JAI Reason heads into tomorrow’s FA Trophy quarter-final against his old club Cambridge United at the Silverlake Stadium with some “unfinished business” to attend to.
Not only does he want to get one over on the club that released him as a 20-year-old, but he would love to reach Wembley and atone for the heartbreak of his previous appearance under north London’s world famous arch.
It was during his Cambridge days that Reason was part of the Us squad that lost the 2008/09 play-off final 2-0 to Torquay United.
Reason, now the creative spark of a pedigree Eastleigh side gunning for the dream double of promotion from the Conference South and FA Trophy glory, recalled: “I went to Cambridge from Ipswich Town and spent near enough two years there.
“I had some good times, like playing at Wembley, but I had some bad times as well. I remember nothing at all from that Wembley game, it all went by so quickly.
“But I remember the disappointment of losing and I desperately want to get back there and put it right.
“I’ve got unfinished business after what happened against Torquay and, if I’m going to set that right, I have to get past Cambridge.”
Just six months after signing a professional deal at Ipswich in July 2008, Reason was told by the then manager, ex-Saint Jim Magilton, that he wouldn’t be getting another one and was among a batch of Tractor Boys released by new boss Roy Keane the following summer.
The Southend-based midfielder initially went to Cambridge on loan and adapted quickly to life in the Conference, playing a key part in their play-off quest.
But, despite making 36 appearances for the Abbey Stadium outfit the following season, he was surprisingly let go.
“The manager Martin Ling said nothing to me, but he wanted a clearout and I was one of those to get released,” said Reason.
“But as one door closes, another one opens and I went to Braintree Town and won the Conference South.
“I’m still friendly with Josh Coulson, who’s a centre-back for Cambridge, and I speak to him quite often.”
Reason helped Braintree finish an impressive 12th in their debut Conference South season but tired of being consistently deployed out wide.
So, when former Eastleigh boss Ian Baird offered him the chance to return to a central midfield berth, he grabbed it with both hands, penning a two-year deal with the Spitfires in May 2012.
Now flourishing under Baird’s successor Richard Hill, below, the midfield playmaker is back on the radar again and just prior to Christmas there were unconfirmed rumours of interest from Leyton Orient.
But Reason, who at just turned 24 is one of the ‘babies’ of the Eastleigh team, is loving life at the Silverlake.
He is learning loads from streetwise manager Hill and players like Ben Strevens, Chris Todd, Jamie Collins, Craig McAllister and Dean Beckwith who have been there, seen it and done it at Football League/Conference Premier level.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it at Eastleigh,” he smiled.
“The club’s got great fans, a great chairman, great coaching staff and a fantastic group of lads. We’re close to doing something special here.
“We’ve got players with a lot of experience and it’s good to learn from them and I really enjoy playing for Richard Hill.
“Richard’s a voice off the pitch and he works ever so hard – not just on the next performance, but on the next training session. He keeps the lads motivated and keeps us on our toes. The FA Trophy is massive and tomorrow is going to be a good occasion for everyone at the club. I can’t wait.”