From Connah’s Quay Nomads to Caernarfon Town, midfielder Rob Jones is a well known face in the North Wales football scene.
Experienced in the JD Welsh Premier League, Huws Gray Alliance and even the Europa League, Jones’ dynamism in the middle has given him a regular starting place in each of his past club’s starting line up.
A three-time Huws Gray Alliance winner, he is now at Flint Town United as the club eyes a successful second half of the season under new manager Niall McGuinness.
Jones took time out to speak to Y Clwb Pel Droed about his successful football career so far.
He first burst onto the North Wales picture at Connah’s Quay Nomads, where he joined a selected group of players to have won back to back Huws Gray Alliance titles.
“I have very fond memories of my time at the club having been given the opportunity by Macca (Mark McGregor), whom I’m really great full. I improved my game through watching and playing with the elder, more experienced lads there at the time (Craig Jones and Ricky Evans to name a couple)
Everyone at the club was fantastic and it was a club that had a sense it was ‘run properly’. Obviously winning the HGA back to back to earn promotion had to be one of my main highlights, although it wasn’t as easy as it sounds even back then! Still to this day I always keep an eye out to see how they’re doing.”
Having spent the past few seasons in the second tier, Jones hails Huws Gray Alliance clubs for improving the second tier’s standard year by year.
Jones knows just how tough winning the league is in recent times, as he was a key part of Iwan Williams’ 2015/16 title winning Caernarfon Town.
“Winning it has been a great achievement and definitely something I look fondly towards. Although as I mentioned earlier it was never an easy league to win, it has improved year on year, the past few years have been ridiculous! It’s always been a physical league as well as being demanding on the fitness levels.
“The standard has improved greatly, you only have to look at the teams in the league, there isn’t an easy place to go and pick up a win. Looking at this year with the two relegated welsh premier teams adding a different competitive flavour as well as contributing to the ever improving quality of the league.”
One of Jones’ career highlights came at Bangor City when they qualified for the Europa League in the 2013/14 season. He recalls overcoming nerves before the Europa League Play Off final, a crunch game against City’s old rivals Rhyl.
“The play off final against Rhyl was one of the best memories as the occasion and game had everything, proper challenges, cards, goals. The atmosphere was class with around 1400 fans in the ground. I remember being quite nervous at kick off. The game meant a lot to everyone involved with the chance to play in the Europa league hanging in the balance. We were lucky enough to win the game 2-0 and progress.”
Jones’ and Bangor’s reward was a trip to Iceland to face FC Stjarnan, with the Citizen’s falling to a 8-0 defeat over two leg.
“It was an unbelievable experience and definitely something to share. To have the opportunity to play in the Europa league is massive as not many do. People may know the team we played, FC Stjarnan, as they had featured on soccer AM doing mad celebrations after scoring.
The atmosphere in Iceland was mad, their fans brought a different element, and in fact celebrating every corner was something I had never seen/heard before. They were a very good team hence the score line. We were told before the game they were semi pros in order to give us a psychological edge however we soon realised they were pretty good, finding out they had something like 9 international players playing.”
Jones says he’s more then capable of playing back in the Welsh Premier League.
“Yeah of course I would, I always have wanted to play at the highest level I can during my career. The standard has obviously improved with the introduction of bigger budgets and ex league players but certainly a standard I’m more of capable of playing in again.”
And he may well have reentered the top flight in the summer of 2016, as part of Caernarfon’s league title and league cup winning side.
Whilst the Cofis looked set for promotion, a licensing issue blocked them from being promoted with Prestatyn thwarting their attempt to retain the league title last season.
“After the massive highs of winning the league and the league cup that first season it was a massive disappointment we didn’t end up going up to the welsh premier as we all had worked so hard during that season to achieve it.
“My goal after coming out of the welsh premier was to get back into it asap, and thought I’d accomplished it at the first time of asking however it wasn’t meant to be so yeah I was pretty gutted. Caernarfon Town deserve to be in that league, the fan base and following they’ve got is exactly the reason I signed there, and it’s definitely the reason why we ended up doing so well.
He speaks highly of former club Caernarfon, and tips them to improve the league should they be promoted to help mix up the Welsh Premier League.
“Caernarfon would be a huge asset to the Welsh Premier; I think everyone throughout Wales knows this. They would bring an extra element to the league which I believe it has been missing as its quite stagnated and repetitive year on year. Hence my opinion to improve the league would be to expand it to 16 teams but I’m not sure whether that would be an option.”
After a long spell out due to injury Jones wanted to match fitness back and to enjoy his football – and Flint Town United is his chosen club to do so.
“Flint Town have always been a club I’ve admired from a far as it’s fairly local to myself. I was out injured for a fair few months so I missed the start of the season, so I’ve come in to get fitness back, play some games and start enjoying football again. I’ve known Aden for a while as well as playing against them a fair few times over the past couple of years. They’ve always been a difficult team to play against.
“You only have to look around the squad to see the quality they have, lads that have an abundance of experience over the years mixed in with an element of youth. Things are starting to click since the turn of the New Year having been unlucky in a few games since I’ve come in.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Jones is looking forward to being reunited with Caernarfon Town at Flint this coming Saturday, and is eyeing a cup run for Flint, who have a giant killing on their hands as they take on Newtown in the fourth round.
“Couple of difficult games coming up but more looking forward to them rather than being apprehensive, Caernarfon was a game I’ve picked out a little while ago for obvious reasons. Really enjoyed my time there the past couple seasons and I think I’ve put on record before it wasn’t my decision to leave but you have to move on.
Then there’s a massive Welsh Cup game against Newtown which we will go into full of optimism of progressing further. We have more than enough to win the game but it’s a cup game and you always need a little luck along the way so fingers crossed.”
Featured Image: Paul Evans (Oval Ways)