Jack Iredale on his football journey

Jack Iredale on his football journey

Posted on July 19, 2019 in 'News'

Former Jacks defender Jack Iredale is doing well at English club Carlisle United and this week he sat down and spoke to Jon Colman from the News & Star newspaper on his football journey and his hopes for the future. A great interview – enjoy!!!!!!

Jack Iredale has, at 23, already travelled a long way to get here, but it is where he wants to go next that engages him. “I want to play at the highest level possible, I want to play for my country, I want to make my family proud,” says the left-back, who was the first of Carlisle United’s signings this summer. If Iredale achieves all that he wishes it will cap a journey across continents which has also seen hard challenges. The defender has negotiated serious injuries and health issues in order to equip himself for a career in the game. “Growing up, the only thing I ever wanted to do was play football, and I would not let anything stop me. Mental resilience is something that’s been ingrained in me,” Iredale says, and this is easy to believe when considering three cruciate knee ligament injuries by the age of 19 and the need to cope with Type 1 diabetes since his early teens.

These issues have studded the progress of a player promising enough to represent Australia’s Under-17s, the country in which Greenock-born Iredale did much of his growing up and which has bestowed an Aussie accent. His family left Scotland for New Zealand before he was one, and at 10 he moved with them to Perth in Western Australia. From there Iredale made positive steps, before injuries intervened. “I was close to thinking my career was over before it had even started,” he says. “It [the knee problem] first happened when I was 16, I did it again when I was 17, and again when I was 19. Those are the years you really develop as a footballer. You learn everything, physically and mentally – and I was on the sidelines.

“Thankfully I have the most supportive parents ever. My mum’s a sports scientist and lectures in exercise rehabilitation and injury prevention. She knew absolutely everything I needed to know about it.” Fiona Iredale was also, in earlier years, an Olympian. “She represented New Zealand in judo at the Sydney 2000 Games…she’s gonna hate me for saying that in the papers,” Iredale smiles. Yet this background also sustained him. “I guess the virtues and values of martial arts, growing up…it’s a culture in which you learn to adapt, and anything else is just noise,” he says. “I was lucky to be in an environment where I didn’t have any negative influences.” He touches the wooden table in front of us. “I’ve had no problems in the last four years. I take my strength and conditioning really seriously and I feel the benefit.”

A certain adaptability has also been required since Iredale was diagnosed as a diabetic 10 years ago. “I was feeling rubbish for a while,” he recalls. “I lost six kilos in two weeks and was waking up and going to the toilet 13 times in the night. I was needing to drink a litre of water at the same time, but instead I was drinking fizzy drinks, like Coke, from the fridge, which was making it 10 times worse. “When the doctor said I had diabetes, I didn’t know much about it. I thought, ‘that’s me finished’. In my head, I was even thinking, ‘Does it kill me?’ But once I got all the information, I started to understand it. It’s not that big of a deal – just a small thing you have to keep in the back of your mind. “I see a lot of kids get bullied at school for having diabetes. But there’s really no reason why it should be the end of playing football and stuff. Nacho Fernandez plays for Real Madrid – he’s Type 1 diabetes and has won World Cups, Champions Leagues and La Ligas.”

Iredale checks his sugar levels several times a day, including up to eight times on the morning of a game. He pulls up his shirt sleeve to show a small patch on his arm. “I’ve got an app on my iPhone, I scan it, and it tells me what’s going on. If you keep it in close control you don’t have any problems. Every diabetic has the odd day when they’re all over the place, but most of the time it’s just a case of doing the right things.” Iredale says the fact he was keener on football than rugby in New Zealand put him in a minority, while he played everything in sports-mad Australia until he was 14. “I have no idea why football was the one I picked, but that’s what I wanted to do. I’m an only child as well, so I would get a football and just mess about in the back garden.

“With other sports, like judo or rugby, I enjoyed competing but wasn’t fussed about training. But whenever I saw a football I just had to touch it. At times I’d get shouted at for kicking a ball around the house, the old cliché. But it never stopped me.” Iredale had a football scholarship in Canberra and was also on the books of Perth Glory. His promise caught the eye of national scouts. “I was selected by Australia when I was 13, we went on a trial camp, they cut the squad, and I didn’t make it. I had to wait a couple of years but at 15 or 16 I got back in when we were going through the World Cup qualifiers process. It was absolutely incredible – no prouder moment than being able to represent your country. It’s something I still dream of being able to do.”

Iredale talks about Australian internationals who have starred in the British game, like Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Scott McDonald, as he imagines a future with the Socceroos. “Another factor in moving here is that there’s a lot of boys in the Australia squad pool who play their football in England. More publicity, more eyes on the league…it’s something I want to do.” He came to the UK at 21 through a family friend, the former St Mirren midfielder Steven McGarry who also played in Australia. After trials with St Mirren, Iredale was signed by Morton, where he made 50 appearances in two seasons. “I was loaned out [to Queens Park] for the first six months too. I learned a lot. I was playing professional football week-in, week-out and I couldn’t be more thankful for that opportunity.”

An attack-minded player who has played in different positions, Iredale has more recently established himself as “a sort of new-style full-back – I love getting on the ball and getting forward”. He leaped at the chance to join Carlisle when manager Steven Pressley described the style of play he had in mind. “Me and my girlfriend were looking for a place to stay in Glasgow, because I thought I’d be staying in Scotland. All of a sudden this came up and it just fell into place,” he says. “It was no more than a week [after the end of last season] before it was done. I think that goes to show how much I wanted to be here. The way the gaffer was talking, and the environment the club presented to me, it was a place I wanted to be.”

Iredale says he sees his parents, who still live in Australia, two or three times a year. “They are the most supportive people in the entire world,” he says. “When I started getting selected for representative teams, we’d go on tours but it wasn’t funded. My parents would always find the money for me to go and do whatever I needed. They gave me everything I could have asked for.” Iredale will miss United’s next two pre-season tests as a precaution, due to tightness in his thigh, but hopes to return for their last one, against Ross County. August 3, against Crawley, could then offer Iredale the chance to make his English league debut. Should he be selected he will be a proud man, both because of what he has overcome and what he hopes lies ahead. “I wake up and I play football with my friends every day,” he says. “I’ve got the best job in the world. Because I was injured for so long, I still enjoy just going and playing, having a ball at my feet. But it doesn’t stop there.”