Fleet skipper Jack King has announced his retirement from the game following the conclusion of the 2019/20 season.
After 16 years in senior football and another six on the books of Oxford United and Swansea City as a youngster, the 34-year-old has called time on a career that has taken him from the Hellenic Premier Division with Didcot Town to League One with Preston North End and Scunthorpe United.
King joined the Fleet in the summer of 2018 from Stevenage and went on to make 75 starts plus two as substitute for the club, scoring three goals. His last goal for the club was a crucial one, taking the three points against Chorley in February – and he had made the most starts of any player in the squad by the end of this campaign.
“I’ve nothing but respect for what he did in my time here,” manager Kevin Watson said, “and he was immense for the team and the club.” (Read Kevin’s full interview here.)
King, who was appointed team captain by former manager Garry Hill in the summer, spoke of it being the right time for him to call it a day as he is poised to take over his father Tony’s groundwork business.
“It was more to do with outside things, my dad’s not getting any younger and I’ve got responsibilities within the business so I just felt the time was right to stop playing full-time football and concentrate more on setting up my future, especially now with the current situation and uncertainty.
“I’ve had a bad knee for a few years and I’ve been carrying that through for quite a long time although in the end injuries have not really affected my playing or this decision. But I’m 35 in August and I had a two-year contract with Ebbsfleet which was coming to an end. I talked to Kevin [Watson] and a few friends in football and they say to play as long as you can because you’re a long time retired. I’ve been round the leagues and that takes a toll into your thirties.”
The Fleet skipper certainly went out on a high, with what was to prove his final game in professional football at Halifax.
“It’s quite ironic. At the time I didn’t quite know if it would be my last game but it was on TV, we won, kept a clean sheet and obviously I got man of the match so it’s nice to go out like that. I never wanted my career to peter out, to not get in the team or not to be playing well.”
Earlier this season King stated that he didn’t want a relegation on his CV and his final act certainly helped the Fleet move to a position of safety – regardless of what is now decided by the powers-that-be.
“I’ve probably only finished in the lower half of a table once in my career so it is something that was quite new to me. But there’s no doubt in my mind and I know a lot of the players felt the same, that we were going to get ourselves out of it. We worked our way to a good position to carry on for the rest of the season and it was a shame it stopped.
“We worked really hard and ground out some results. Things were certainly looking up and it was a shame it stopped when it did but whatever the outcome I’ll go out with my head held high. We all did our best for the club and in the end we were getting our rewards.”
Now King is facing a life outside football but he’ll certainly miss the atmosphere of the Fleet dressing room.
“The biggest part for me are my teammates and the fans. I know certainly, I can call the boys friends as well as teammates. It was a very tight group on and off the pitch and all that we went through together – this season’s squad and last season’s.”
“There’ll be comings and goings in the off-season as every year but I’m sure I’ll still stay in contact with a lot of the lads after football. So that’s the part I’ll miss most. I’ve obviously worked on a building site before so I’ve seen both sides of working life and football is a unique environment to be in. A football changing room can be a tough place to be, but equally you spend a lot of time there and often with people more than you do your own family. It is a unique experience and I’ve always really enjoyed it, the banter with the lads and the camaraderie that goes on. I’ll miss that the most and I’d just like to wish all of them, the fans and the club all the best for the future.”