This is my club, says Jake, I'll always be an Alty fan
Last Sunday represented the final opportunity for Altrincham fans to witness Jake Moult stepping out in the red and white stripes, but it wasn't the last time we'll see him at The J.Davidson Stadium. The long-serving former Robins skipper made that much clear in a column he penned specially for the souvenir programme the club produced for his testimonial game, and we reproduce it here in its entirety.
I feel proud, honoured and even a little bit emotional to be able to say, for one last time, welcome everyone to The J.Davidson Stadium for this afternoon's game.
I've lost count of the number of times I must have written that greeting in the Robins Review match programme during the years I was privileged to be captain of this fantastic football club.
It's a bit different on this occasion, of course. Previously, there were always league points at stake or a cup tie to be won, but this afternoon is all about renewing acquaintances and saying thanks to everyone for all the memories my Altrincham career provided me with.
After a year away, it's going to feel strange walking through the door, stepping into the changing room and pulling on an Alty strip again, but I've been looking forward to it so much.
There's a saying about absence making the heart grow fonder, and it certainly applies to me, where Altrincham are concerned. I knew I'd miss the place, but just how much has taken me by surprise. Honestly, I've missed the club no end over the past 12 months.
I always knew there would be an element of that, but I just thought give it a few months and you'll get your head round it and move on. Not a bit of it. Of course, once you play for a new club, you play, and you're committed to doing that as well as you can.
But I've missed so much about Altrincham. I've missed being out on the pitch, I've missed people around the pitch on the sidelines, people I used to enjoy spending time with, I've missed the way the club is run and the people who run it, I've missed the style of football we played and I've missed the fans.
It's like anything in life, really, you take things for granted, without meaning to, and only realise what you had when they're no longer there. So stepping back after being away all season is going to add to the emotion this afternoon.
My wife Rebecca will no doubt have a chuckle at that. She describes me as a robot, and, to be fair, I do generally tend to be level-headed and try not to be too up or too down. When we won promotion, I enjoyed the moment without getting too carried away, and when we went down to the Northern Premier League, I was more concerned with how we could get back up than letting it get to me.
I don't show loads of emotion, and I can't remember the last time I cried, but there's just something about Altrincham that manages to find a way through that self-control and put me to the test.
That was certainly the case at the end of our final home game last season, when seven of us applauded Alty fans for one last time before moving on. It was incredibly emotionaI and it did get to me. I just about managed to fight back the tears, but it was touch and go.
Not many players get a special moment like that, saying thanks to supporters and having it said back to you, and I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced that at the end of an Altrincham career that was a rollercoaster at times but I wouldn't have swopped for anything.
There were plenty of ups and downs over the 10 years, but I'll always be proud of what we achieved together. When I joined the club, we were in the Conference North, with a fan base of around 600-700. When I left, we were averaging gates of 2,000, and I'd like to think I played a decent part in that.
And you can only imagine that trend continuing. A week is a long time in football, and I've been away for a whole season, but all the signs suggest the club could not be on a sounder footing. I truly believe Phil Parkinson has the best interests of the club at heart and is someone who really feels Altrincham FC, which is important.
I may well find myself fighting back one or two tears again before the afternoon is out, but this isn't goodbye as far as I'm concerned.
The first result I always look for is Alty's. I know that probably sounds a bit of a cliche, an ex-player saying he always looks for his old club's results, but, hand on heart, it's true. I never had a team, growing up, never supported Stoke City, Liverpool or anyone else, but such is the attachment I developed with this club over the years, I now class myself as an Alty fan.
Once my Saturdays are freed up, whenever that might be somewhere down the line, and if I can ever get over the idea of no longer being up to pulling on a pair of boots, I will 100 per cent be getting along to cheer the lads on. Finally, I'd like to finish with a few thanks.
To my wife Rebecca for putting up with so much over the years, the moods and tantrums as well as the celebrations! She's as much an Alty fan as I am now. My dad Arthur, who ferried me around as a kid, absolutely loves Alty and will probably be crying before the afternoon is out, and our two boys Archie and Jude, who have grown up with the club and also always look out for Alty's results.
To Grahame Rowley, whose support for me was unswerving, even in the dark days of a second successive relegation when he awarded me a new contract. I'll never forget that, Grahame, and I hope I repaid the faith you showed in me.
To Parky and Sorvs, who took over with relegation to the NPL already confirmed and could easily have not fancied keeping me on but who realised the passion I had for the club and how much I wanted to help take us back to where we should be. What we achieved was unbelievable, and I had five years of playing virtually every game, much of it as captain. I couldn't be more grateful.
To my old team-mates and all the other players who have kindly agreed to turn out and ensure there's no shortage of nostalgia, as well as emotion, this afternoon. Cheers lads, I'm looking forward to catching up with you all.
And, last but not least, all the Alty fans, each and every one of you, for getting behind the team week-in, week-out and making Altrincham the club it is, one I have missed more than I could ever have imagined. Enjoy the afternoon!