Accrington Stanley v Bradford City: Alex Jones determined not to be the forgotten man

SUCH has been the head-spinning turnover of head coaches at Bradford City in 2018 that one appointment came and went without even having the opportunity to speak to striker Alex Jones.

Alex Jones: 
Bradford City striker is on the way back.
Alex Jones: Bradford City striker is on the way back.

Simon Grayson, the second of the quartet to take the helm at Valley Parade since the start of the year, spent three months in charge before deciding the job was not for him and walking away from a two-year contract offer.

Throughout that time Jones was out with an ankle injury that required two operations – which was the reason for the lack of contact between the pair.

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The head coach’s focus had to be on trying to arrest the slide that took City from strong play-off contenders in January to Spring also-rans.

But, even so, if anything illustrates the near constant state of flux that has dragged the club down in recent months then this is surely it.

“Things can change quickly and there have been three managers since I last played,” said Jones about a year that has seen Stuart McCall, Grayson, Michael Collins and now David Hopkin take up residence in the home dugout.

“But that is football. You only have to look at other clubs to see how quickly managers can change. Look at Aston Villa; they lost in the (Championship) play-off final and now the manager has changed.”

As for not having the opportunity to speak to Grayson, Jones stressed there was nothing untoward and that it was merely down to circumstances.

“I had just started my rehab, but then the pain started in my ankle,” recalls the striker about the February arrival of the former Leeds United manager. “I had the operation. When that was done, the season was over, so, I didn’t get chance.”

Jones’s injury misery finally came to an end in midweek. An eight-minute cameo from the bench as City lost 4-1 at home to Oldham Athletic in the Checkatrade Trophy represented his first competitive action in 11 months.

Much had changed in the meantime. Of the 17 players who joined Jones in the squad that November afternoon as Plymouth Argyle triumphed 1-0 just Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Jordan Gibson and Jake Reeves are still at the club. Reeves has also not played since January due to injury.

Jones, broad smile on his face, added: “Greg (Abbott) said when I started training, ‘Gaffer, this is Jonesy, nice to meet you’. That was quite funny.

“It is difficult when injured because there were so many new players and I wasn’t out there training with them. Takes time to get to know them. So, it has been nice since returning to training that I have been able to speak to people more and form relationships.

“That is a big positive. I did have time with the new lads in the summer for two or three weeks. It wasn’t as if I was locked away in a cave that is the physio room.

“So I did get to see the lads, but nothing is the same as being out there training.”

Jones is still waiting to learn if his brief appearance in midweek will be enough to earn a place on the bench at Accrington Stanley. Chances are it will, not least because of the injury crisis that this week left Hopkin with just 16 fit senior players.

Either way Jones is just happy to be back after a difficult spell that included an aborted attempt to return in the summer.

“The people at the club helped me in the summer,” said the former Birmingham City trainee. “The physios and the staff were great. They sent me to St George’s Park for two weeks.

“It isn’t too far away from where my family are based. I spent some time with them and also got out of the same routine I’d had here. A nice mental break for me as much as anything.

“That was massive for me. My family don’t live a million miles away, just a couple of hours down the road. But it was still nice to have time together in such a tough time.”

As for City’s prospects under Hopkin, Jones added: “In the short space I have been out training and around the gaffer he has got his ideas across really clearly.

“Everyone knows their jobs by 3pm each Saturday. That is what you want as a player, no grey areas.

“We signed 15 players in the summer, a massive change. You only have to look at other teams where that has happened, it takes time for a transition like that. But we can get back to where we were. Slowly but surely, it is happening.”

Last six games: Accrington Stanley DWWWLW Bradford City LLDWLL. Last time: Accrington Stanley 0 Bradford City 0; August, 9, 2016; League Cup. Referee: S Oldham (Lancashire).