Joining Sheffield Wednesday was proudest career moment for Jones
PUBLISHED: 15:00 17 May 2020
“The proudest moment of my career would be signing for Sheffield Wednesday – coming out of a building site and going into professional football,” said Stuart Jones.
For most footballers growing up their dream is to play in the Premier League and for a lot that’s all it is, a dream.
But for Jones his dream became a reality when he signed for Wednesday from non-league side Weston for a club record fee of £20,000 – rising to a potential £100,000 – in March 1998.
“I had a really bad day and Len (Ashurst) called me into the office,” he said. “I thought ‘here we go’. At 19 you’re pretty intimidated by a manager especially of Len’s statue.
“I walked into the office, typical Brian Clough style he asked me how do you think you played today? ‘Sorry Len, sorry it won’t happen again, I don’t know what happened’ I said. He put a piece a paper on the table saying ‘we are in negotiations of selling you to Sheffield Wednesday, you have to go up there before the deadline’!
“I went up there and it felt like a trial, whether it was or not I don’t know, and that was it and I signed on deadline day.
“As you can imagine, a Premier League club signing a 19-year-old from non-league would have been a disappointment on deadline day but for me it wasn’t.”
After leaving the Seagulls to sign for The Owls, Jones recalled his first impressions of Sheffield.
“You don’t realise how big of a city Sheffield is and how a big a football club Sheffield Wednesday is,” he added.
“When I went there, there was footballers everywhere. It was crowded with iconic legends.
“It was like an institution, it was so ginormous! The ground was huge, absolutely huge, training faciltiy was good to what a training facility was back then and everything about it was just enormous.
“Bearing in mind it was international week and one of the first people I bump into was Des Walker!
“I remember watching Des on the telly and at the time Chris Waddle, who was the manager of Burnley.
“Every now and again him, Chris Woods, David Hirst and Carlton Palmer would poke their heads in the training ground to put a kit on and train the reserves. You were like ‘wow this is incredible’.
“I look back now and I just think it was funny how it all escalated. One week I was playing at Woodspring by the building site with my father and the next I’m smashing Paolo Di Canio in the nose. It was mental!”
Di Canio was at the time one of Wednesday’s best players. He had played for the likes of Juventus and Milan before his move to big money move to Hillsborough in 1997 from Celtic where he became an instant hero with the fans.
”My first memory of Paolo was a small-sided training match,” said Jones. “Paolo went through one-on-one, it was a sort of ouer-body experience really for myself, I thought I have just to commit because you you will get respect if you commit yourself, but if you bottled out and let Paolo score you wouldn’t get any respect.
“I remember going through him. It would have been a red card and I remember him shouting obscenities on the floor in Italian and Peter Shreeves, who was the assistant manager, was behind my goal.
“Peter had a high pitch tone when he spoke and he was giving me some right pelters like ‘that’s our best striker, you’ve just done our star’.
“I thought ‘crikey I’ve only been here five minutes, I’ve upset the assistant manager, upset the star striker. What are you doing?’ that sort of thing.
“That was my first memory of actually rubbing shoulders with the big boys.”
Despite never getting to play in the first team during a three-year spell in Yorkshire, Jones enjoyed his time with the club and played at the likes of Goodison Park, Highfield Road and Vila Park alongside future Premier League defender Leigh Bromby and Cardiff City development manager Kevin Nicholson.
But Jones’ time with the Owls would come to an end in 2000 and six years later his 19-year footballing career finished with him playing his last days with Accrington Stanley, a far cry from his spell at Hillsborough.
Now 42, Jones is in his second year in charge of Toolstation Western League Division One outfit Ashton & Backwell United but his time with Wednesday will always be something he will hold with ‘fond memories’.
Jones added: “It’s Roy of the Rovers stuff, the emotion that you go through for a footballing journey is one of massive ups and one of horrendous lows.
“But that day signing the form and Ron Atkinson, who is a very charismatic and larger-than-life character, it doesn’t seem real at times.
“It’s been a heck of a memory for me and I can always look back on it with great fondness.”
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