Jones takes strength from tragedy for his big chance

Liverpool's third-choice keeper feels his son who passed away from cancer will watch over him during the FA Cup semi-final

This may be the season when, finally, the caricature of a professional footballer changed from that of a Bentley-driving, Cristal-swigging ignoramus beloved of a thousand radio phone-ins to a reminder that they and their families are human beings.

You can take your pick: Gary Speed's two boys leading the Wales team out at Cardiff; the stricken faces as Fabrice Muamba lay on the pitch at White Hart Lane; the applause ringing round Anfield on Saturday as the Aston Villa fans chanted the name of their captain, Stiliyan Petrov, a man fighting against leukaemia.

Or Brad Jones saving a penalty at Blackburn on Tuesday night and then pointing to the stars in memory of his son, Luca, who died in November from leukaemia at the age of five. In contrast, the tears shed by supporters for teams that toss away titles or totter towards relegation appear especially cheap.

 

"It has been a difficult 18 months with losing my son," Jones said. "It has been hard but maybe he gave me that. Luca is with me every day. I carry him everywhere. His face is on my washbag and his toys are in my travel bag. In that sense, I have someone to watch over me."

The next time Luca will watch over his dad will be on Saturday at Wembley, when Liverpool's third-choice goalkeeper plays in an FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

"When Brad looked up to the sky last night, it was a special moment for football," said the Everton midfielder, Tim Cahill. "It's a crazy world, the way things pan out. To have two Australians playing in a semi-final is going to be massive. I've sent Brad a text but I guess his mind must be a whirlwind of emotions at the moment."

If the lot of a reserve goalkeeper is waiting endlessly for a fleeting opportunity, then a third-choice must require the deepest reserves of optimism. All the more so because Pepe Reina is the kind that wants to play in every fixture no matter how minor. Geoff Boycott as goalkeeper.

Jones had played two matches for Liverpool since Roy Hodgson bought him for £2.5m from Middlesbrough in the summer of 2010, the summer he was to have spent with the Australian World Cup squad in South Africa before a call from his former wife, Julie, caused him to abandon the tournament and travel to the south of France where Luca and his mother were now living. His boy's struggle against leukaemia was to last 18 months.

Of the two games, one was utterly forgettable, the other stuck in the mind for the worst reasons. One was a goalless draw with Utrecht when Liverpool were giving away free tickets to ensure Anfield was full for John W Henry's first visit to the ground he had just taken possession of.

The other was the disastrous Carling Cup tie with Northampton that was lost on penalties in a rainstorm and provided perhaps the defining image of Hodgson's time on Merseyside; the manager on the touchline, soaked to the skin, trying vainly to direct affairs.

A fortnight ago, any thoughts Jones had of Wembley would have been of where he might sit in the stands. Mostly, he would have been turning his mind to the imminent arrival of his son, Nico, who was born last Wednesday.

Then, Reina was sent off at Newcastle and, astonishingly at Ewood Park, the same fate befell Alexander Doni, whom Kenny Dalglish had brought in from Roma to understudy the Spaniard.

Now Jones, the understudy's understudy, walked into the Ewood Park rain to face a penalty, taken by Yakubu. He said that he remembered the penalty sessions they had on a Friday while playing together at Middlesbrough. He guessed right and saved what was a feeble spot-kick from the Nigerian with gloves that bore the name of the Anthony Nolan cancer trust.

"This wasn't something I expected. The last few days have been hectic after Dani [his partner] gave birth to Nico," he said. "All I've been doing is getting into the routine of having a baby in the house."

While Jones prepares for Wembley, Doni is likely to be swallowed whole by frustration. He had waited all season for his opportunity and before Reina's dismissal he had told Italian radio that he was tiring of life on the bench and missing Rome. Wembley would have given his season a shot at redemption. One rash decision at Blackburn as Junior Hoilett bore down on goal changed all that.

Yesterday, the club recalled Peter Gulacsi, whom they signed from MTK of Budapest five years ago but who is now on loan at Hull City (where he has been on the bench) after spells at Hereford and Tranmere. It says something for the lot of a reserve keeper that in those five years he has never played a senior game for Liverpool.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

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
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment