16 June 2014

Goodbye and thank you Jamie Jones: Leyton Orient will miss you. Sort of...

Shwan Jalal, Marek Stech, Paul Rachubka, Stuart Nelson…

Run through a list of some of the less illustrious names who’ve appeared between the sticks for Orient in our recent past and it’s easy to consider ourselves very lucky to have had a goalkeeper of the calibre of Jamie Jones for six seasons.

Bought as a 19-year-old in summer 2008 by Martin Ling in a momentary interlude in the manager’s obsessive but unfruitful search for a big striker, Jones established himself as number one in his second season, under new gaffer Geraint Williams.

In the 2010/11 season he was immense - pulling off countless gravity-defying saves to help Orient rise up the league and almost make the play-offs.

Shot-stopping - that was his stock-in-trade. He narrowed angles; he leapt; he clawed; he almost never spilled those low, skidding shots that regularly terrorise lower league goalkeepers.

Jones wasn’t flawless, of course - no goalkeepers are, and in League One fans have to accept some sort of fallibility in their number ones. The Scouser’s weak spot was coming off his line and commanding his area, though to be fair in his defining 2010/11 season that wasn’t particularly pronounced.

At the conclusion of that campaign Jones wasted no time in changing his Twitter bio to read: “League One goalkeeper - for now” - not exactly a chest-beating declaration of loyalty to the club that paid his wages but, hey, he was young, he was ambitious, he was a bit of a twat.

And besides, there were no knocks on the door from the Championship or the Premier League so Jones was a League One goalkeeper for a little bit longer.

And then he got crocked: a shoulder injury sustained in the summer of 2011 that wiped out all but the last five games of the coming season. Repeated recurrences and other injuries meant that Jones also missed large chunks of 2012/13 and 2013/14.

When he did play, the shot-stopping was still there, but the minor crack in his ability to command his area became a deep ravine. He reverted to the safety-first technique of punching, mostly unsuccessfully, wafting his right fist at high balls like an 11-year-old girl trying to land one on her irritating older brother.

Still, it was easy for fans to forgive the moments of aerial vulnerability when Jones would regularly keep Orient in games with his acrobatic saves. Such was his prowess when we played Swindon away this season that a deranged fan figured the only way to beat him was to come on the pitch and punch him.

Bosnia's number one: Eldin Jakupovic
But then our heads were turned in January 2014 when Bosnian Eldin Jakupovic glided into Brisbane Road like the dark, brooding love interest in a gothic romance novel.

Whether he was tearing off his line, rising majestically above the melee to claim the ball, or celebrating madly in front of opposition supporters after conceding a goal that was subsequently disallowed, Eldin was the goalkeeper that made Orient fans go gooey-eyed.

Unfortunately for Jones, after that fans could never look at him in the same way again; we averted our eyes, embarrassed yet still secretly exhilarated by our wild, whirlwind affair with Bosnia’s number one.

On his return to the team, Jones never gave less than 100 per cent, but it’s a sad truth that of the four goals Orient conceded in the play-offs, the goalkeeper was definitely at fault for two (Peterborough away and Rotherham’s first); probably at fault for another (Peterborough at home); and will be annoyed for being beaten from 35 yards by Alex Revell at Wembley

So while Jones is ambitious to play in the Championship - and touted himself to Preston to help him achieve that - it’s an unfortunate irony that were it not for his mistakes, Orient might already be there.

Still, there’s no need for Os fans to bear him any malice – like I said, Jones never gave less than 100 per cent and, arguably, is the best (permanent) keeper we’ve had at Brisbane Road in the last 30 years or so.

That said, when Orient play Preston next season, I hope that Russell Slade instructs his players to repeatedly pump high balls towards the opposition’s six-yard box. Where's Sam Parkin when you need him?

2 comments:

  1. Your link to News on London 24 (http://www.london24.com/sport/league-1/leyton-orient) no longer works.
    Should be http://www.london24.com/sport/football/clubs/leyton-orient

    ReplyDelete

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