ONE TO WATCH

Coven­try City star­let Jodi Jones on tak­ing his own path

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Dan Barnes

JODI Jones shunned some of the big­gest names in English foot­ball as a young­ster and be­lieves he couldn’t have made a bet­ter ca­reer de­ci­sion.

The Coven­try City winger, who be­gan his pro­fes­sional ca­reer at Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge, is clos­ing in on 100 se­nior ap­pear­ances and could well do so be­fore he cel­e­brates his 20th birth­day in October.

The teenager started out with Senrab FC, the revered East London Sun­day League side where John Terry, Sol Camp­bell, Led­ley King and Jer­main De­foe be­gan their ca­reers – but when scouts from the Premier League came knock­ing, a young Jones re­fused to have his head turned.

Cel­e­brates

“I went there when I was about six,” said the 19-year-old. “With the play­ers that have come out of such a good Sun­day League team, there are so many scouts there and, at a young age, loads of teams came in for me.

“But my god­fa­ther (Terry Adams), who’s ba­si­cally like my agent, sug­gested I should stay at Senrab and have fun.

“Most London clubs, like Ar­se­nal and Chelsea (showed in­ter­est), but I sort of blocked it off and stayed.

“I wanted to have fun, and do it when I got into my early teenage years.”

Jones did have brief spells with Ar­se­nal and West Ham, but in the sum­mer of 2014 he joined Da­gen­ham at Un­der-13 level.

As an East Lon­doner, he didn’t waste time mak­ing an im­pres­sion at Vic­to­ria Road and, in Novem­ber 2014, was handed a squad num­ber, de­spite be­ing only a first-year scholar at the time.

Three months later, aged just 17, he came off the bench against Portsmouth in the clos­ing mo­ments of a 0-0 draw and be­came the Dag­gers’ youngest-ever player to fea­ture in a league game.

Jones, who be­lieves he could eas­ily have been swal­lowed up by the Premier League academy sys­tem and be­come just an­other face in the crowd, loves it when a plan comes to­gether.

“I’ve not re­ally had the chance to play against many peo­ple my own age be­cause I missed out the youth level,” said the pacey wide­man, who was a keen ath­lete as a young­ster and had a na­tional rank­ing at Un­der-15 level in the 800 me­tres.

Chal­lenge

“I got thrown straight in at the deep end but I just got on with it. I like play­ing against older peo­ple be­cause I feel like it’s more of a chal­lenge for me.

“I didn’t re­ally play Un­der18 games, just one in the FA Youth Cup for Da­gen­ham and I had to lit­er­ally beg the man­ager to let me play in it.

“I could have been at a Cat­e­gory One youth team and done the same thing (as other peo­ple) but I like start­ing from the bot­tom. I liked play­ing men’s foot­ball as soon as I could.

“Most peo­ple my age are still play­ing U23s or in youth teams, but I think the best thing to do, and my ad­vice for peo­ple that are 16 or 17, is to play men’s foot­ball as quickly as you can.”

On the open­ing day of the sea­son, Jones en­joyed an­other break­through mo­ment as he scored all three goals in Coven­try’s 3-0 win over Notts County, bag­ging his first se­nior hat-trick.

He may be of ten­der years but, seem­ingly by de­sign, he has earned his se­nior stripes at a rate of knots and could prove a key man in the Sky Blues’ bid to re­turn to League One at the first time of ask­ing.

Jones added: “I feel like one of the more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers on the pitch now, even though I am 19, which is crazy.”

PIC­TURE: David Lin­ney

RIS­ING STAR: Jodi Jones cel­e­brates scor­ing, in­set, for Coven­try against Notts County – he hit a hat-trick in the League Two opener

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