Cult Hero: Joey Jones

In the series looking at cult heroes, we have covered players such as Robbie James and Mickey Thomas. Players where fans adored, where they captured the imaginations of the fans on the terraces, making them feel like they were one of us. Bearing all of this in mind, if you are covering to have a series covering cult heroes, then you simply have to include Joseph Patrick Jones, or as known the football world over, Joey Jones.

Jones was born in March 1955, in the seaside town of Llandudno. Jones was a very talented footballer from a very young age, and in 1970 signed for Wrexham. Quickly, Jones became a real contender for the first team and at the age of 17, in 1971, made his debut for Wrexham against Chester City in a Welsh Cup tie. Jones played at right back for The Robins and established himself rapidly in the starting eleven.

The 1973-74 season, Wrexham had a fantastic run in the FA Cup where they beat Shrewsbury Town, Rotherham United, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Southampton, with Jones putting in some excellent individual performances. Wrexham’s run in the cup finally came to an end in the quarter-final stages against Burnley in a narrow loss by a solitary goal to the First Division side. On the day, over 20,000 Wrexham fans travelled to Burnley to watch the game at Turf Moor, quite an away following for a Third Division club as Wrexham were at the time.

John Neal who was the Wrexham manager at the time was putting together a group of players who were going to have a real chance of gaining promotion to the next tier and having more victories over bigger sides in cup competitions. The team had players in addition to Jones such as Billy Ashcroft, Eddie May, Arfon Griffiths, Mel Sutton and Mickey Thomas, good quality footballers, and Neal felt if he could keep this group together, prospects for the club looked good.

However, in the summer of 1975, Wrexham accepted an offer from English giants, Liverpool to acquire the talented young defender, Joey Jones. The fee was £110,000 and Wrexham had agreed to the sale of the player without counsel with the manager. Neal was furious and he was quoted as stating his own doubts over his own future with the club with directors making these decisions without his input.

Joey in action for Liverpool. Picture Credit: liverpoolway.co.uk

For Jones, it was a dream move. He was a boyhood Liverpool fan, and his mother was indeed born in the city. His love for Wrexham was undoubted but this was a move to a team he supported and also, he would now pit his wits against the best players in the land.

Jones made his league debut for Liverpool in August 1975 against Queens Park Rangers. In his first season with the club, he was in and out of the team, he was still raw at only 20-years of age, plus he was in competition for the full-back positions at the club with Phil Neal, Alec Lindsay and Tommy Smith, so very tough competition. Jones played 13 league games in his first season, which unfortunately for him, was one appearance short of the necessary number of league games required to win a league winners medal as Liverpool triumphed in winning the league title that season.

The tough-tackling Jones made his international debut in November 1975 for Wales against Austria and gained a regular place in the Welsh defence promptly. Jones played repeatedly for his country for many years to come, including games against England (in the famous win at Wembley in 1977, Jones was brilliant that night), the 1976 European Championships, and some heartbreaking World Cup qualifying games in his international career.

Jones with his never say die attitude, urging on his teammates, making fist pump gestures to his fans urging them to become more vocal will long stick in the memory. Jones, played left back and centre back for his country and was a real fan favourite as he was indeed with all the clubs he played for. In total, he played 72 times for Wales scoring just the one goal which was in the remarkable game against Yugoslavia in Titograd, that ended in a 4-4 draw in 1982.

Joey in the famous Welsh Admiral kit. Picture Credit: faw.cymru.co.uk

In his second season at Liverpool, Jones became a regular in the number 3 shirt, playing at left back. He played in 39 of the 42 league games for the club that season. Liverpool that season won yet again, the league title, plus got to the FA Cup final where Jones set up a great goal by Jimmy Case, and also got to the final of the European Cup and won the European Cup for the first time in their history with Jones becoming the first Welshman to win the European Cup.

If it was not for their loss in the FA Cup final then Liverpool would have won the treble which arguably, would have been the greatest season in the club’s fantastic history. During their European campaign that season, Jones was earning cult status at the club for his total commitment on the football field. The fans loved him and they immortalised this in the famous banner at the final in Rome, with the words “JOEY ATE THE FROGS LEGS, MADE THE SWISS ROLL, NOW HE’S MUNCHING GLADBACH” illustrating his own individual endeavours in the rounds previous against St Etienne, FC Zurich and Borussia Monchengladbach respectively.

Joey and that famous banner. Picture Credit: liverpoolecho.co.uk

The following season, Jones started out as the first choice left back, but come to the turn of the year in 1978, Jones lost his place to Tommy Smith in the side. Smith was a player like Jones, who could play centre back and full back as indeed could Emlyn Hughes, the club captain. The emergence of Alan Hansen in the playing ranks meant that with Hansen and Phil Thompson playing so well, the centre back position was not obtainable. This posed a problem with Smith, Hughes and Jones now in a competition between them for the left back position. Jones realised by the end of the season if he wanted regular first-team football he would need to look elsewhere.

At the end of his Liverpool career, he was one of the substitutes in the European Cup Final at Wembley where Liverpool retained the cup, with Emlyn Hughes playing left back, lifted the trophy. Even though Jones did not get on the pitch, as part of the matchday squad, picked up another winners medal. In the summer of 1978, Jones made the move back to Wrexham, who had just gained promotion to the Second Division, for a fee of £210,000, which at the time was a transfer fee record for the club.

Jones remained at Wrexham for four years, where the club remained in the Second Division and had a number of good cup runs including two great games against Tottenham Hotspur in 1979 which went to a replay which ultimately Wrexham lost. At the age of 27 in 1982, Jones would again be on the move, to link up with his manager from his first spell at Wrexham, John Neal, who by now was managing Chelsea, like Wrexham, Chelsea were also in the Second Division. The transfer fee paid for the Welsh international was £34,000.

His league debut for Chelsea was an eventful one. Jones was sent off playing against Carlisle United at Brunton Park with his usual no holds barred, total commitment to winning back the ball for his team. Which if you are that way inclined, there will be times where it will put you into problems with referees. Chelsea fans, especially those in the infamous “Shed” loved him. His total commitment, clenching his fists pre-game, getting both players and fans pumped up. During one game against Derby County at Stamford Bridge, his fist pumping and gestures on the pitch almost started a riot on the terraces, and he had to be warned a few times over his gesticulations. Joey Jones was Joey Jones, he gave his all for the cause and did not hide his feelings, yet more reasons why football fans love him.

Chelsea narrowly avoided relegation in his first season at the club, however, the following season was completely different. Chelsea won the Second Division League Title easily, with Jones playing a prominent role in their success, a colossus in defence and often overlapping his winger, whipping in crosses which players such as Kerry Dixon and David Speedie scored a countless number of goals. Dixon on his own scored 34 goals that season. A great return. Chelsea and Jones were back in top flight club football again.

Joey in the famous fist clenching pose. Picture Credit: dailypost.co.uk

Jones would play one season with Chelsea in the top flight before he was surprisingly sold to Huddersfield Town for £35,000 in August 1985. Jones would play for two years for Huddersfield before returning yet again to Wrexham where he finished his playing career in 1992 when he was 37-years of age where he then went into coaching.

Joey Jones, an immense Welsh footballing figure. A two-time European Cup winner, a League Title winner twice and also a winner of a UEFA Cup and a UEFA Super Cup. A player who gave his all and was loved by fans of every club he played for. He is held in such high esteem as he showed through his efforts and his actions that it meant something to him, and at the end of the day, he was just like those thousands of fans who paid to watch him play over his career. He was no frills but an outstanding footballer. Thank you so much Joey, a real cult hero.

Feature Picture Image: dailypost.co.uk