Jones: The one thing nobody could take away was my dignity

Wolves manager determined to write the comeback story of the season – for himself and his underachieving club
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The Independent Online

Considering what he went through last year, anything relating to charity could register low on Dave Jones's list of priorities. But there he was on Thursday, a celebrity guest at Shropshire's Patshull Park golf club, for their Lady Taverner fundraising occasion; much celebrated hereabouts as the man who has put the bite back into Wolves.

Having faced, and been cleared of, charges of child abuse during his time as a Liverpool social worker, charges which in effect cost him his job as Southampton manager, Jones has bounced back vigorously, propelling Wolverhampton Wanderers to the top of the First Division and collecting the manager of the month award.

As he waited for his tee time on the Patshull terrace, Jones insisted he is not bitter or vengeful. But what this 45-year-old, recently elevated to grandfathership, most certainly exudes is the determination to become again the boss of a Premiership club, to show those who tried to bring him down that Dave Jones is not for trampling on.

"I don't think the Southampton job should have been taken away from me but it was, I had no control over it," he said. "It certainly set back my managerial career. I thought I was doing a reasonable job at Southampton, I was building. You only have to look at the players who are still there to see how far I had gone."

The case against him collapsed at Liverpool Crown Court on 5 December and exactly a month later he landed the Wolves job, closing the door on a nightmare since his original arrest by Merseyside police in August 1999. Having recruited the former England coach Glenn Hoddle as replacement while sending Jones on a 12-month leave of absence, Southampton made their intentions all too plain.

"The one thing nobody could take away was my dignity," he said. "It was a case of digging in, not letting people beat me down. I decided from day one I would fight my accusers all the way, no matter what it cost, and it has cost plenty. The judge summed up what a farce the whole thing was but I had to let the law take its course. The police and Crown Prosecution Service have never given me an answer, there has never been an apology. At the end of the day I don't give two monkeys about them, they tried to ruin my life but didn't.

"The charge was child abuse but the people accusing me were late-twenties adults. The only children being abused were mine. Who was protecting them while I was being denounced in the papers? It's bad enough for your children at school when your dad is a manager without them having to go through that. But the family is strong and we are just trying to build our lives again after all the worry and the cost.

"It was not only the cost of the court case, it was what I lost on my contract as well. It's all very well [Southampton chairman] Rupert Lowe saying he paid me, did he buggery pay me, man. I had two-and-a-half years on my contract. While I was waiting for the case to go to trial, Rupert asked me to scout and do a few things for the club. What for, to make Glenn Hoddle better? I am not that type of person. I never spoke to Glenn. He never phoned me, I never phoned him.

"But I have no animosity towards Rupert or Southampton. He decided it was what he had to do and though I didn't think it was right I am still friends with him, I would help him if he needed me in any way. But I now work for Wolves and am fully committed here."

Jones proved that from day one at Molineux. The ninth Wolves manager in 16 years, he found the club in need of what he called "a massive overhaul, a different outlook". The board were offered the choice of leaving their new man alone for three years to rebuild on the cheap. Instead, they opted for quick pursuit of the success which has eluded Wolves for so long. Sir Jack Hayward, the 78-year-old Bahamas-based owner who admitted: "We've chopped and changed managers too frequently in the past", agreed to make £10 million available for new players.

"So far we have spent £7m, a lot of money for a First Division club, but it needed it," said Jones. "But it is not a quick fix because the players we have brought in, with the exception of Alex Rae from Sunderland, are all in their mid-twenties and they all have Premiership experience. So we are looking to give the club a solid foundation and the only way to do that was to bring in the right-calibre people like Mark Kennedy, Shaun Newton, Colin Cameron and Nathan Blake. All have a lot of years ahead of them."

"The great thing about Dave is that he has bought sensibly," said Rachael Heyhoe Flint, the former England women's cricket captain and now a Molineux board member. "He is a very quiet person but John Ward, his number two, said that he has never seen anybody driven so much with the desire to get a team into the Premiership.

"He wants to prove it not only for himself but also for Sir Jack because he knows what a dreadful 11 years he has had. When Dave first met Sir Jack he said, 'I saw the hunger in his eyes for success and I want to be part of that'. I almost blubbed when he said that."

Jones, who led Stockport into the First Division in 1997 and joined Southampton a month later, says it is imperative the players share his ambitions. "I am very single-minded and I don't think second best is good enough. We would all love to emulate what Sir Alex Ferguson has achieved at Manchester United, so why not have that dream?"

Pursuit of the dream does not include regular perusal of the League table, he claims. "I don't even look at it. We are 10 games into the season, a long, long way to go. We set a target but I am not going to tell anybody else what it is. We are on course at the moment, so I am happy. When I came here people asked me if I realised it was such a big club. Yes, I did realise that, and we are still only at 50 per cent of laying the foundations."

One thing Jones will not be relying on is Wolves' history. "It's what we do in the future that counts. The past isn't going to help me. We have a museum at the club and that's where all that stuff belongs. I don't go in there, though I walk past it every day. Put the great old names in their right place and if I upset people by saying that, so be it. But Billy Wright ain't gonna play for me and Stan Cullis isn't going to help me manage. I've got to do it my way and only time will tell if it's the right way."