Former Liverpool defender Jack Hobbs has returned to the Imps in a coaching capacity.
The 33-year-old started his career with the Imps, moving to Liverpool for £750,000 after just one senior appearance, lasting a couple of minutes. He will now come back to the club where it all started, albeit in an assistant coaching role operating within the Academy’s Shadow Scholarship program.
“I had always hoped to play for Lincoln City again and, although that never happened, I feel honoured to have the opportunity to coach at the club,” he told the club’s official site.
“I’m delighted to be back at the club where it all started for me as a player. I hope to impart as much knowledge as possible to the younger players and pass on some of what I’ve learnt throughout my 15 years as a pro.”
Hobbs was a special talent who came through the youth setup from the age of 11. He came from a footballing family; his sister Nicola also featured for Lincoln and went on to play for Doncaster Belles, Everton and London Bees. Jack is the younger of the two and, after spending five years in the youth setup he was given a three-year scholarship.
He might have found his way into the Lincoln youth setup, but Peterborough were his local side. He went to Spalding Grammar School and played for Moulton Harrox. At Under 14 level he was also allowed to play for Spalding Athletic despite being on Lincoln’s books. Hobbs, who eventually stopped growing at the height of 6ft 3in, also played cricket for Lincolnshire at youth level.
On January 15th, 2005 he finally got to make his debut, coming on as an 89th-minute sub for Matt Bloomer against Bristol Rovers. At 16 years and 149 days, he became the club’s youngest ever Football League debutant, breaking a record that Shane Nicholson previously held. Nicholson is still the club’s youngest ever player, his first appearance coming at the age of 16 years and 112 days; he didn’t make his Football League debut until a couple of months later at 16 years 173 days.
“I was put on the bench for the Bristol Rovers game and I came on for the last few minutes,” he said of his debut. “I don’t remember too much of it, I won a few headers, played a long ball and I think I made a tackle. It didn’t really matter though because just to get on and say you have played a game in professional football was brilliant, I was delighted.
“As a youth teamer you want to break into the first team, and as a kid you think to yourself if you can play one game for the first team then it’s amazing, fortunately for me it happened.”
The club felt Hobbs was going to be a big player in the future, but so did Liverpool and Arsenal. He didn’t feature for the first team again that season, although he was an unused sub as we beat Grimsby 4-2 the next week, and in matches against Rochdale, Boston and Cambridge. He didn’t feature on the bench after February 19th and watched from the stands as we eventually blew automatic promotion and lost to Southend United in the play-off final.
That summer saw interest from Arsenal and a deal was close to being agreed. How different might his career been if he’d gone to the Gunners? It’s hard to say, but the move fell through after they wanted the sell-on clause removed. At that time it was speculated that both Spurs and Bolton (ironically) were in the hunt.
It was Liverpool who won the race for his signature, not only agreeing to a sell-on clause but also to a friendly at Sincil Bank in the 2006/07 season, which attracted a large crowd. By then, Jack had played for England Under 19s and seemed set for a big career.
“It was a brilliant experience,” he told the club’s website last season. “I remember the game really well. The Stadium was full, there were a few first team players in the Liverpool side and then younger lads like myself. A lot of my mates were watching, and I knew a few of the Lincoln lads like Freck (Lee Frecklington), Phil Watt and other boys from the youth team. It was a great event, and hopefully it was enjoyable for everyone involved with Lincoln City. For me it was a great experience, it is something in my career I look back on with great memories.
He did enjoy a strong career, perhaps not the illustrious one his beginnings hinted at, but a stellar one in which injuries hampered his progress. He played five times for the Reds and twice in the top flight. One of those matches was against Bolton where he replaced Jamie Carragher in the 51st minute and the other was a start against Reading. He spent the final six months of the season on loan at Scunthorpe, then the whole of the 2008/09 season at Leicester City, where he faced the Imps in the Football League Trophy.
It was a hugely successful season for him; they won League One and he was named in the PFA Team of the Year. At just 20-years-old he left Liverpool for an undisclosed fee which gave us a small boost, but not the sort of sum I expect we had hoped for when rebuking Arsenal. Another successful season saw him lift their Player of the Year award and the Player’s Player of the Year award. It seemed as though he was on his way back up the divisions.
Sven Goran Eriksson was the man who eventually let him leave Leicester, first on loan to Hull City and later permanently. After his loan spell he said he wanted to return to Leicester, but returned to Hull permanently and stayed for two Championship campaigns; one of which he missed three months of thanks to an injury, Hull were promoted at the end of his second season and he was sold to Forest.
In five seasons he played just 86 times for Forest, constantly struggling with injury and form and he found himself released at the end of the 2017/18 season. He ended his career with Bolton Wanderers, playing 35 league games for them. He appeared as recently as February 2020 in their 0-0 draw with Accrington, but was released at the end of the Covid-hit season and didn’t find another club.