Kitman JP presses on to get Shrewsbury dressed for success
The kitman plays an integral role within any sporting dressing room – looking after players to ensure they have everything they need to perform on the pitch.
And it is no different at Shrewsbury Town where Jon Pearce, referred to as ‘JP’ by staff at the club, has the important job of ensuring the players at the Meadow are well looked after.
Pearce, who is from east London, was another of Steve Cotterill’s additions in the summer as he arrived from Birmingham City – a club he had worked at for almost nine years.
But what exactly does he do on a weekly basis to give the players nothing to complain about?
Pearce said: “I like to be in early, I am in well before the players, possibly around 6.30 or 7am.
“I like to be in before the manager because it sets a good example that you are doing your job properly.
“And you want his kit to be put out first, and then, half an hour later, everyone’s kit is out.
“If the manager knows they have had a session in the morning and then they have gym, he will ask me to get them fresh kit out, you don’t want them in cold clothes.”
And Pearce is very busy on matchdays too.
“When I worked at Birmingham, I would probably go and set up the night before, but it doesn’t seem to happen so much in League One, so I probably get to the stadium at 9.30am or 10 am,” he continued.
“Even if you are away, I like to get there early and get the dressing room set up.
“I put what they wear in the warm-up out for them, boots, shin pads, flip flops, towels and any specific requirements that the players have.
“I always watch the first half.
“But as a kitman, you have to be two steps ahead.
“So something could happen on the bench and the sports scientist could need something and I need to go and get it.
“You have to be ready to be on the move.
“If the players have less to worry about, they might get three more points a season.
“In the same way, it gives them less to moan about, if you give them nothing to moan about – all they have to worry about is what happens on the pitch.
“I can’t change what happens there, but you want the players to be as prepared as possible for any eventually.
“And that is a kitman’s thing, you will always take too much. You will take things you don’t need and things you won’t use, but you will always get asked for something.”
And Pearce will take all manner of different things to a game to make sure the players have all bases covered.
He takes toothbrushes, batteries and sometimes even toilet paper – as opposition teams have been known not to leave any in the past.
He refers to himself as an ‘odd job man’ and if the players need something, he believes he should have it for them.
When Town play away, he takes a club emblem with him to stick on the changing room door to make it feel like their home for the day, as well as packing several speakers – he says Aaron Wilbraham and Luke Leahy are usually in charge of the music.
The 43-year-old has not always been a kitman before he took up his role at Birmingham, he worked as a baggage handler, but Pearce always had aspirations to work in football just like his father had before him – he was a stadium manager at West Ham – his boyhood club. He did work as a football agent for a while, but Pearce found that ‘cutthroat’ and even though he liked watching games he found talking to players and parents difficult.
And after applying for a few jobs, he got a role Blues, and he moved his family to Telford as a result.
Away from football, he has a passion for collecting football shirts, something he has done since he was young.
He said: “Shirt collecting has been my real big thing of mine, it started when I was 21 when my dad worked as the stadium manager at West Ham.
“I was close to the kitman, and I started getting shirts from there, I collected more and more through people I knew.
“It just spiralled, and I probably have 700 or so now.
“I like weird ones that no one wants because everyone wanted the bigger ones.
“But I have ended up with a Messi shirt from when he was at Barcelona.
“Football is my main thing, but shirt collecting goes alongside with it.”
Pearce has worked with Town’s current boss before, when Cotterill was the manager of Blues, and he says they share a good relationship.
“Really well,” he said when asked how he gets on with the Salop boss.
“He saved us at Birmingham that season, Harry Redknapp was the face of it, but Steve had put all the groundwork in.
“Not a lot of people see his attention to detail, tactics and set plays.
“He is very good tactically, and he is so driven by that, which is why he is so good at it.
“I was good friends with the analyst at Birmingham, and he would openly tell you that when they were working on preparing for a game his attention to detail was so important.
“He is normally not too many steps behind me when coming in, and almost the same when leaving.
“We will all have a day off, and he will probably be watching three or four videos on whoever we are playing next.”
Pearce will be doing his best to make sure the players have everything they need ahead of another important League One fixture against Bolton this weekend.