FEATURE: One that got away... Posh goal machine Marriott is a Brixworth boy
Jack Marriott is a striker on fire for Cobblers' derby rivals Peterborough United... and he comes from Northampton!
Only Premier League stars Mo Salah and Harry Kane have scored more goals than Marriott this season.
He is the top scorer in the EFL and one of the most sought-after talents in the lower leagues, he is the main man at Town’s big rivals Posh, and yet he grew up in Brixworth, just down the road from Sixfields.
It seems to have gone under the radar in what he considers his home town, but Marriott, Posh’s red-hot striker who will be hoping to score his 31st goal of an amazing season against the Cobblers at London Road on Easter Monday, is a Northampton boy.
Born in Beverley in Yorkshire, he moved to the area when he was three, went to Brixworth nursery and junior school, and then finished his schooling at Moulton Secondary.
He played his early football and was a prolific goalscorer for Brixworth Youth and Moulton School, and most of his pals are from the Northampton area, with many of them Cobblers supporters.
Marriott watched Town play as a boy, and the highlight of his young life was playing in cup finals for Brixworth at Sixfields.
He dreamed of playing for his local professional club... but it never happened.
That has proved to be the Cobblers’ loss, and very much Peterborough’s gain.
Despite attending half-term soccer schools put on by Town, Marriott never caught the eye of any watching Cobblers scouts.
Instead, when he was 15, he was spotted by Ipswich Town, and they invited the dynamic front man to try his luck at Portman Road.
He was taken on by the Tractor Boys, and then via Luton Town he has ended up with the Cobblers’ biggest rivals - and it has been a win-win for both parties.
Marriott has been nothing short of a sensation at Posh, hammering home 30 goals, to date, the latest of them being a dramatic equaliser eight minutes into stoppage time at Rotherham United on Saturday.
He has caught the attention of some big clubs in the Championship and Premier League, but for now he is very happy at London Road and targeting a second goal and second derby win of the season over the Cobblers on Easter Monday.
There will be many Town fans wondering how this talented ‘one of our own’ slipped through the net, but Marriott admits it wasn’t for a lack of trying on his part.
“I moved down to Northampton when I was three, so Northampton is all I have ever known really,” said Marriott, who now lives in town, with his wife Taylor and their baby son.
“I grew up in Brixworth, went to junior school there, went to nursery in Brixworth where I met my wife believe it or not, and then I went to Moulton Secondary School.
“I played for Brixworth Juniors from under-eights up until under-13s I think it was, and it was great because that is when you learn to love playing football.
“You play with your mates, you have good fun, and they were some good times. Moulton was a good school as well, and I had a lot of fun there.”
Unusually, Marriott’s journey to a life in pro football didn’t really begin until his mid-teens, when he switched playing for Brixworth to Rothwell Town, the same club where current Burnley boss Sean Dyche played his youth football before being signed by Nottingham Forest.
“I went from Brixworth to Rothwell as an under-13 I think it was, and played there for a couple of years,” added Marriott.
“In the under-15 season I was scouted by Ipswich from there, they regularly had Ipswich scouts at their games, and signed for them halfway through that season.
“At the end of the under-16 season, I got offered a scholarship to move there full-time, and that was that.”
So, was joining the Cobblers ever an option?
“Funnily enough, in the half-term there always used to be the soccer schools for Northampton Town,” said the 23-year-old.
“They would hold them at Moulton College, and I would go to every single one of them, every time, and that was always something I wanted to do, as I took any chance to play football.
“But I never got picked up, and never got looked at it seems, and as a boy growing up all you want to do is play for the local professional team.
“We had a cup final at Sixfields when we were eight, and it was the best thing in the world, and we had another one aged nine or 10, but I never got scouted or offered a trial by Northampton.
“They may have been looking for players with size, which has never really been my strong point, but that is the way the world works, and I might not be the player I am today if I had gone there instead of Ipswich.”
Marriott was a Chelsea fan when he was a youngster, but says he would also get to Sixfields to watch his local team whenever he got the chance.
“I had some family friends who lived down the road from where my parents lived, and they were season ticket holders and I would go with them every now and then,” he said.
