James Blower has been an integral part of the creation and rise of Parishes of Jersey football club, and this looks set to continue further through the introduction of The World Unity Football Alliance.
Through this interview we will find out just what the World Unity Football Alliance is, and how it will possibly bring more games for Jersey’s top players, both on and off the island.
Blower has been open and honest about what he thinks of the potential of the players on the island, as well as commenting on what the future could hold for the club he founded along with James Scott.
Here is what was said:
Firstly, just how pleased to see football back on TV screens? How much have you missed it!
I’m not as excited as I thought I’d be! I think the big thing the return of football has shown is just how important fans are to the game. Without fans, we’ve seen that home advantage is no longer really a thing. There’s been no big shocks since restart, which has shown just how significant a partisan crowd can be – there’s been no Norwich beating Man City, no Watford beating Liverpool – and watching games on TV in empty stadiums with no noise isn’t what it is about for me. I want football back – but back how it was, not what we’ve got at the moment.
Looking back at March, how hard was it to pick a squad for the CONIFA World Cup?
When it comes to selection, that’s entirely James’ [Scott] call. My role is to support James in that e.g. to talk through the balance of the squad (do we have the right mix), discuss any issues of concern that he might have and any close calls. Ultimately, it’s his call who we take – I’m just there to support him with that and help him with his decision making. Were there any close calls? Absolutely! Some players were easy to pick but there were definitely some close calls.
How pleasing it to see the level of calibre we have in Jersey in terms of the quality of our players?
Jersey has got some excellent footballers and, in my opinion, the breadth is improving too. What’s been missing are the challenges for them to showcase their abilities against the right quality of opposition in meaningful games. That’s something we’ve obviously been working really hard on changing as are the likes of Russell and Ian at Bulls. I know Dave Kennedy will have it on his agenda too and we are really fortunate to have a man of his calibre in the top seat of Jersey football.
Were you confident Parishes of Jersey could go far in the tournament?
I was! I felt there were 5 or 6 sides who could realistically have won the World Cup, and we were definitely in that group. We were a little bit of an unknown quantity, being a newer CONIFA member, and we were definitely a lot of people’s dark horses to be in amongst the contenders. Tournament football is tough – it’s fine margins and it’s about working hard to make sure you’ve got the best chance possible by not just taking care of the big stuff but focusing on all those small bits which might just give you an extra 0.5%. That 0.5% can make all the difference though.
Just how gutted were you when the tournament was put on hold/cancelled due to Covid-19?
Really gutted – we’d worked really hard on so many aspects of the WC preparation. In the run up to it, I’d spoken to James more about the WC than anyone else in my life about any topic! We had done everything we could to give the lads the platform to have the best chance possible. James and I wanted to go and win it and we wanted to make sure that we’d done everything we could to put us in the mix.
Tell us more about the new project – The World Unity Football Alliance. What is it and how did it come about?
The World Unity Football Alliance has been set up by a group of teams, who share common values, and want to play football together. It’s grown from an idea of the people involved in the NGO behind Darfur United and quickly captured the imagination of a number of other teams. We were approached to join and, having listened to what’s being proposed, we were very happy to align ourselves. It’s football people wanting to unite around playing football matches against each other.
How will it help Parishes of Jersey – potentially more games?
Yes it’s exactly that, hopefully more opportunities to participate in competitive matches and tournaments. Obviously it is early days but the people involved have a solid track record of delivering tournaments and initial plans are underway to execute the first one. There’s a lot to be done still but we are hopeful that we will be able to be part of a competitive WUFA tournament in the near future.
Would you be keen to have more games held here in Jersey to bring in a good home crowd?
Personally, yes! We’ve got a fantastic new kit, through our partnership with IQ-EQ, and I’d love to see more home games with a sea of people wearing our shirt cheering the team on. We had superb support on our debut against YIFA and I’d love more days like that in Jersey. I’d also love us to be a tournament host too. I know the States of Jersey get the value of sports tourism – Steve Pallett particularly is hugely supportive – and we’ve got so much to showcase and I want us to do that.
Are all Parishes of Jersey games going to be over Summer, or could we possibly be seeing a game this Winter?
I think tournament football is going to be principally in the off season – that’s just a fact of life in football generally. I think there’s scope to play games during the season though and I’m keen we do that. James and I are working really hard to get a game on in the next few couple of months. Covid-19 isn’t making that easy! We want to be able to do something very soon though.
Finally, when reflecting, how happy are you that you teamed up with James Scott to create Parishes of Jersey Football Club and how successful do you think it has been so far?
I’ve probably got more involved than I probably initially intended to but I’ve absolutely no regrets. James is a great guy and I promised him, way back when he was still playing at Jersey Scottish, that I’d help him with whatever he wanted to do when he finished playing. Jersey football is lucky to have him and I want to help him succeed. We have both been frustrated about the lack of opportunities for our best senior footballers and we wanted to change that. In terms of success, that’s a difficult one. We should be talking now about how we fared at the Southern Frontier Cup and the World Cup. The fact we got ourselves in a position to qualify and then to financially and logistically get ourselves on the plane to both is something I’m proud of. Success is about how you perform in those events so frustration is probably more what I’m feeling. We can’t do anything about a global pandemic though. What I can say is that it has only served to strengthen our resolve to deliver what we promised with Parishes. We owe it to the players.
A brilliant interview with James Blower, one where you can see just how hungry he is to create opportunities for players right here in Jersey to play against players which will challenge them, and as a result, make them better players.
The future looks very exciting for the best players on the island, and let’s hope that tournament football does come to Jersey in the near future.
A big thanks to James for his time.