Local boy Jack Emmett's journey from accountancy to full-time football with Harrogate Town
Jack Emmett has achieved plenty since turning professional with his hometown club just under three years ago.
He played a starring role in Harrogate Town’s National League North promotion campaign of 2017/18 before helping the Wetherby Road outfit qualify for the National League play-offs the following season.
He hasn’t featured quite as regularly this term, but has still contributed to a team effort that had taken Simon Weaver’s men to within touching distance of League Two when competition was suspended due to the coronavrius outbreak.
If nothing else, his progress since penning a full-time deal with Town is the equivalent of a middle finger to Doncaster Rovers, the Football League club who told him as a youngster that he wasn’t big enough to make it in the professional game.
“I had trials at Leeds United and then Doncaster, but Rovers said I was too small to be a pro,” revealed Emmett, who grew up in Harrogate and started out playing locally for Knaresborough Celtic juniors.
“I then moved to Pannal Ash and our under-17s team eventually became Harrogate Town’s under-19s because they didn’t have much of a youth set-up back then.
“Ben Cohen and I signed first-team deals and played a handful of games between us, mainly in the West Riding County Cup.
“I made my debut away at Solihull Moors in December 2011. I came on for about the last 15 minutes and I actually thought I played quite well, but we got smashed 4-1 so obviously the gaffer wasn’t in the best mood afterwards.
“After the initial knock-back and from where I was then [in 2011/12] I didn’t envisage becoming a professional footballer, but I’m very glad about how it has worked out.”
One of the main reasons that Emmett didn’t expect to end up making a living from football is due to the fact that he had a rather different career path mapped out.
Having completed his A-Levels at Harrogate Grammar School he accepted a place at Loughborough University to study accountancy and spent two years playing the game alongside his fellow students.
“Obviously Harrogate Town were a part-time club playing in Conference North back then and I went to university to do accountancy,” added Emmett, who has now made well over 200 first-team appearances for the club.
“I eventually ended up on a placement with an accountancy firm in Leeds, so I asked Simon [Weaver] if I could do 2014’s pre-season with the club and he said yes.
“They’d just signed some big-name players like Jake Speight, so I didn’t really fancy my chances of playing much, but the gaffer signed me on.
“I used to have to commute every Tuesday and Thursday for training and then on Saturdays as well. It was horrible at times, sat in rush-hour traffic for hours.
“It was a lot of travelling, but I never questioned what I was doing because I had the chance to play at a really good level of football and earn some money while I was a student.
“That experience certainly makes me appreciate the fact that I’m able to walk to the stadium these days. Things have worked out pretty perfect for me really.”
A huge turning point in terms of Emmett’s Town career arrived in summer 2017, not long after he had signed his first professional deal.
He was forced to shift from his usual position on the wing to a central midfield berth during a pre-season friendly against Leeds United at their Thorp Arch training base.
“We had too many wide players, so I had to play in the middle,” the 26-year-old recalled.
"I'd played in the centre of midfield when I was younger, but not since I was probably 13 or 14. I'd played on the wing ever since and I remember asking Josh Falkingham and Warren Burrell what I was supposed to do before the match.
"But, I took to it really well and then played that whole season in central midfield. I really enjoyed it and I think that was probably my best year in football.
“It’s certainly the most memorable one so far. I think it will take some beating – getting promoted on your own ground in front of a crowd of 3,000 that was full of my family and friends.
“I’m proud to to have been a part of something like that with my hometown team. We achieved something that the club had wanted for a such a long time and it was really special.”
Emmett continued his fine form of 2017/18 into Town's debut season in English football's fifth tier, impressing alongside Falkingham in the engine room and notching eye-catching goals from outside the box against Barnet and Boreham Wood during the early months of the campaign.
The club's fast start to life in the National League saw them rise to the top of the table by early September, though they eventually fell away and ended the term in sixth position, with Emmett conceding that he found the standard of football far greater than what he'd been used to.
"Playing in the National League is very different to playing in National League North," he added.
"The biggest difference I've noticed is that there are a lot more players who are more streetwise and know how to make it difficult for you to play against them. They also tend to be bigger and more athletic.
"It's a lot harder to get on the ball in the same positions and you also get found out quicker if you're not right on it in a positional sense.
"That said, when we're at home and we're keeping the ball and moving it at speed, it doesn't tend to matter who the opposition are, how big they are or what they're doing, because we're generally too quick for them."
The 2019/20 campaign has seen Emmett utilised more in wide areas, though he says he is happy to play wherever selected.
"I've played out wide more recently and I'm happy to play there, but I'd happily go back to the centre of midfield tomorrow," he continued.
"I really took to that role and enjoyed it a lot."
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.