“I was there when Scott McGleish scored and they got promoted (against Chester City in 2006), and I remember being there and then going on the pitch after the game.
“So I do have a few different memories of going to watch the Cobblers.”
But it was not to be that Marriott would wear the claret and white, with his career instead seeing him take in Suffolk, Bedfordshire and, now, Cambridgeshire - with a few loan stints along the way.
He was handed his first team debut at Ipswich as an 18-year-old, but said: “I knew I was never going to become a regular first teamer at that time, because of the strikers and personnel they had, I wanted to go and play.”
That led to a switch to the Football League basement division wih the Hatters, with Marriott explaining: “I wanted to go and be in a league two first team, I wanted to be involved and have a chance of playing week in, week out, and that was great.
“I really enjoyed my two years there, scored some good goals, had some great times and met some great people, and learned a lot as well.
“It was my first experience of full-time football and fighting for points week in, week out and meaning more because you were part of the club rather than being on loan.”
Then, last summer came the move that has been the making of Marriott, as he was signed by Posh for an undisclosed fee, reported to be around £500,000.
And things couldn’t have gone much better, although it did lead to a bit of an awkward conversation between the player and his best mate, Dave Naylor, an ardent and lifelong Cobblers supporter!
Marriott took Naylor out for a coffee to break the news.
“I said to Dave, ‘look, I’m signing for Peterborough’ and he wasn’t too thrilled when I told him,” he said.
“It was too good an opportunity to turn down, and Dave has always wanted me to well, just not against Northampton!
“To be fair, he said to me ‘I don’t blame you’, and said he didn’t like it, but he understood it, and that I have to do the best for my career’.”
And it has certainly proved to be the best move Marriott could have hoped for as he has rattled in 30 goals in 49 starts, with one of them in Posh’s 4-1 rout of the Cobblers at Sixfields in August.
It was his first against the Cobblers having played against them before with Luton without success, but despite his Northampton connections, there was no holding back in Marriott’s celebrations in front of the 1,400 jubilant Posh fans following his clinical strike.
He admits he got caught up in the moment, and said: “I’ll be honest, I was desperate to score in that game.
“A few of my mates were in the crowd, and Dave was doing all sorts of gestures to me after the match! But it was all in good spirits, I spoke to him that night and he just said ‘why did you have to score?’.
“But it’s my job and I couldn’t miss on purpose! But Dave is a good lad and he understands, and that was a great game for us, probably one of our season highlights.
“It was great to celebrate with the Posh fans at Sixfields, because we know how much it means to them, we know it’s a big derby.
“You think of a few of the other derby teams Northampton and Peterborough may have, it is not as big as Cobblers versus Posh, that is huge!”
The Town supporters will make the short trip to Posh on Monday with more than a touch of dread following Saturday’s dismal performance in their 4-0 home hiding at the hands of Charlton.
The woeful form of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s team means there will be fewer supporters than normal going to London Road, but there will still be around 1,500 there hoping their team can somehow pick up one of the four wins they still need to secure their Sky Bet League One safety.
Seventh-placed Posh are aiming much higher than that as they still have the promotion play-offs in their sights, and Marriott admitted: “It’s a big game on Monday.
“Northampton obviously don’t want to be in the position they are in, and I don’t think anyone wants to see that.
“But we want to be pushing to be in the play-offs at the end of the season, so we have our own motivation and we want to go and win the game.”
As he still lives in Northampton, Marriott does keep a close eye on developments at Sixfields, so is he surprised at the Cobblers’ current woes?
“They have got a very good team, so it is a touch surprising they are where they are,” he said.
“When they made all the signings in the summer. and again in January, I thought they would be absolutely fine and didn’t think a relegation battle would ever have been on the cards for them. But it is, which will be a big disappointment for Cobblers fans.”
Marriott is really looking forward to Monday’s derby date.
He says he will be keeping an eye out for his pals in the away end, and admits he would love to net another goal against his home town club.
“I will look out for my friends and give them a little smirk or something like that, and hopefully we can go on and win the game and take the three points which is the main thing for us,” said Mariott.
“A goal would make it that bit sweeter of course, but the win is the most important thing.”