Jake Lockett is one of a handful of players who have made the journey east to find a footballing home at St. Duthus. Via Stoke-on-Trent and Lochinver, he now lives in nearby Balintore.
But his first season wasn’t all plain sailing. Despite a solid pre-season start in the summer of 2016 bagging goals at Bught Park in friendly matches, a 20 year old Jake found himself in and out of a team trying to find its feet following an eleven year abeyance. As it turned out, midway through the Saints’ revival campaign, Jake was presented with an unlikely opportunity to move abroad to sign for a team on foreign soil.
“When I was working at the Dores Inn, I was serving a group of three and one was a football coach from Edinburgh. He was a part of the Lincoln Red Imps team from Gibraltar who beat Celtic that summer. Eventually, after a lot of chat about football he asked to see footage of me playing and he sent me a message saying he’d like me to sign me for a team called Angels F.C. in the Gibraltar Second Division, which he was taking over. So, I packed up my bags and went off at the start of January 2017.”
The extravagant move hit an iceberg though, and things didn’t quite pan out as planned, as Jake explains.
“I couldn’t play for a first few weeks as my International clearance took a while to go through. I finally managed to get a couple of games under my belt with some very good performances. But, in the end I was made promises of accommodation and a job which were never honoured, and with money running out I had to return home a few months later.”
Angels F.C. eventually went to the wall, having fallen foul of the rules of the Gibraltar FA for violating player quotas and home grown player rules, and they were expelled from the league. Back home in Scotland, Jake was back training with St. Duthus where a “second chance” awaited him.
“I had stayed in contact with Stuart while I was away and both he and Andy were keen on me coming back with the aim of making it a better experience than my first stint. All the boys at Saints are a great bunch of lads and that was the biggest attraction to coming back.”
Since returning in 2019, Jake hasn’t looked back and has become a regular starter in a St Duthus side who have become regular top half contenders in the North Caledonian League, hungry for success.
But a lot has changed since his stint in Gibralatar - having now made his home in the Seaboard villages, settled down with his partner Becky and having become a Dad to two children, as he attains.
“Fatherhood is great, was a big struggle juggling that with football at the start so had to miss the majority of 2019, but it has made me more hungry to come back stronger last year.”
And that he did. Now 25, Jake has established himself as one of the club’s most experienced campaigners - and it has showed in his performances for the team. Most recently, during the shortened 2020-21 season, Jake topped the assists chart for St. Duthus with a return of 5 in 9 games.
During the summer months he played with Contin F.C. in the Inverness & District League, and he has hit the ground running this season with Saints. His form thus far has earned him a Man of the Match award in September and he has added goals to his repertoire, notching five in eight games.
He even managed to squeeze in becoming a Dad for a second time in September, as he proudly explains.
“We had a wee boy for the second time at the start of season. After our first born I took a big break from football but there was no chance that would be happening again.”
Now playing under the new management team, Jake has plenty optimism about the season ahead.
“We have dropped points in games where we should of seen out a win but with the team starting to gel the results are following.”
“I know Geegs and Tino well from playing with them for a few years and once they started coaching the team and taking training sessions it freshened things up and you could see they would be great to take the role on full time.”
Jake is expected to feature in Saturday’s trip away to Inverness Athletic, which shall be played at the host’s temporary home of Cromal Park in Ardersier.