James Rowe was initially released by Aldershot Town at the end of the 2017/18 season but he rejoined the club after impressing on trial this pre-season. Rowe had a good career in the Football League before he joined The Shots.
James was relegated with Tranmere Rovers from the EFL but won the National League the season after with Cheltenham Town in 2015/16. He began his career with Championship side Reading where he didn’t make a first-team appearance and had spells with Lewes and Basingstoke Town.
He has also played with League Two side Forest Green Rovers as well. Rowe discusses living in Liverpool for two years, his glorious season with Cheltenham, how he re-joined The Shots, his time on loan with Lewes and Basingstoke and some interesting hobbies too.
From the beginning, where did football start for you?
“I was in primary school and my brother and his friend were starting up a football team but I was too young to play. They made the team and I was playing with my Dad and them two.
“I was one of the better players at school in my opinion because there wasn’t a great deal of talent coming through in football. It all started for me at that school team and I’ll never forget those days.”
How did your move to Reading come about as that’s where your journey really started for you?
“I got spotted by Southampton in a six-a-side tournament and I ended up signing with them. I was there for the best part of 10 years and then when I got to my scholarship days at 17-18, they let me go and didn’t give me a professional contract.
“I went down to Reading for a trial for a couple of days and I ended up playing really well for them and they just signed me right there and then.”
How was life at Reading for you?
“Reading was good, I enjoyed my time there. I worked under a lot of good managers. I worked under Brendan Rodgers there which was a really good spell for me, he’s one of the favourite managers that I’ve played for.
“I met a lot of nice lads there and some of them are still playing and some are not. Overall, it was a very enjoyable time.”
Are there any players from your time at Reading that fans would recognise now?
“There was Michael Hector who is now at Chelsea but he’s currently on loan at Fulham and Jake Taylor who is currently at Exeter City. There’s not many more who are from my age group I don’t think.
“I know that Craig Tanner played for Reading at one stage but they are all the players I can think of off the top of my head.”
During your time at Reading, you had spells out on loan to Lewes and Basingstoke Town. Were they an important part of becoming the player you are today?
“They were tough loans to be fair. I was brought up to play football in a way that you focus on playing the ball on the floor and trying to create chances from good moves. In non-league, it’s more direct and sometimes you have to play the ball over the top.
“Those loans really showed me what men’s football is about. It showed me what life was like outside of the Championship and it was a really good experience for me in terms of just playing games and realising how important it is to win games.
“It’s not always pretty in the lower leagues and I think my loans opened my eyes a little bit.”
After Reading, you went out to Tranmere before catching the eyes of Cheltenham Town. Talk to me about how it was there and how that memorable season was for everyone connected to the club?
“Going to Tranmere, I had to live in Liverpool for two years. It was weird living down there but before I knew it, I was at Cheltenham Town. Cheltenham was a very special time for me and we won the league in that great season.
“The following season in League Two, we managed to stay up and the club is still in League Two now which is amazing for them. It’s part of what I and the others did for the club which is very satisfying.
“They were very special times for me and they will be always be remembered as a special time of my life and they are held very close to my heart.”
How did the move to Aldershot Town come about after Cheltenham Town?
“I decided to part ways with Cheltenham. This was just after the League Two season and my agent rang me to say that Gary Waddock was interested in me at Aldershot. At the time, I wasn’t sure because I had teams interested in me from the Football League but Gary was a very good manager.
“He liked to play football and he really liked the way I played. It looked like a nice club so I trained down there and met the gaffer. I wanted to see the boys, what they’re like and see how they played. I still wanted to play in the Football League at the time but when I went down there and looked at the club, I could just tell that it really suited me.
“I was really happy there so I decided to sign for Aldershot Town.”
Aldershot Town released you at one point but you impressed in the trials and got your place back in the first team. Talk to me about how you achieved that and what you needed to prove them wrong?
“It was a strange period for me. That was under Gary Waddock’s reign and I got on with him, he was a really great bloke. At the end of the season, we decided for whatever reason that being at the club wasn’t right for me at the time.
“I went away on holiday and was just chilling at home when I got a phone call from Gary and he said that he wanted to meet up again and have a chat to discuss things and see what I was up to. When I met up with him, he just admitted that he missed working with me and I said that I felt the same way as well.
“He said that he wanted me to come back to training and play a few games for them. I said that I was more than happy to do that. I could’ve had an ego about it and refused to return but I held no grudges against Gary so I was more than happy to play for Aldershot Town again.”
Under the current manager Danny Searle, what have you learnt that has been different from Waddock’s reign?
“It’s different times compared to now. When we played under Gary, we had a bit of a bigger budget and you could argue that we had players potentially playing at the wrong level. We had a lot of players that I thought should’ve been playing in League One or League Two.
“There was a time where we could’ve been pushing for promotion whereas, under Danny Searle, it’s the other end of the spectrum. It’s not his fault because of the finances and what we were left with after the struggles last season.
“We’ve all had the aim of staying in the league this season and it’s been a dogfight. With the situation we’ve been in, I think we’ve dug deep as we were probably favourites to be relegated. What the lads have achieved this season has been quite impressive and I hope the fans appreciate that as well.
“The lads and the gaffer have done really well with what we’ve got. We have to give a big appreciation to Danny Searle who is close to securing another season in the National League for us. I have no doubt we can achieve that and really kick on next season.”
From your time as a midfielder, who has been the hardest attacker to defend against in the National League?
“It’s a tough question. I don’t think I have a player off the top of my head but it certainly has to be one of Barrow’s players. I didn’t play against them this season but I watched from the stands and they were really good.
“If I have to think of certain players then John Rooney springs to mind so I think he’d be right up there.”
Are there any hobbies or interests outside of Aldershot Town that fans don’t know you get up to?
“They would probably know most of them because I like to put everything on my Instagram.
“I like to play the guitar when I’m home. The current situation regarding Coronavirus has given me a lot of spare time and I like to relax with my guitar. That’s definitely my main hobby at the moment because it occupies my mind and keeps me busy.”