THE slow pace of life compared to his native capital is still hard for Jake Reeves to get his head around. So, too, is a stranger sparking up a friendly conversation when the Bradford City midfielder is going about his everyday life.
On the pitch, however, the Londoner insists he felt right at home within days of Stuart McCall paying AFC Wimbledon £150,000 to bring the midfielder north.
“The move has been great,” said the Greenwich-born 24-year-old to The Yorkshire Post. “I wasn’t sure how I would react to it at first, as I had obviously been up north before, but not lived here.
“I did have a spell at Swindon, but most of my career had been in London. I am a proper London boy and life is a hell of a lot different up here.
“Life is a lot slower than I was used to. Up here, I have learned to set off for training a bit earlier because no one seems to be in a rush. Early on, I was pipping my horn and other drivers were probably thinking, ‘Who is this bloke?’
“The biggest difference this far north is how everyone is really friendly. No one speaks to each other in London unless you are already friends. We just get on with our day and try to get things done as quickly as possible.
“Up here is so different. Even when I go to the shop and buy some food, the love at the till will start asking me how my day has been. In London, it would just be ‘beep, beep, beep..’ as she scanned the items, followed by, ‘That’s £20’.
“Now, I go to the shop for five minutes and it takes 20 because I end up chatting away. I quite enjoy that, even if at first I was thinking, ‘You nosey so-and-so. What’s it go to do with you?’
“Seriously, I love it. Me and Dom (Poleon) share together. We know each other anyway from before at Wimbledon so that helped me a bit. He knows all the places to go, from his time up here before.
Up here is so different. Even when I go to the shop and buy some food, the love at the till will start asking me how my day has been. In London, it would just be ‘beep, beep, beep..’ as she scanned the items, followed by ‘That’s £20’.Bradford City midfielder, Jake Reeves
“Plus, this is a really welcoming club. Be it the staff, the lads or the fans – everyone has been great.”
Part of an eye-opening welcome to City for not only Reeves but all the other summer signings was a night out on the club’s pre-season tour that few present are likely to forget, even if the amount of alcohol imbibed by those present may make the detail a tad hazy round the edges.
Echterdinger, a German town that can be found just to the south of Stuttgart, was the venue for the sort of get-together involving players, staff, fans and even chairman that, sadly, just does not seem to happen in an age of ever-present mobile phone cameras and social media.
Many steins were supped amid a party atmosphere that involved singing, laughter and Tony McMahon, fresh from signing a new contract after a proposed move away had collapsed, leading the fans in chanting, ‘Stuart, Stuart’ at the club’s manager. McCall, for his part, shouted back, ‘We should have sold you to Blackburn.”
For Reeves, the trip brought confirmation that he had swapped one club with a strong family-like bond for another.
“Pre-season is always massive,” he added, “and especially for new signings like myself. Sometimes, it can make or break the season.
“Training was really good and the gaffer got the work in we needed. But the thing that really stands out from that trip a couple of months on is the chairman (Edin Rahic) taking us round this town after the friendly game and the fans being there.
“Everyone was allowed to mingle and socialise. It was nice to see those who had turned up and supported their team.
“I have been at events where the chairman of a club has been there, but not one where he is getting the beers in and the fans are mingling with the players, too. It was a first for me, but great fun.”
The final night blow-out of a week-long trip that had seen the players put through their paces by McCall and his staff over the border in Austria reminded Reeves of the special bond between club and fans at AFC Wimbledon.
That, though, is where the similarities end with City’s 20,000 plus average crowd this season being almost five times that of the Dons – a disparity that makes the Yorkshire outfit a major scalp for their League One peers.
“Wimbledon is a good club,” said the former Tottenham Hotspur junior, who also had three years at Brentford before joining a club which only began life in 2002. “There is a real romance to the club because of what happened. All neutrals like what has been achieved.
“The club is still small and young, in terms of how old it is. But what they have achieved is brilliant.
“Wimbledon’s ground was small and compact, meaning we could make it quite daunting for other teams. Even though there wasn’t a lot of fans, we managed that.
“Teams wanted to beat us, of course they did. But there was a welcome wherever we went that other clubs might not get.
“I knew all about the story about how the club had been set up after the old Wimbledon went to Milton Keynes from being a London boy. I always kept an eye out on all the London clubs, thinking I might play there one day.
“I went in on loan first (from Brentford) and then signed permanently. It is a club no one says a bad word about. Rightly so, as they never do anything out of order.
“Bradford are a bit different in that we are there to be shot at. It is a massive club that has been in the play-offs for the last two seasons. A real big scalp for teams to get, especially in front of that big crowd.
“Teams want to really turn us over, but I like that. It may make our life a bit more difficult, but we are a group who love a challenge.”