrupt end in January, just as the Conference’s hottest striker starts to properly emerge from big brother’s shadow!

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