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.
Categories: 2012/13 season review