Opinion: Jenkins proving he’s still a key figure for United

Allan Jenkins recently passed the 200 appearance mark for Ballymena United. Picture: Press Eye.
Allan Jenkins recently passed the 200 appearance mark for Ballymena United. Picture: Press Eye.

I still recall very vividly the slightly unusual circumstances of my first encounter with Allan Jenkins - even though I hadn’t a clue who he was!

It came after a midweek home defeat for Ballymena United at the hands of Coleraine and I had just finished then manager Roy Walker’s post-match press conference.

As I opened the door to exit the office, I came virtually nose-to-nose with an imposing figure who had been attempting to come in through the same door at the same time.

As we mumbled our respective apologies to each other, I noted the Scottish accent and the following Saturday, I casually enquired of Roy Walker who “the big Scottish fella” was who was over during the week.

Equally casually, Roy described him as a “mate of Cutchy” (Gary McCutcheon) who had been over to watch his friend in action.

A few short months later, that status changed to “team-mate of Cutchy”.

That chance first meeting came into my mind last week as it emerged that Jenkins had clocked up his 200th appearance for Ballymena in the win at Dungannon.

I’m fairly sure that when Jenkins - a seasoned professional in his homeland - took his wander through the Showgrounds complex on that midweek night, he couldn’t have imagined clocking up such a significant personal milestone.

He’s reached it fairly quickly, as well - slightly less than five full seasons - meaning he averages around 40 appearances a season.

He’s been fairly fortunate with injuries - his longest lay-off was around eight weeks before he was rushed back to come on as a sub in United’s first County Antrim Shield success in 2012.

The 200 game mark would have been reached sooner but for four red cards - particularly interesting given that he was never sent off in his native Scotland and perhaps more indicative of the standards of refereeing in this country rather than suggestive of some sort of Jekyll and Hyde-style transformation in his character as he crosses the Irish Sea.

In that time, Jenkins has emerged as a player revered by Ballymena fans and admired by other clubs’ supporters.

He has also helped dispel the tedious notion that, because he’s not from Ballymena, that he doesn’t care about the club. It’s the individual attitude and attributes of a player that are important, not their postcode.

Jenkins continues to chip in with his fair share of goals, whether from midfield or as a makeshift striker, but he doesn’t get half enough credit for the defensive side of his game - just watch how many times in a game, when Ballymena re defending a set-piece, that it’s Jenkins’ head that powers the ball clear.

The Scot knows himself that time is not on his side in his career but given David Jeffrey’s astute reading of all things Ballymena United so far, it will be a big surprise if the new boss sees Jenkins’ contribution any differently to the rest of us.