Goalkeeper Brad Jones ready to take Liverpool chance

 

Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones hopes to put a difficult time behind him after fortune thrust him into Kenny Dalglish's plans following 16 months in the wilderness.

The Australian made his Barclays Premier League debut for the Reds 20 months after joining from Middlesbrough in the last-gasp 3-2 win at Blackburn yesterday in which he saved a penalty.

Jones dedicated his penalty save to five-year-old son Luca, who died from leukaemia in November, and is set to cap a hectic and emotional few days - his girlfriend Dani Lawrence gave birth to another boy Nico a week ago - by playing in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

"It's been a difficult 18 months for me with losing my son," the 30-year-old said.

"It's been hard but maybe yesterday he gave me that (the penalty save).

"Luca is with me every day. I carry him everywhere. His face is on my washbag and his toys are in my travel bag - I take him everywhere.

"In that sense I've definitely got someone looking over me.

"It's been difficult not being involved and with everything that has gone on but I've trained as hard as I can and hopefully that will stand me in good stead.

"The last few days have been hectic after my girlfriend gave birth to Nico. I've been getting into the routine of having a baby in the house - it's been a good week for me.

"Obviously now I'll be preparing for a big game on Saturday so she might have a bit more work on her hands."

Prior to the win over Blackburn he had made just two appearances, in the Carling Cup and Europa League, with the last coming in December 2010.

Once Dalglish took over the following January he got nowhere near the first-team squad until he made the bench for Saturday's draw with Aston Villa as Doni, brought in last summer as back-up goalkeeper, deputised for the suspended Jose Reina.

The Brazilian was sent off midway through the first half at Ewood Park and Jones' first touch for Liverpool in the league was to save Ayegbeni Yakubu's penalty.

He went on to concede twice to the Nigerian, once after himself conceding a spot-kick, but Andy Carroll's added-time header snatched victory after Maxi Rodriguez's early double strike had put the visitors into a 2-0 lead.

Featuring in an FA Cup semi-final would have been the last thing on the mind of Jones over the last few days, especially as a month ago was he playing for the reserves against Arsenal and the club's Kirkby-based academy.

Now he has to ready himself for the biggest occasion of his club career, having been on the bench for Middlesbrough's 2004 League Cup win and UEFA Cup final defeat to Sevilla two years later.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet. It is not something I've been thinking about to be honest but it is a big game and now it is about preparing for that and making sure I am focused and ready," he added.

"These things can happen, as it proved for Doni coming in a couple of days ago (against Villa).

"You just have to be prepared and have it in your mind that it could happen at any time.

"That is the thing being a goalkeeper on the bench - it could happen but 99% of the time it doesn't.

"It's going to be a big occasion against Everton. I have to make sure I do the right things and it's going to be an extra special day.

"It's massive just to be a Liverpool player. I'm as proud as anyone to do that and be part of this club."

Carroll's late goal, his first in the league since January 31 and only his ninth in 49 appearances since joining from Newcastle in a club-record £35million deal, lifted him and the rest of the team after a run of just one win in their previous nine league matches.

"It shows the fight that we've got here," Carroll told liverpoolfc.tv.

"Coming off a few defeats and a draw winning will lift all the lads to go to Wembley and try to get to the final from there.

"I think we're all confident. We've just been a little bit unlucky in a few games and I think the luck will come on our side, sooner rather than later hopefully."

PA

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