Even though he’s not long turned 20 years of age, travelling has been a major factor in Jack Camarda’s young life. A footballing prodigy since coming through the local youth scene, it wasn’t long before professional clubs were offering him trials and he spent time on the road at various clubs including Oldham Athletic, Mansfield Town and Wolves, before finally, at 16, landing a two-year academy scholarship at Fleetwood Town.
While Jack excelled in the Lancashire club’s u17 and u19 teams, he was ultimately released at the end of his second year. Undeterred, Camarda remained ‘offshore’ and was picked up by Myerscough College as part of their sports programme and before long he was asked to train at nearby Preston North End.
While there was some hope that the Lilywhites would take Jack on full time, it was not to be and upon completion of his A-levels two years ago, he returned to the Island. He quickly established himself back in the local footballing scene, and was soon selected for senior national team duty and was also signed by the Ravens for their historic prestige friendlies against Guernsey FC in the summer of 2020.
At the start of this season, despite being one of the Raven’s youngest players, Camarda quickly established himself in Chris Bass’s starting XI during the early part of our inaugural journey into the North West Counties League. However, a bad injury against Abbey Hey in week six ruled Jack out for the next couple of months.
Shortly after that Abbey Hey game, Camarda was on his travels again, this time to begin his University Studies at Durham, and once fit he wasn’t going to allow a 400-mile round trip each weekend get in the way of him following his passion for playing the game.
In between all the planes, trains and automobiles it’s not been an easy job for Joe Reid and the Editor to catch up with Jack Camarda. However, we’re a perseverant pair and we sat down with him during the recent Cammell Laird/Eccleshall double header weekend to find out what life on the road was like.
FCIOM: Jack, a lot of fans may not know this, but at present you’re travelling back from County Durham to play each week. Safe to assume the travelling hasn’t damped your enthusiasm to play and prepare for the Ravens each week?
Jack Camarda: Obviously, things are very different for me coming from university every week. It’s tough because I’m not there (at the Bowl for training) in the week, so I have to keep up with my training at uni. I play for Durham’s first team, so I train twice a week with them and play matches on a Wednesday. After this I’ve even been staying behind to do my own sprints too as I know I must be extra fit if I want to keep my place in this side. I message the coaches regularly to let them know how I’m getting on and how my body is feeling. I usually stay in a hotel on the Friday night as that’s what works best with flight times and travelling. That also gives me a chance to catch up on any uni work! It’s funny because I often wear my kit when I travel so loads of people ask me about FC Isle of Man!
FCIOM: Earlier this season, you suffered a particularly nasty injury. That was obviously a huge blow for you, how did you manage that situation?
JC: Yes, that was in the Abbey Hey away game. I was on the end of a horrible tackle. As I went to shoot, my leg was planted, and one of the opposition came straight through my left leg and tore the LCL in my knee. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I found dealing with the injury tough as I felt like I was developing well and I even ending up question what to do about university because of the injury. From that point I just focused hard on getting back fit. I used university almost as a stepping stone to get back fit again. When I did eventually get fit again the team were on a really good run so it was hard to get back in the side.
FCIOM: Since the turn of the year, you’ve established yourself as a regular in the midfield. How would you describe your role in the team, especially since the manager reverted to a back four?
JC: I class myself as a defensive midfielder, so my main duties are to stop attacks, win the ball back, and break up play. After I’ve done that, I know I have a good range of passing so I like to help start the attacks and set the team away. I love playing with Mike (Williams) and I feel we have a good understanding of each other’s games.
FCIOM: You spent most of your teen years at professional clubs, and it was obviously a goal of yours to be a professional. Is that a dream you are still pursuing and what areas would you see yourself developing?
JC: My main goal is to still make it as a pro. Being with FC Isle of Man could be the perfect stepping stone to allow me to do that. We’re playing at a good standard of football. Working with the coaches helps too, as Paul (Jones) and Lee (Dixon) especially have played and worked at really high levels in the game. Being part of this club has definitely taken my fitness to another level so that’s something I’ve been pleased to see get better. I still feel like I’m getting stronger, and I’ve just got to keep working hard. At this level you just never know who’s watching you play so I’ve always got to play well.
FCIOM: What’s your expectations for the team through to the end the season?
JC: Looking at the table, top spot will be tough to catch, but its football so anything can happen. We just need to focus on our games one at a time and do our job on the pitch. If we do get the (play off) semi-final at the Bowl it would be amazing. I like to think we’d get a full stadium and that’s something we’re aware could happen and is motivating us. FC Isle of Man has been a revolution for Manx football and the whole experience is amazing so it would be great to give something back to the fans who support us every week. I honestly can’t put into words how much I’m enjoying it.
FCIOM: And finally, tell us a bit about your life and experiences so far at university?
JC: It’s all going really well at Durham. I’m studying sports science and some of the modules include sports industries, sports psychology, sociology, and nutrition. I am quite focused on my course and my football. I’m using my degree as my plan B, so I have something to fall back on if football doesn’t work out the way I want.