Jay Tabb : Tractor Boy. Top Man

10 Oct

Earlier this week, I cited Jay Tabb as one of Brentford’s top ten ‘greatest’ transfers.

For six years, after making his debut as a 17 year old, he regularly ‘wowed’ the Griffin Park crowd before eventually finding his way to the Premiership with Reading. Now playing for Ipswich Town in the Championship, Jay spoke to us last night to update Brentford fans on how things have been going since we last caught up in February 2012 (for the matchday programme) aswell as sharing his thoughts on the Bees.

Looking at the League table, about a quarter of the way through the season Ipswich are in eleventh place and five points off the play offs. How do you feel it has gone? For the club it started a little bit slowly. We were playing quite well but not getting the results and lost to a couple of good teams; only by a goal although games we should have really drawn. Then we’ve had some good results at home, winning four out of five and just need to get that away win.

We had a bit of a shock the other night, being 4-1 up at half time and then drawing 4-4 with Derby, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth. But I think on the whole it’s been solid start and we’ve moved ourselves up to just outside the play-offs. Hopefully we can string a few more results together and see where it takes us

And personally? It started very well with a goal against Reading in the first game of the season. I didn’t score for Reading in my whole time there so it was nice to go back and score. Then I got a nasty shoulder injury in the next game, the League cup at Stevenage.

In the next few games it was quite sore and because we lost three of the first four the manager made changes, which is fair enough, and the lads that came in have done well since. So I’ve been on the bench but come on in most games, which is part of football, but obviously the team is more important and we’re getting good results.

As you say, it’s about the team. What is Ipswich Town’s target for the season? Presumably promotion? You never know what will happen in The Championship. Every year people say it’s getting tighter than ever but I don’t think that’s the case this year. QPR have started well but they are winning most of their games by one goal and so they’re going to have a blip. I don’t really see anyone running away with it.

There are a lot of good teams there, probably as good as each other, so it depends who has that run of form at the right time. I think we’re good enough to be up for the play-offs and pushing for promotion but there’s ten or so teams who would also say that about themselves. Obviously we’re ambitious but whilst we don’t want to build up our chances too much and end up looking silly, within our squad and with the manager we’re quietly confident.

You’ve mentioned the manager – Mick McCarthy. What is he like and how does he compare to the likes of Steve Coppell and Martin Allen who you served under at Brentford? He’s really good. He’s a manager whom a lot of people know a lot about and has been very successful. He called me last year to go on loan for the last two months of the season and I jumped at the chance. He’s managed the Republic of Ireland (whom Jay has represented 10 times at U-21 level) so has a good pedigree and he’s very honest. He tells you straight up, exactly how it is. He’s very passionate and loves the game but he’s very fair.

If you are playing well he treats the players well. We had some good results so have a few days off this weekend for the International break but equally if you’re not playing well he’ll make us come in and train. He’s just straight down the line honest.

Steve is a very quiet man who gets his point across in a controlled way. Mick’s definitely more fiery than Steve. Obviously Martin was great for my career and brought me on leaps and bounds, although I’d probably say that about all the managers I’ve played for  – Mick McCarthy, Martin. I’ve had loads.

You’ve had a great schooling. Yes. And all of them have added a little bit to my game. I’m looking forward to doing some more with Mick and Terry Connor (asst) who are a good combination as management.

At Brentford you were something of a youth prodigy. Who, in your opinion, is  ‘one to watch’ at Ipswich as a young ‘up and coming’ player? We’ve got a few who are in and around the first team squad. Our left-back Aaron Creswell, I wouldn’t say he ‘s a youngster as he’s in his early twenties but a lot of people have been bigging him up and saying he’s the best left back outside the Premiership. I’d fully agree with that.

As far as real youngsters go, we’ve got a striker called Jack Marriott who’s a very good finisher and only 19, so I think he could go far.

Putting Town to one side, who do you think will win the title in the Championship? I think QPR will probably go close, although the Brentford fans probably won’t like me saying that. To win games 1-0 back-to-back is the sign of a very disciplined team. Nottingham Forest could be up there aswell and with Billy Davies back, he could be key for them.

When we last spoke, you were with Reading in the Championship. The team was six points off second place with 18 games to go. You mentioned you didn’t think the playoffs would be needed, and they weren’t!  Was it ever in doubt from that point? It was just an amazing run in. I think out of the last 19 games we won 16, drew 2 and lost 1, which was just a ridiculous run of form. We’d been close every year I’d been there but I had a feeling that time that we would do something. To go on the run we did was all a bit of a freak but all so exciting. There were games we won where we didn’t play well and games where we were excellent.

