Photo: Lowestoft Town

Ryan Jarvis' Lowestoft Town move this summer takes him back to his former club, via four years at King's Lynn Town that stand alongside his most enjoyable in football. Like younger brother Rossi, the former Norwich City prospect was in the first team at Carrow Road as a teenager. Alongside playing, the ex-England Under-19 international is now among the ex-Canaries players back to help guide the club's next generation.

Having been part of back-to-back promotions for King's Lynn, and in National League action as recently as May, the one-time Leyton Orient and Torquay United attacking talent is undoubtedly a prize capture for Jamie Godbold's Lowestoft heading into the new campaign. The man who became Norwich's youngest debutant back in April 2003 joins us here to share some memories, a dash of wisdom, and to glance to the future, on and off the pitch.

 

Coming back to Lowestoft, had there been a chance after the announcement of leaving King's Lynn to speak to any other clubs?

There were quite a few offers, to be honest. On the day it was announced that I was leaving, I probably had about 15 messages from managers! Serious ones that I actually took some time over and had some conversations with? Probably only four or five. Ones in the Conference North and South. I took some time to think what I wanted to do, but it all comes down to I’ve got a life outside football and everything kind of had to fit, with travel, work and family life, because I’ve got two young kids who are quite active during the week. Lowestoft ticked the most boxes really.

You're among the players who’ve been a big part of King’s Lynn’s rise up the divisions to now move on. Was there any possibility of staying or had it reached its conclusion?

Yeah, it was finished, to be honest. I would have loved to have somehow stayed there and played some kind of part, being a player and maybe a coach, but there was no role where I was going to be able to leave my current employment.

Obviously the league standing changed dramatically, but from the time you signed to when you left, how different or similar a club was it?

From the first day I arrived, to the day I left, the place was exactly the same. The group of players were superb. Of course, in the last couple of years, we started to add a little bit more quality, because we were going up the leagues and we needed to, but in terms of the whole place, nothing changed, to be honest. The people around the place were still there. It’s only now changing because the club has got a desire to push on. The chairman wants to do it, the manager wants to do it.

Different spells carry different significance, but when you think back over your career up to now, is there a time where you felt happiest overall? On the pitch, in the dressing room, and so on.

My really early days as a teenager breaking through, and then right at the end, spending four years with King’s Lynn. You dream of playing professional football and playing in the Premier League; when that comes true, they are the happiest days of your life. Those years from 16 to 19, being involved in first-team football and around the Premier League and the Championship, was incredible for me, something I’d always dreamed of. Everything between that and King’s Lynn, although I still had a career in League One/League Two football, it wasn’t where I wanted to be, I wanted to play higher. I underachieved maybe, or just didn’t reach the heights I wanted to for the amount of time I wanted to sustain it at that level. The last four years at King’s Lynn have been probably the best in terms of a changing room, and the cohesion and togetherness of that team spirit is probably the best I’ve witnessed. It was incredible.

In a similar sense to the last question, maybe what you needed was different at certain points in your career, but what kind of approach from a manager do you think has tended to get the best from you?

Like you said, it does change over the years, and football’s changed a lot as well in 20 years. You used to find a lot of managers who just used to give you a rollicking, and it was that kind of approach that sometimes fired players up, sometimes players went within themselves and didn’t express themselves. I didn’t mind, it didn’t bother me, getting a rollicking; I would have that attitude of ‘well, I will show you what I can do’. Towards the end of my career, I’ve not really experienced that, to be honest, because once you get some experience, managers don’t tend to do that an awful lot, unless you’re not pulling your weight. (Ian) Culverhouse (at King's Lynn), he gave you that freedom to express yourself; he's a footballing man and he wants his teams to play really good football. He gave me that freedom, as long as I was doing my job in central midfield. I felt that was the best approach for me personally.

Of the many examples I'm sure there are, who are some of the standout characters you've been around over the years? What about Peter Crouch when he came to Norwich, was he more reserved because he was only on loan, or not so much?!

Very funny, as he is now when you see him doing his TV show; very dry sense of humour and just always having a laugh. Gary Doherty was one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. One-liners were outstanding, dry sense of humour, but he had that way about him where everybody loved him. He could say whatever he wanted, he could give you the biggest big-time shout you’ll ever hear, but he was so nice with it. I think a lot of people would back that up as well.

Thinking back to some of those Norwich players, Darren Huckerby, Mathias Svensson, some very good mullets in that team! Whose did you think was the best? Would yours qualify as a challenger?!

