A Welsh goal machine. Unfamiliar to many

In the season 1986-87 season, Tottenham Hotspur’s Clive Allen had a notable goalscoring season, scoring 49 goals in all competitions, a remarkable record. However, the player who in the goalscoring charts finished second to Allen across all four divisions in the English League also had a great goalscoring season but is unfamiliar to many a football fan. That man is North Walian born, Andy Jones.

The 1986-87 season, Jones was plying his trade for Port Vale in the English third tier. The striker that season scored 37 goals in all competitions, with 27 of those goals being league goals. Not a bad return for a player who was unsuccessful at his first professional club, his hometown team Wrexham and ended up playing for four years for Rhyl in the Northern Premier League, quite the turnaround.

Andy Jones was signed by Port Vale while playing at Rhyl. John Rudge, a fabulous manager for Port Vale, quickly moved to secure his services in 1985. The reason for the swift procurement of the player was due to a rumour that Rudge became aware of, Arsenal was watching the player and were keen to get him at the club for a trial. Rudge did not want to run the risk of Arsenal snapping up the player after seeing him up close and personal and paid the transfer fee of £3,000 in May of that year.

In his first season with Port Vale, Jones scored 18 goals in all competitions, including two goals against West Bromwich Albion away from home at The Hawthorns. West Brom was playing in the top League at this point, and Jones and his initial goal feats caught the eye. Port Vale that season earned promotion to the Third Division, Jones and his goals and his partnership with the fellow striker, Robbie Earle, who would go onto play for Wimbledon and a World Cup with Jamaica, certainly played a massive part in their side’s success that season.

The following season as mentioned previously, Jones scored 37 goals in all competitions which included a hat-trick against Fulham. Many clubs during this period were observing the player and also his country Wales were keeping a close watch on his performances, the issue Jones had for his Welsh international ambitions were the strikers ahead of him in the pecking order during that period.

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Andy Jones after scoring 5 goals against Newport County. Picture credit: stokesentinel.co.uk

Mike England, the Welsh manager at the time, indeed was blessed with strikers in the mid-1980’s. There were Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Gordon Davies all established players, scoring goals at a high level. Also in the early stages of their careers but showing potential were Dean Saunders, Malcolm Allen, and Iwan Roberts, all were available to Mike England. But with Jones in the middle of such a great season in 1987, it was he who was called into the Welsh squad.

In April 1987, with Hughes being unavailable, Jones made his debut for Wales against Finland at The Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, a return to where his professional career wavered the first time around. The game was a UEFA European Championship qualifier, and that night Wales put in a dominant performance winning 4-0, with Jones true to goalscoring form, scoring on his debut with a volley. His strike partner that night, Ian Rush also scored in a strong performance. Wales did not qualify for the finals for that tournament, but Jones played in all of the remaining qualification games even when Hughes was back available, with three appearances for Jones from the bench during that campaign. Jones in total played six games for Wales scoring that sole goal on his debut in his home town stadium.

The 1987-88 season, Jones on the opening game of the season for Port Vale scored four against Aldershot. In eight games he scored six goals to start the season at a rapid rate, clubs were more than just interested in this goal machine. There is a report that Manchester United managed by the legendary manager, Alex Ferguson were keen to sign him and even made a bid for the player but their offer was declined. Who knows what could have been in his future if he had indeed signed for Manchester United during those Fergie years? However, what did occur is in September 1987, Port Vale accepted a bid for the player and that accepted bid came from Charlton Athletic. Charlton was in the top Division and managed by Lennie Lawrence, later of Cardiff City fame. “The Addicks” paid £350,000 to get their man. Quite a substantial fee for a player from the Third Division, but they clearly believed with his goal record he would score the goals to give them success in the First Division.

Sadly, the goals dried up for Jones. In his first season with Charlton Athletic, he scored six goals in 25 League games. The club evaded relegation from the top flight, but as an individual, Jones was struggling with his form and playing to a consistently decent level with his club. The following season, Charlton were looking to sell Jones after only one year, but the player wanted to remain and prove he could play at this level. Eventually, it was agreed that Jones would be loaned back to where he got the move to the top Division from, Port Vale, and for the last four months of the season, Jones played scoring three goals in 17 games, before returning to his parent club Charlton Athletic.

Jones was loaned to Bristol City in the 1989-90 season scoring one goal in four games before returning again to Charlton. That season, Charlton were relegated from the First Division, Jones did play for the club during that campaign playing 25 games scoring eight goals, but he could not stop the demotion to the Second Division after four years in the First Division.

After a slow start to the season for Jones, scoring only one goal in seven games in the Second Division, Charlton sold the player to Third Division side, AFC Bournemouth in October 1990. Harry Redknapp managed Bournemouth, and Jones had a reasonably successful season, playing forty League games scoring eight goals. The club just missed out on the playoffs that season. The player was sold onto Leyton Orient the following year, who was also in the Third Division, and Jones scored in two seasons at the club overall, 13 goals in 59 league games. Jones then moved into non-league football with Poole and Havant respectively, before retiring from playing in 1993.

As a player, Andy Jones was not the most technically gifted. His build-up play, linking up with teammates was not his strength, and his first touch could let him down. However, Jones as a player came to life when he was given the opportunity to run onto a pass and test the opposition’s goalkeeper with a shot at goal. He was quick, and his finishing was irrefutable. Jones was also useful in the air, and a real goal getter. His stand out season in 1986-87, scoring 37 goals was a real accomplishment as was playing for Wales in a period when in the striker department there was some serious talent, and let’s be honest, a footballer who Alex Ferguson was keen to sign, cannot be a lousy footballer can he. Andy Jones, a Welsh striker, unfamiliar to many and that should change.

Feature Picture Credit: onevalefan.co.uk

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