Former Brighton & Hove Albion striker Jake Robinson, who is currently plying his trade with Billericay Town in the National League South, spoke ahead of Non-League Day, which takes across the county tomorrow.
Robinson remains the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer for his 2003 strike against Forest Green Rovers at the Withdean Stadium, and the 31-year-old is now leading the line for Billericay after several years on the non-league circuit.
The forward was asked a number of questions ahead of Non-League Day — an initiative created to promote non-league football across England during the international break.
Jake, what are your thoughts on Non-League Day?
“It’s a great initiative. One of the main parts of it is bringing in bigger crowds, which is obviously important for non-league clubs, financially.
“That’s been the case at other clubs I’ve been at like Whitehawk and Hemel Hempstead, where you need bigger crowds to bring more money in.
“If one person comes to the game, enjoys it, wants to come back and spreads the word to their friends, then that’s great for non-league football and the exposure of the clubs.
“It’s a great idea and I’ve always enjoyed non-league day. Everyone enjoys it and you get good crowds — it’s generally a successful day.”
What can supporters expect from attending a non-league match over the weekend?
“You’re going to get a wholehearted performance from every player on the pitch at non-league level. They’re out there because they choose to play at this level.
“At the top level it’s a job and it’s what players have done their whole lives. But at non-league level, there are lots of players working hard in search of becoming successful.
“Obviously the money is very different to the top level, so people are playing to pay their bills and it becomes important for them to win games.
“You get full-blooded commitment and the games are generally entertaining. It’s an enjoyable day out for the family and hopefully fans get some entertaining football to go alongside it.”
Are there plenty of young talents in non-league football trying to work their way up the football pyramid?
“There has certainly been an increase in young players being scouted from non-league teams.
“Jamie Vardy is probably the one that’s led the way, but ever since then, there’s a couple of players in our league last season who have gone on to play in the EFL.
“You get the other side of it where there are experienced players who have dropped down the leagues but are still looking to play at a good level.
“There’s a good mix and the general exposure and attention towards non-league now is tenfold to what it was maybe five or ten years ago.
“Perhaps that’s down to social media and that’s just the way football is going. It’s great for non-league clubs who are looking to attract more fans and bring more money into the club.”
57 goals in 59 games for Billericay last season — that’s rather impressive…
“It was my highest scoring season and probably the most successful one in terms of the team. We won the league, the Essex Senior Cup and also the League Cup as well.
“It was one of those dream seasons really, it went fantastically well. We were favourites going into the season and knew we’d have a chance, but it’s another matter actually doing it.
“We ended the season really well and it’s continued into this season. I’ve carried on where I left off with 14 goals in the opening 11 matches.
“We’re top of the league again and had a couple of good Emirates FA Cup wins — a 4-1 and then a 9-1 last weekend.
“We’re looking for back-to-back promotions, which is obviously going to be tough because this league is a lot tougher, but we’re looking good and the momentum is with us at the moment.”
What enjoyment do you get out of playing non-league football?
“I feel less pressure now and I enjoy my football more. I’m not sure which one comes first, whether it’s less pressure because I’m enjoying it more, or is the pressure off because I know I can score goals and win games at this level? They probably come hand in hand.
“Personally, I felt the pressure quite a lot in the Football League, especially during the first few years and then when I began to move downwards.
“It got a bit too much at times, but there were obviously some very good times as well. It was a nice career and good time of my life.
“But if I could go back to my time as a full-time pro with the knowledge and experience I have now, it would be a different story. I would probably enjoy it a lot more and also perform a lot better.”
Supporters can watch Robinson play for Billericay against Gloucester City at New Lodge tomorrow afternoon - the club is offering half-price entry to fans wearing fancy dress or those who possess a Premier League or EFL season ticket.
Otherwise, Albion supporters can visit www.nonleagueday.co.uk to find a game to attend, and beneath are a selection of matches that could take your fancy, with the respective postcode for where the game is being played.