Mine was terrible! Someone tagged me in a video the other day and it was horrendous; I can’t believe you’d even think about having that kind of trim back then! I think some of the lads started to get the straighteners out. Hucks had a good mullet. Thomas Helveg, he had a bit of a mullet, but Svenny, yeah, he probably had the best do, didn’t he? I think some of the lads started putting highlights through it; I know Paul McVeigh did once.

Now you’re coaching, there's various things in football that just aren’t the same as when you were coming through, but is there anything you vividly remember that stood you in good stead, that you can now do with your players?

A lot of the things that stood me in good stead you probably can’t do now. Fair enough, some things probably went over the line, but that did sort of serve you in a good way, that tough upbringing, making you mentally stronger. A lot of younger players these days, they don’t have to do the YTS jobs, they don’t have to clean football boots or all those kinds of things. I used to get in, in the morning, and have probably three pros’ boots to do, and then go and knock on the manager’s door and have his session in my hand and he’d explain what he needed setting up. I’d get in early, before the first team trained, and go and set his session up, so things like that stand you in good stead. We try and implement some of that stuff at the foundation. I work with Adam Drury and Simon Lappin, so both of those who went through the kind of upbringing I had; probably even tougher because they’re a few years older than me. We try and implement the jobs and the discipline, and not always thinking you’ve got the right to have something without working for it. That is a massive part of how we coach, to be honest. Players won’t play unless they’re giving their all in training and doing everything they can to improve, on the field and off it.

Are there any teammates in particular in your career who you've felt an extra understanding with on the pitch?

More recently, I did strike up a real good partnership at King’s Lynn with Michael Clunan, the captain. We kind of understood our games and where we’d want the ball, the weight of pass and all the finer details of things. Thinking back to when I was younger, Youssef Safri at Norwich, he was a really clever player. I quite liked playing with him, because he had that intelligence of the weight of pass or playing around people. Sometimes you make a run and a player doesn’t quite understand if you wanted it in front of you or to feet; Youssef Safri was always a top player for that.

Not 'who's the best player you've played against?', but are there any individual opponents that stick in your mind for testing you in a new way, or for what they had to say for themselves etc.?

At an early age, I began playing as a striker or an attacking winger, and as a young kid, your body’s not filled out and you’re not that physical. I remember coming up against Joleon Lescott (at Wolves) and thinking ‘oh my God, this guy’s a man mountain!’ He was just hard to get around, so that was a physical battle that I was never, ever going to win, so you had to use your other qualities to try and do well. Later on in my career, when I was at York in League Two, I remember playing against the Doc (Gary Doherty) when he was at Wycombe - he used to man-handle people!

When you've joined a new team, have you had any Initiations to do, and if so, which song(s) have you gone for?

Yeah, I’ve done that a few times. One of my most recent ones, when I was at York, I think, I got up and did Bon Jovi ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’. You’ve got to pick something everyone’s going to know. I quite like music and I like different genres. I think when I was on loan at Aldershot, I did Usher ‘U Got It Bad’.

Did you really go for it and give it some, because there’s some emotion in that one?!

Oh, I was all over it! You have to go for it, because you can’t do it half-hearted, can you? I haven’t got a voice at all but you’ve got to have a go.

We’ve mentioned coaching, but aside from that and family time, is there anything else you’re involved in, or just enjoy doing away from football?

I play a bit of golf with my brother and some good friends back home; we actually played 36 holes yesterday, in that melting-hot sun! Obviously towards the end of my career, I’ve been thinking about it more and more, not going straight into a coaching role when your playing days are done, so then you have your weekends free. I’d like to spend a year just travelling; not a whole year, just travelling every other month, going to a different destination. It’s something that you don’t really get to do as a footballer, apart from your summer break, which seems to get shorter and shorter every year.

Finally, with the benefit of all you've experienced since, what would you tell that 16-year-old Ryan Jarvis (in Norwich's first team) now?

There would be a couple of things I’d say. I’d say always play to your strengths, do what you’re good at. The generation of football I came into at that age was always more direct football, and that wasn’t my strength at all really. Football nowadays probably would have suited me a lot more. I didn’t change my game but I never really expressed fully what I was capable of, or I never played in a position early on at Norwich where it really suited me and I could show what I was about. So I would say always play to your strengths, play how you feel you’re going to put your stamp on the game. I worked hard and always gave everything in training, but looking back now, I’d probably spend more time at the training ground. Twenty years ago, it would be: train, do your gym, have your lunch and go home. You spend so many hours away from the training ground, where you think ‘I could have stayed there until 5 o’clock’, because the average person works until that time anyway. So I could have easily stayed behind, doing a lot more than I did in my first ten years of football. I would say utilise every single thing you can.

Interview by @chris_brookes

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