Jay Tabb has swapped the soccer field for the saddle

Photo by bertil11, Public Domain

Jay Tabb is a footballer who enjoyed a distinguished professional career in the game. With almost 400 competitive appearances spanning the Premier League and the English Football League (EFL), Tabb was a popular figure among supporters for his work-rate, professionalism and flexibility on the pitch.

After being released as a junior with Crystal Palace, Tabb was picked up by fellow London outfit, Brentford. Tabb would go on to make more than a century of appearances in a Bees shirt but failed to help the club into the Championship before leaving for Coventry City.

Tabb is an EFL Championship winner

Tabb was then snapped up by Reading, with the midfielder helping the Royals to promotion in the Premier League, before helping them cement their place at the top table of English football. Tabb wasn’t the kind of player that was ever likely to reshape the EPL.

Once sustained in the top-flight, Tabb was deemed surplus to requirements, with the pint-sized midfielder then opting to join Ipswich Town in a three-year spell. Tabb was well-liked during his time at Portman Road, and was instrumental in the Tractor Boys’ playoff campaign in 2014-15.

However, since his release from the Suffolk club, Tabb ended up taking early retirement at the age of just 32. It was partly due to the lack of interest from clubs following his exit from Ipswich and partly due to his passion to pursue other sporting interests. One of those passions was rugby union. In 2017, Tabb was inspired to get involved at a reasonable standard, given that he was still physically fit and injury-free.

From football to semi-professional rugby union

Jay Tabb turned out for Old Wimbledonians at full-back

Photo by sarflondondunc, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Tabb opted to sign for Old Wimbledonians RFC, a modest rugby club in leafy west London. Tabb’s brother and cousins had all played for Old Wimbledonians for several years and Jay used to visit them in action when he wasn’t playing football himself on a Saturday afternoon. It seemed a natural fit for Tabb to follow in his family’s footsteps and get involved.

Tabb played several times for the Old Wimbledonians, before opting to turn his hand to the world of horse racing. At just 5ft 4”, Tabb is potentially the ideal size to become a jockey.

Tabb’s Cheltenham Festival dream

However, given his age and physical stature, there is a long path to go down in order to prepare fully for the gallops. He has since enrolled in a 12-week foundation course at the Northern Racing College, with one eye on picking up an amateur ride at the Cheltenham Festival in the future. The 35-year-old has been working hard to get down to the 11 stone weight limit, which includes the necessary riding equipment that he needs to wear like a skullcap and boots.

Tabb has held a keen interest in horse racing for several years, dating back to his time in professional football. He and his former Coventry City teammate, Ben Turner co-own a horse called Mister Miyagi, trained by Stuart Edmunds. He was a regular on the daily UK horse racecards between 2015-2018, and is a two-time winner of races held at the iconic Cheltenham Racecourse. However, Jay is keen to get a taste of the winners’ enclosure from the saddle and is taking on work at the yard of trainer, Philip Hobbs in the heart of the Somerset countryside, Minehead.

Although Tabb is coming into horse racing very late in age terms, Tabb said recently in an interview that he was surprised “how quickly you progress” through the training session and he has become a lot more competent in the saddle. Although he accept that he is “right at the bottom of the pecking order” when it comes to selection for future amateur races, Tabb clearly has the ambition to make his mark among the hundreds, if not thousands, of amateur jockeys across the UK.

As for Tabb’s approach to football these days, he only takes a passing interest in the “beautiful game”. He admits that he doesn’t miss the sport and although he does “check the results” on a Saturday evening, he’s not obsessive about it like so many other ex-professionals. Instead, he focuses his attentions solely on his horsemanship and going through the gears on the gallops to make an impression down in the West Country.