2012/13 season review: He’s magic, ya know

SAM_0438

By Joe Cockburn

It was no secret that in the first five years of City’s dragged out stay in League Two, a midfield general had been the missing element. Messers Flynn, McLaren, Evans, Bullock, Bolder, Doherty, Worthington, Ravenhill all tried and failed to become that dynamo that we so craved.

Just consider all those players. There are eight midfielders there, and so many more have come and gone. Now compare each of them to Gary Jones.

Could any of those players have controlled games against Arsenal and Aston Villa? Would Paul McLaren have held his own against Wilshere and Cazorla? I don’t think so either.

But forget the cup for a minute. Think how excellent Jones has been in each and every game this season. Formed good partnerships whoever he has played with, and even did the job of two midfielders at times when Doyle wasn’t at his best.

His experience and ability to know when to calm it down or to drive forward, when to play a ball over the top or just knock it to the full back, when to fire it from 25 yards or to play it to the winger, is uncanny.

The one thing he does to excellent results is he widens the pitch. How many times does he play that pass out to Stephen Darby or James Meredith? And how much time does he spend over on that left flank working a neat move with Kyel Reid and Meredith? That is something else we have not had for a long time, and is why so many wingers have failed at Valley Parade.

But then, somehow, Jones is always back on the edge of the box to defend the following attack. He truly is a box to box midfielder. And a damn good one.

Perhaps one criticism from the Valley Parade regulars is the lack of goals from midfield, and Jones in particular. He came from Rochdale with that reputation, getting into double figures in the majority of his seasons at Spotland, but hasn’t lived up to that with City, scoring just twice in his 54 appearances.

He showed signs of it. His free kick in front of the kop to seal the win against Morecambe was sublime, but with the “egos”, for want of a better way of putting it, of the likes of Reid and Wells, he rarely gets much of a chance with set pieces, and hasn’t had a look in with the penalties.

He needs to start scoring simply for my sanity, because I am fed up of hearing the name Dave Syers at Valley Parade. On the radio, on Twitter, we need someone to leave Syers in his shadow. Jones has the potential to do that, but his role has been very different at Valley Parade.

You look at the goals that Nahki Wells has got this season. James Hanson. Garry Thompson. Alan Connell. Between them, they have 49 this season.

With your strikers scoring at that rate, it isn’t really a requirement that you have a 10-goal midfielder. Instead, it is vital that you have a 10-assist midfielder. Jones has 13.

You also look at the defenders that have scored. 11 goals between the centre backs. It is likely that Jones played a part in most of those goals. And Ravenhill’s goal at Chesterfield.

I said his role has been very different at Valley Parade, but in truth that should have been roles. He does so much for the team, and so much that simply hasn’t been done by a City player in my time at least.

I talked about Jones widening the pitch, playing his part in goals, but he does so much more. He calms the game down, as well as driving the team forward. That is no mean feat.

He keeps the team’s shape fantastically, his organisation is top notch. At corners, Jones will be on the front post and controlling each of the other players before the ball comes in, making sure everyone does their jobs. Yet when the ball is cleared, he is always the first out of the box to meet the opposition player with the ball. That has a knock on effect on the rest of the team, driving them out and really leading by example.

That brings us on to the top skill: captaincy. Another thing City have been lacking in recent times. Someone who leads by example. Someone who does it all on the pitch. Someone who is not in the team because he is captain, but is in the team because he is one of the best players.

His leadership abilities cannot be faulted in any way. None at all.

Coupled with that, his passion is unbelievable. To come from being a hero at Rochdale, playing almost 500 games, he could have easily been a crock, just coming for one last payday. Those were the fears of some foolish supporters 11 months ago. He couldn’t be more the opposite.

To see him smile every time he sees the City supporters. The infamous chant. His glorious fist pump. But above all that, to see him cry at full time at Villa Park. It seems he has fallen in love with Bradford City. And we at Bradford City have certainly fallen in love with him.

I have, however, purposefully left one thing out of this article, and I hope you have forgotten about it too. Something that makes what he has achieved this season truly amazing and may, in fact, prove that he really is magic.

Gary Jones today turned 36.

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Categories: 2012/13 season review

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2 replies

  1. Yep – great article. I was one of the doubters at the beginning of the season. After all, you can’t blame me, we’ve seen it so many times before, an over the hill footballer coming to VP for a last payday. Wow, how I was proved wrong. What a player, at last another Stuart McCall, who can inspire his team mates and the crowd by leading by example.

    What’s really going to be interesting is how the role he plays changes over the next season or two. The guy is utterly irreplaceable which is highly worrying. I’m expecting exactly the same barnstorming performances within a midfield four but at some point his age must come into it, especially at a higher level. I’d love to know what’s in Parky’s head. Will he maybe play Jones in a 5 man midfield with him as an anchor? I’d love to see the intelligence of Connell or Thompson employed just behind the front man. Problem with that is Hanson never really looks as effective on his own and for me the formation doesn’t work if we manage to hold onto Wells. His game is all about playing off the shoulder of the last defender and shouldn’t be expected to hold up the ball like Hanson does. Where’s Grey going to play? I have no doubt that Parky has got some plan or other for Grey, just like he did with the other “slow starters” Atkinson and Thompson.

    Next season is going to be fascinating. Parky’s record in the transfer market has been superb to date even if some of his signing have taken a while to settle down and prove themselves. I do hope that the supporters give the new recruits time and space to find their feet and that expectations don’t get out of control. We should show patience if there are a few rocks on the road. After all, we can’t expect another season like this one – can we??!!

    The new season can’t come soon enough for me. I can’t wait to see the side compete at a higher level. At last we can look forward to a period of stability with a team that doesn’t need a complete over haul – just a few tweaks. What gives me most confidence is that we have a manager and a team who can learn from past performances. Look how they learnt lessons from the Burton home leg and the Capital One final and put them into practice in the playoffs.

  2. I missed it out of the article, but I really hope that Jones can help mould Scott Brown into a younger version of himself to be with us for years to come. And I think that could happen.

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