Simon Jones: Key figure on the sports desk of 'The Independent'

'Simon was always the man you could rely on to make you a better writer,' said a colleague

Simon Jones, who has died at 63, was a talented and highly respected journalist who was a key figure at The Independent for 20 years. As the sports department's chief sub-editor Jones played a pivotal role in the nightly production of the newspaper, overseeing the editing of the copy and ensuring that headlines and captions matched the high standards expected of the reporters. He was an excellent team leader who helped to bring through a fine generation of young sports journalists.

A warm and engaging character, Simon was the adopted son of Jimmy and Heather Jones. He shared a love of sport and writing with his father, who was a leading British tennis player and went on to become a coach and author of some 30 sports books.

Simon grew up with his sisters, Virginia, Rosemary and Melanie, in the family home in Upper Norwood in South-east London. He was educated at Dulwich College and City of Westminster College. He was gifted, but not the most dedicated of students, his lively mind all too often distracted by other interests, like music and art. He was also a good sportsman; he played tennis and had a trial with Crystal Palace, the football club he supported all his life.

At the University of Manchester he studied History of Art and developed the interests that became major themes throughout his life. He wrote plays and song lyrics; he played guitar and sang in performing bands, with whom he was forever attempting to push boundaries. As a painter he greatly admired the work of Salvador Dali and once travelled to Spain to interview him.

Jones's greatest ambition was to become a writer. While trying to make his breakthrough he did a variety of jobs, as a grave-digger, an ice cream van driver, an encylopaedia salesman, a building labourer, a turkey farm worker and a seller of advertising space. He received positive reactions to much of his written work and was given a particularly encouraging response when he submitted work to a broadcast courtroom drama series, but he always insisted on keeping what he regarded as his artistic integrity. Like his music and painting, his writing was cutting edge. He was a nonconformist in almost every respect.

Nevertheless he made his first ventures into mainstream sports journalism under the guiding eye of his father, who covered tennis for the Daily Mirror and The Sunday Telegraph. He reported on football matches for The Sunday Telegraph and eventually joined the sports department at The Times, where he quickly made his mark as a sub-editor.

Jones was recruited by The Independent a few months after its launch in 1986 and soon became a central figure in the sports department. While he never gave up his own writing ambitions, he brought the best out of others with his sensitive editing and clever headlines. "Simon was always the man on whom you could rely to make you a better writer," one of his colleagues said.

As chief sub, Jones ran a team of sub-editors. "Jubbers", as he was known in the office, set high standards, but always handled people with decency and good humour. A number of today's leading sports journalists made their first steps under his careful guidance. He was fun to work with and would have colleagues in stitches with his impersonations of sporting celebrities.

He wrote throughout his life. In 2003 his interview with Nick Bollettieri led to the celebrated tennis coach writing regular columns for The Independent. Thereafter a framed copy of the interview occupied pride of place on the wall of Bollettieri's office at his academy in Florida.

Jones continued to write plays and film scripts as well as a children's book in collaboration with Sophie Amphlett, the daughter of Jane, his former partner and lifelong friend, with whom he shared many happy years living together in Soho.

The enthusiasm and dedication Jones put into all his interests was typified by his tennis. He would spend hours practising his serve or hitting balls against a wall. He was such a perfectionist that opponents would become frustrated as he repeatedly aborted his service action if his ball toss was not quite right. However, no amount of protests from the other side of the net would make him change.

He was also a good judge of players. In 1985, before Wimbledon started, he encouraged colleagues to place a bet on a 17-year-old ranked No 20 in the world. Boris Becker duly won the title.

Cars were another passion. On one occasion he was driving through Kent with a friend when he spotted a classic Jaguar sports car for sale in a garage. With typical impetuosity he bought it on the spot, even though he had nowhere to keep the car at the time.

He was always good company, knowledgeable about many subjects, and highly sociable, but from his mid-twenties he had to deal with mental illness. He was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia before bipolar disorder was identified. Until his late forties he would go several years free of illness, but in later life his periods of depression became more frequent and he would spend lengthy spells in hospital or unable to work. Until the early 1990s he did regular work for the Samaritans: as someone who knew what it was like to be in the depths of despair he was a very good listener.

In 2008 he left The Independent and went to live in Spain, near the Lew Hoad tennis camp at Fuengirola, where he had been a frequent visitor. He enjoyed the chance to indulge his sporting passions, but in the last 18 months of his life his mental health deteriorated. He died within days of returning to Britain to seek medical help.

Charles Simon Medlycott Jones, journalist: born Dulwich, London 6 October 1949; died Teynham, Kent 17 October 2012.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 primary supply teacher ne...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Regional ESF Contract Manager

£32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home