Introducing: Brad JonesPosted: April 11, 2012
From Teesside to Tolka Park, Australia to Anfield – and on Saturday it will be Wembley Stadium for Brad Jones. After a traumatic few months, in which Brad and his partner Danielle lost their 6 year old son to leukaemia, hopefully Saturday will be a welcome change to the pain that he has felt. Most people don’t seem to know the full story about Brad. He is generally just seen as the Middlesbrough reserve that Roy Hodgson bought. And whilst it is true that he has been a journeyman most of his career, that career has been a fairly interesting tale.
Born in Perth, Western Australia, Jones started his Bayswater City before moving to England with Norwich City. After being released by the Canaries, Jones signed with Middlesbrough. He signed his first professional contract in 1999. However, he faced a long wait for his first team debut for the club.
A series of loan deals beckoned for Jones. The first of which saw him move to the League of Ireland. Then title contenders Shelbourne signed the young goalkeeper on a loan deal as a back up. He only played two league games for The Reds as the team from Tolka Park lost out on the Eircom League title on the last day. His debut came in a Dublin Derby against Bohemians at Dalymount Park, in which he conceded 4 goals, despite Shels running out 6-4 winners. It was a tough pill to swallow, but surely being in and around a successful side would provide a young player with some invaluable experience.
The next few years saw Jones being loaned to out to various English clubs as well as warming the bench for Middlesbrough. In 2002 he moved to the north west on an unsuccessful loan spell to Stockport County. He only made one appearance at Edgeley Park. The following 2 seasons saw him join Blackpool for two loan spells as he made 17 appearances for the Seasiders. But, the time had come for him to return to the bench at Middlesbrough. However, it was time for him to make his competitive debut for ‘Boro.
In the third round of the FA Cup, Nott’s County were drawn out to playMiddlesbroughand Brad was chosen to make his first appearance. A month later, he was part of the Middlesbrough squad who rolled into Cardiff to face Bolton in the Carling Cup final. As ever, he was confined to the substitutes bench as Boro won their first ever trophy. Jones was still eligible for a winner’s medal as he duly accepted it.
Two years followed as Brad continued to be given rare opportunities to play at the Riverside. Perhaps his finest moment came when, in 2006, he saved a vital Ruud Van Nistelrooy penalty which earned Boro a valuable point. The following season saw Jones loaned out to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday. He made an impressive start to his career at Hillsborough before the worst moment of his football career arrived.
In a match against QPR on the 21st of October, the Sheffield Wednesday crowd turned on their goalkeeper. Coins and lighters were aimed at the Australian as he swiftly moved back to the North East.
In 2008, long term Boro number one Mark Schwarzer decided to move on to new pastures. It was there and then that Gareth Southgate named Jones as the new Boro number one. Disaster struck in the same season as the club spiralled towards the Championship. Relegation was confirmed after the club lost to West Ham on the final day. Jones was in and out of the side in his only season in the championship as he and Danny Coyne battled for the number 1 jersey at the Riverside.
In the summer of 2010, as Jones was preparing to try and take Middlesbrough back up to the top flight of English football, a call from Merseyside came though. Newly appointed Roy Hodgson wanted to take him to Merseyside. A £2m fee was agreed and Jones joined the ill-fated Hodgson revolution. One appearance was made during 2010/11 season and that was in the notorious League Cup defeat to Northampton Town. Not long after, Dalglish came in and Jones dropped back to 3rd choice and eventually loaned out to Derby County.
When the following season started it was unclear whether Jones would be at the club or not. After the illness to his son Luca, the goalkeeper was allowed personal leave. Sadly, Luca passed away in November. He returned to training a few weeks after and was first choice for the reserves. Following Pepe Reina’s sending off against Newcastle, Jones was promoted to the bench for the following league game against Aston Villa. Three days later, Doni, Liverpool’s second choice goalkeeper was sent off against Blackburn meaning that Jones was to make his league debut and with his first touch he saved a Yakubu penalty. The sending off also meant that Jones will play in the FA cup semi final this Saturday.
This is how Brad Jones’ career has gone to date. After playing for mostly lower league clubs, a Merseyside Derby at Wembley will no doubt be the toughest test of his career. Since Everton disposed of Sunderland in their last round replay, all the talk in Merseyside has been leading up to this game. It also happens to be the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough anniversary this Sunday, where 96 Liverpool fans tragically never came home from the Cup Semi Final against Nottingham Forest. It’s somewhat fitting that both clubs should meet on the weekend of the anniversary considering they played in the final of the Cup that year.
Who knows? He might even be the saviour on the day. As the cliché goes, the magic of the cup might just decide that he is.