How did it feel doing it? It was the greatest feeling. We played Nottingham Forest at home and West Ham kicked of fifteen minutes before us. We could see they had already lost at Bristol City, which meant that if we won we’d go up.  We scored with about ten minutes to go and it was holding on from then. In the last couple of minutes everybody was on their feet, ready to run on the pitch and then when the final whistle went it was just amazing. Its something I was really proud of.

Once you got there, how did you find the top flight? It must have been a phenomenal experience? It was really good. I was looking forward to it and knew the club would probably look to bring in a few players in the summer, so I had to take my time a bit. I made my debut away at Swansea in October and had about another twelve games in the team. I got to play against Arsenal, Man Utd and Man City.

It’s a league where the top five or six are head and shoulders above everyone else but apart from that it is quite even. It was a disappointment we didn’t stay up as we had good enough players to do so. The season goes so quick – one minute you’ve been promoted and the next its all over and you are back down. So it was a bit of a disappointment, even though it was enjoyable.

As someone who has fought their way up from Palace youths, through Brentford for six years, Coventry and Reading to get there, did you ever find yourself getting star struck? You are up against World Class players and some real household names. I was quite late getting into the Premiership. I was playing in that league when I was 28/29 and it was just weird. I still say that the most nervous I’ve ever been on a football pitch was making my debut for Brentford. Since then I don’t get nervous in front of big crowds because its just part and parcel of the game. Even at Man City away with a full crowd I just got on with it.

I think the thing that was most weird was being on ‘Match of the Day’. I’d done it with Brentford in the FA Cup, which was great, but to be there week in, week out and have the top panelists analyzing your performance was quite strange.

But as far as the players went, I didn’t feel star struck. It was just a case of trying to prove you could be as good as them and to match them.

Who was your toughest opponent – whether team or individual? I’d say when we played Man Utd at home. We’d been 1 up then 3-2 but once they went 4-3 ahead we didn’t see the ball. Arsenal and Man City have got the flair but United keep possession, have flair but also do the hard jobs like chasing down. That night, Phil Jones was great for them and so was Carrick.

Jack Wilshire was also very good whilst Yaya Toure – you couldn’t get the ball off him! You give the ball away to them and you don’t really see it again

Have you seen much of Brentford this season? How much are you able to? I always look out for the Brentford results and I watched the game against Leyton Orient the other night. It’s the team that is close to my heart and where it all started. If it hadn’t been for Brentford I wouldn’t be a professional footballer. Obviously last season was heartbreaking and I just couldn’t believe it. When I saw what happened I was just so gutted. Brentford are one of those teams where, if they get in the play offs, you don’t hold much hope. I thought last year was the one where we should have gone up as Champions or second. It was very similar to when I was there under Martin Allen and we lost out on second spot.

Will we see you at Griffin Park at all this season? I was supposed to play in the golf the other day but I was already involved in another charity event. I don’t tend to watch too much football on TV. If I get some time off I’ll try to get down to watch but I’m slightly addicted to golf and the golf course. I’m still dying to get back and play against the Bees. Every time the FA Cup or League Cup draw is made I’m always hoping for Brentford away. I’d love to go back and play there.

Are you In touch with any of your former Bees colleagues still? It’s changed so much. Kevin O’Connor is probably the only person in the squad who was there when I was. I still speak to Eddie Hutchinson every now and then and Matt Somner.

You must get sick of people saying this but you seem to have been around forever. I can’t believe you are only 29. What is the secret? I don’t know. I’ve got a brother who’s 27 and every time we go out they think he’s the older one. I’ve been around for a while and have been 12/13 years as a pro now. I just try to eat as well as I can, stay in the gym and train hard. Every day I train hard and try to stay as fit as possible – I never really slack off. A lot of it is realising just how lucky I am to do this job and not blowing the chance.

In out last chat you nominated your debut as your ‘career highlight’ so far, saying: “You work so hard to be a professional footballer and, whilst I know I wasn’t a pro at the time, to make your debut at a professional club, in front of a crowd in a league game, it’s still probably the proudest moment of my career.” Has there been any moment since then to overtake it or even come close? Winning the Championship and getting into the Premier League has got to come close but I still think making my debut has got to be really up there. I’ve still got the picture of me running out there in my shirt.

Winning the league, any league, shows you’ve had a great season as a group of players together. So to have that will always be a highlight but making my debut for Brentford is still definitely there.


(Tabby – these days a ‘Blue Jay’ but still a Bee at heart)

3 Responses to “Jay Tabb : Tractor Boy. Top Man”

  1. Trandy October 11, 2013 at 7:50 am #

    Great read Nick. I cant believe the.club let you go on a free this summer!

  2. Michaelo October 15, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Great interview. Would be great to see Jay back in a Bees shirt someday.

    • nickbruzon October 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

      Thanks. And I couldn’t agree more. Given he’s still only 29, who knows what the next three or fours years could bring…..

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