A familiar foe awaits York City’s John McCombe in next week’s opening Capital One Cup tie. The centre-back talks to DAVE FLETT about the prospect of facing up to his brother, Jamie.
JOHN McCombe could not know one of York City’s Capital One Cup opponents’ biggest goal threats any better.
Stopping him might be another matter though.
The Minstermen will be looking to progress to the second round of the competition for the first time since 1997 when they play host to South Yorkshire neighbours Doncaster Rovers next Tuesday.
It is a game that could pit McCombe against his 31-year-old elder brother Jamie for only the second time in their professional careers with the former admitting the latter could prove difficult to keep off the scoresheet.
City centre-back John formed a formidable partnership with Keith Lowe at the heart of City’s defence during the second half of last season, with just six goals conceded in the club’s final 19 games.
But 6ft 5in Jamie, who plays in the same position as his younger sibling, boasts 36 senior goals to his name and John admitted that the onus might fall on the Minstermen man mountain goalkeeper Jason Mooney to deal with him at dead-ball deliveries.
McCombe senior scored the only goal of the game - a header from a free-kick - on his last visit to Bootham Crescent, which resulted in a first round FA Cup triumph for his then club Bristol City in 2006. On preventing a repeat performance eight years on, City’s McCombe said: “He does score a few goals and is a handful at set-pieces, so I’m not too sure who will be picking him up if he plays.
“It might have to be big Jason because he’s about the right size.”
John is no shrinking violet in the opposition penalty box, either, with five goals from 28 appearances last term and the former Mansfield defender admitted that there are other likenesses in the pair’s playing styles, adding: “He’s quite a bit taller than me and he’s gone on to play at a higher level but the way we run and kick the ball is pretty similar in a lot of ways if you watch us.”
While Jamie has plied his trade in the Championship for Bristol City and Doncaster, John has spent his career in the Football League’s basement division after leaving first club Huddersfield.
As a consequence, the pair have never met before in a league contest but John, then with Port Vale, was on the receiving end of a 4-2 League Cup home defeat against Jamie’s Huddersfield three years ago.
“If we are both playing next week it would be great, although I don’t know who my mum and dad would support,” John smiled on the prospect of a rematch. “My family are very supportive and try to get to as many of our games as they can.
“I imagine there will be a few grandparents and uncles at this game as well. In the early years, we played for the same team - South Elmsall Boys.
“I started playing when I was four or five and we used to play in the under-10s when he was six because we were quite tall back then as well. Other than that cup game, though, we haven’t been on the same pitch since.”
John went on to confess that seeing another member of his family carve out a career in professional football gave him the encouragement to realise his own dreams.
He explained: “I speak to my brother quite a lot and he’s helped me a lot in my career with him going through a lot of things a year or two before me. He’s someone I look up to.
“Our paths to becoming professionals were quite different. I signed at Huddersfield when I was ten and stayed there, whereas my brother played for Huddersfield and Barnsley and then played some Sunday League football before getting a chance to sign a scholarship with Scunthorpe.
“Seeing him do that and get in the first team did inspire me quite a bit and he helped me in terms of knowing what to expect as a young lad coming in from school, because it’s quite hard when you start your first full-time pre-season.
“I still ask him for a lot of advice now.
“I did last season and will do again going ahead.
“I try to watch him play as often as the fixtures allow, but that’s only usually two or three times a year and he was out injured last season as well.”