Liam: Jermaine, thanks so much for chatting to us at Cross The Line!
So tell us, from a young age was it always going to be football for you?
Jermaine: Yeah it’s really all I wanted to do to be honest, I was playing semi-professionally which meant that I had to work and at that point I probably half gave up on it. I just played to enjoy it and fortunately enough I got spotted and went on trial from there, signing professionally for Aldershot. I’ve never looked back really since then.
Liam: So in these early stages, who did you dream of playing for one day?
Jermaine: Well I grew up in South London so Crystal Palace was always that team and I think they were in the Championship at the time so all of the people I knew, like Sean Scannell, Zaha, they were all based at that club. So that was the dream really but I never thought of Aldershot, I didn’t really know who they were but I was fortunate and blessed enough to get that opportunity. Palace is still at the back of my mind and I talk to one or two of the players there and you know that they are at the top, you do look at it and think that I’d like to be there but realistically it’s a bit tougher now. I want to see how far and high I can get with the Gills.
Liam: Well you are heading in the right direction, playing up in League One now?
Jermaine: Yeah, like I said I have been fortunate enough in the time that I have played to play in some big games, even being in League One now, we are looking at the Championship half way through the season and we are doing alright. So it’s about every step really, it would just be nice to play in the Champs and keep moving up the ladder.
Liam: For a fairly young player still, you have played for quite a few sides, but would you say your time at Aldershot was where you really got yourself noticed?
Jermaine: Yeah I started out at Staines Town and like you said I have been at a few clubs, here and there, but never really settled. When Ii went to Aldershot I think that’s when my name started ringing a few bells in people’s heads for the way that I played. I probably attracted a little bit of interest from there, playing some big games against the likes of Manchester United. Then Cheltenham came and bought me for some money and it made me an established name.
Liam: You have partly touched on it already but what was it like playing against a strong Manchester United side in the Cup, for Aldershot?
Jermaine: Yeah, especially where I am coming from, you’ve seen these people on TV. I remember I was actually on the way to the game and I ran out of petrol and so I had no way of getting there, someone randomly gave me a lift there so it wasn’t the best preparation. To play well and to get man of the match, it makes you happy to say that you have played against them and being in the tunnel next to them was just unreal.
Liam: Just a shame that the Shots got beaten 3-0 wasn’t it?
Jermaine: Yeah, it was just after United has been beaten 6-1 by City so Ferguson made a lot of them play. Just to play against some of those stars and I even got a couple of shirts so it’s a great memory and I will never forget it.
Liam: So as we mentioned earlier, you are now at Gillingham, how are you finding life in League One, big step up?
Jermaine: I feel like I belong at a higher level and I am loving life at the Gills, I am pretty much settled here, I recently bought my first house in Kent and my fiancee and I have just had a little one so I feel happy at Gillingham and it’s nice to look back and think that I’ve made the step up. There is a little bit more quality in this league, you’ve got players that have come down from the Championship and there are some big teams. So overall I feel more suited to this level of football.
Liam: What’s the aim this year, have you spoken about it as a club?
Jermaine: As a club like Gillingham the aim is to stay in the league first and foremost but the couple of seasons that we have had means that we actually set our standards higher. So anything below the play-offs will be seen as a disappointment both for the fans and the players. I’ve had the heartache of losing in the play-off final at Wembley in League Two so ideally I want to go through in the automatic spots but we will take anything at the minute. Promotion would be a massive achievement for a club like Gillingham.
Liam: Jermaine, what’s the best thing about being a pro footballer in your eyes?
Jermaine: Getting up and doing what you love and you get paid for it, football is what you enjoy and you are keeping fit everyday. When I started professionally you realise that everything is done for you, like massages, food and everything, You get home by one o’clock and you then have the rest of the day to yourself. I think that’s the beauty of it you know, when it gets colder it’s not so easy or on a Tuesday night game but just getting up everyday because you love doing it, that’s the best thing.
Liam: I reckon I know your answer to this, but who is the best player that you’ve played against?
Jermaine: It probably is Michael Owen, I have played against Everton and Baines was pretty decent but he was a beast at United and he gave me his shirt as well. I briefly got to chat to him, it felt a bit cringey just to be on the same pitch but he just said “all the best for the season” and that kind of stuff.
WATCH: Jermaine’s goal collection:
Liam: Let’s talk about your faith, where did it start for you?
Jermaine: My family are from a Christian background and I grew up in a Church local to where I am, so I travel back and with that I think my faith has got stronger as I have got older. I have got testimonies now and I think it’s really important with a lot of people who look up to me, that they know a lot of what I do I put down to God and in the faith I have. As I have got older I have probably matured more as a Christian.
Liam: I’ve seen that your Twitter bio reads ‘God first’. What do you mean by this?
Jermaine: I mean before everything else, I give him the glory regardless of whether it’s not going so well for me, it’s important and I think before anything, family, football and anything it’s God first. Every time since I have put him first I have started seeing things in my life and I think it’s important that I publicise my faith because it has got more of a following. Some of the top footballers in the world mention God and I love seeing that. I feel like if I put God first then everything will fall into place.
Liam: Do you think footballers in general should be more public about it as you are?
Jermaine: Yeah, even for interviews you know, I feel that you don’t hear people mention God a lot and I think they should be more public. A lot of people that I am close to, like Zaha, it’s God first in everything they do. I think it’s important that people realise that you need to give all the glory to God because you get stuck into where people idolise football and they need to see that there’s a higher being that the glory is going to. Hopefully we can be inspirational and see more Christians as well.
Liam: Is it fair to presume that you see your footballing ability as a gift from God?
Jermaine: Yeah definitely and I just want to embrace it, I think it is a gift from God and he knew that I was going to be a professional footballer. My faith has just got stronger since. I feel that I have been blessed enough, I know that a lot of people want to be professional footballers and God has given me that gift so I want to give it back and show people how fortunate I am to be in the position that I am in.
Liam: Do you have any fellow footballers that you get around and talk things through with, about your faith?
Jermaine: Yeah, Zaha I am pretty close to and Bolasie. Then obviously through the lower leagues I talk to people daily and Gillingham have some strong Christians, one I even roomed with. We also pray before a game, obviously we are all still learning and being a Christian in the industry can be hard in such a public sport. We can talk about God and really minister to people but it helps having other footballers in the same situation.
Liam: So does God feature in your pre-match routine?
Jermaine: Yeah, every morning I get up and I pray and before I step on the pitch I try to read Psalm 27. I’ll ask God to give me strength and prevent me from injury, just to guide me through it. Everyone does it it different ways, some kneel on the pitch, I have just got stuff that is important to me. I feel like I need his protection before I step out onto the field.
Liam: Do you have a particular Bible passage that encourages you?
Jermaine: I have been reading Psalm 27 before I go into a game and that’s probably my favourite. Also Psalm 91, I have read that recently as well, but 27 would be the one.
What do you make of Jermaine’s interview? Let us know!