On Course For More Success

Master Keeper Now A Fund-Raising Champion

Paul Jones and wife Annette….a charity double act.

No manager knew him better as a player, so the trigger for this story was somehow highly appropriate.

How, we asked Dave Jones, was the health of the golf circuit available to ex-players and bosses now former Arsenal and QPR defender Terry Mancini was 80 and less active in his role as chief tournament organiser. 

“Paul Jones is doing a lot of that sort of work now,” replied Wolves’ first Premier League manager. “And he’s good at it. You should have a word with him.”

The keeper was one of the quiet men of Wolves’ dressing room after Graham Turner signed him from Kidderminster in 1991, effectively as back-up to Mike Stowell. In the pantheon of Molineux last lines of defence around that time, Jones was much more Michael Oakes in personality than he was Mark Kendall.

Life working on the family farm at Hadnall, near Shrewsbury, saw to it that he remained grounded, with calmness and politeness ever-present parts of his make-up. So was a determination to make the most of his chance in the full-time game after a stint with Bridgnorth and then one of some 250 games at Kidder.

“I was still working on the farm while I was playing for Harriers,” he said. “Looking back, I don’t know how I did it – starting at 6am, going off to train on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5pm, then doing more work around playing at the weekends. But I was young and just took it all on!”

Not many of Jones’s Wolves team-mates would have foreseen the rise and rise he has made off the field as well as on it, turning this into a story of rich achievement and pleasing flourishing.

“A couple of the lads played at Patshull but I didn’t bother much and didn’t really get into it until a couple of years before I finished full-time in the game,” he added. “I bumped into Ray Clemence and he told me about the tournaments that were put on for footballers, so I gave it a go.

“My handicap is around seven, so I’m respectable, but played more after deciding my knees and hips weren’t good enough to carry on the coaching I did part-time with the Wales keepers for about five years.”

Jones’s wife, Annette, had a finance company and it was a golf day hosted by them that gave the couple the taste for expanding into a field he had never considered as a career option. The results have been staggering.

Paul himself is guest speaker at a sportsman’s lunch being promoted this October by the events company they run and Dave Jones is playing in another event they are putting on next week near Hastings. In between comes the Paul Jones Spanish Golf Classic and sporting stars such as Harry Redknapp, Paul Walsh and the late Willie Thorne have their names attached to other charity days on their 2023 calendar. 

But putting it all into some clearer context is the fact that the 20th Paul Jones Charity Celebrity golf day and dinner took place in May. To use a phrase from his past life, the organising and staging of blue-chip charity events in the South of England is in very safe hands.

“It’s amazing to think that we have been doing this for so long,” said the Sussex-based 56-year-old. “I never planned to go into it but we’re very busy now from March to October especially and work with a lot of celebrities and sports people.”

All this on the back of an outstanding football career, of which Wolves unfortunately didn’t see the best despite two fondly-remembered penalty saves – the one from Chris Bart Williams in an FA Cup tie at Sheffield Wednesday crucial, the other by Alan Shearer in a Premier League draw at Newcastle more a case of noteworthy. 

Jones made 44 senior appearances here first time round, then his manager namesake signed him for the third time to bring him back in 2004 for a 26-game, two-year second spell.

The front cover of Wolves’ programme in 2004 celebrates the keeper’s return to his first League club.

The real career highlights, though, came elsewhere; a starring ever-present role in Stockport’s 1996-97 promotion to the second tier, with cup giant-killings along the way, around 200 matches for Southampton at a time when they were a top-flight club and 50 for Wales by way of icing on the cake.

Better still, he faced Arsenal in the Saints’ 2003 FA Cup final defeat – going on for the injured Antti Niemi to become the first keeper to be used as a substitute in the showpiece fixture – emerged as Liverpool’s oldest post-war debutant when signing there on loan aged 36 and was named Welsh Footballer of the Year in 1999.

“Of course I’m proud of what I achieved in football and that success helped give me the confidence to do what we are involved with now,” he added. “Confidence is so important whatever you do and my goalkeeping career seemed to get better the longer it went on.”

The Joneses have raised well over £1m to date for special causes through their events and are proud patrons of the Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice in Arundel, West Sussex.