From: Wolverhampton Wanderers - on loan - December 2004
Record: Played: 11 Scored: 0
To: Wolverhampton Wanderers - end of loan - February 2005
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Hired help
Oh, I dunno. There's just not very much to say, is there?
In many ways, that's precisely the point. You only use up one of your available loans by borrowing a goalkeeper in an emergency; otherwise, you
save 'em for the times when your midfield's as creative as a Keane b-side or your attack's as potent as skimmed milk, for the moments when Darren
Caskey, Mick Quinn or Guy Whittingham suddenly seem like a tremendously good idea. Or when you get a chance to kidnap some young starlet from the
fringes of a Premiership constellation (the word "squad" no longer seems appropriate, really) without anyone noticing.
So, when you get in a keeper on loan, you don't really want drama. You want someone to stand between the posts for a while and stop
stuff, until you don't need them any more. You know, the brother-of-a-mate-of-a-mate who doesn't mind getting their jumper dirty and has some
gloves that fit properly. And you'd like them to do it without too much fuss and bother, if it's at all possible.
Step forward, Paul Jones. Then step back after a little bit, ta muchly. A veteran of about thirty-four different clubs and various spells as
the Welsh number one, it would've been hard to find a better man for the role. We knew what we were getting - a solid, experienced professional
with a long-established reputation as a bright, energetic keeper, albeit prone to the occasional clanger - and we got just that, which is
thoroughly deserving of respect and praise and applause, and doesn't make for a particularly interesting profile.
In truth, his performances were a little up and down...which, in keeping with everything else about his loan spell, averages out at "fine". For
such a vital component of the defensive part of the team, it can't be especially easy to step in after gathering dust on the touchline for several
months, and Paul Jones did indeed look a little rusty in making his debut at Reading on Boxing Day. Then again, at eleven o'clock in the morning, none
of us were at our best...and he did compensate for some nervy moments with one astounding, instinctive save in the second half.
Thus it continued, until Richard Lee had recovered from his broken cheekbone. There were indeed some ropey moments, as in gifting Sunderland
their third during a dismal rout at the Stadium of Light. And there were some spectacular moments too, right up until the dying seconds of his
last appearance, thwarting an Ipswich fight-back with flying fingertips. Over time, he became part of the team without ever quite
becoming part of the club; nevertheless, the lack of romance shouldn't hide the fact that he successfully integrated with the rest of a defensive
unit that lacked the leadership of Sean Dyche throughout his stay, and we certainly owe him some credit for contributing to the continuing emergence
of Jay Demerit.
Of course, the romance might've been found in the two-legged Carling Cup semi-final with Liverpool...yet, as we know all too well, that didn't quite
happen. Eleven heroes on both occasions - and Paul Jones was counted among those eleven without ever being tested quite as much as you'd have
feared - but heroes with regrets and sorrows. That was Jones' real contribution to Hornet history...to be part of that pride, but also to share
some of those regrets. He leaves with some memories, at any rate.
And with a firm handshake, genuine thanks, and well wishes. Somehow, it's impossible to escape the fact that we'd have been perfectly happy to
have been able to bring Alec Chamberlain in, with the loanee remaining on the bench; we didn't actually need a first choice, just a substitute
as back-up. But the details of the loan deal dictated otherwise, and that's nothing to do with Paul Jones. In the circumstances, he did what we
needed him to do.
And then everyone moved on.