Barnsley debut gives moment to saviour for Tykes loan signing Gethin Jones
By Matt Badcock
YORKSHIRE derby, a packed house, an electric atmosphere and a big three points – Gethin Jones’ first taste of Championship football with Barnsley was something to remember.
The 21-year-old made his debut in the Tykes’ 3-2 win against Leeds United last month just two days after joining on loan from Everton.
It was a baptism of fire for the Toffees’ U23 captain to say the least, but walking off the pitch at the final whistle he knew making the move to Oakwell was a good choice.
“It’s a massive fixture,” Jones told The FLP. “I joined on the Thursday, trained that day and found out I was starting against Leeds on the Saturday.
“I haven’t experienced anything like that before. It’s such a big derby. You take the atmosphere in when you’re warming up and just before you walk out for kick-off.
“When the first whistle goes you sort of forget about the atmosphere and concentrate on the game.
“It was stop-start because there were a few flares going off, but, other than that, it was unbelievable.”
Having fractured four metatarsals part way through last season, ruling him out for five months, Jones was targeting a temporary loan move into the Championship this year.
A play-off push with Championship new boys Barnsley is an even bigger bonus as the defender looks to improve his game at football’s coalface. And already he’s noticed the contrasting challenges posed by different teams.
“My second appearance was against Rotherham and that was a different type of game,” Jones said. “They’re struggling in the league so needed to pick up points and they were very direct. Playing away you’ve got all the fans against you but we came out with another good win.
“It’s good to play against so many different styles and formations. That’s different to compared to when I’m at Everton.
“When you play the Arsenals or Chelseas in U23 football, you tend to know what they’re going to play like. In League football, teams change their systems – that’s something you’ve got to take in.
Parent club: Gethin Jones in Everton colours during a pre-season friendly (picture: Action Images / John Clifton)
“It’s a lot more physical and you’re coming up against bigger, faster, stronger players – and players who’ve been playing in the Football League for many years. They’ve got tons of experience.
“Coming up against that is hard but it’s good for my development and I feel like I’m doing well so far.”
Jones has been nurtured in an Everton academy that has a habit of turning out professional footballers. Out of contract in the summer, he’s looking to impress with Paul Heckingbottom’s side before assessing his options.
But there’s another dilemma on the horizon. Born in Australia, he lived in Perth until he was three before returning with his family to Wales.
The Wales U21 skipper’s talent hasn’t gone unnoticed Down Under, however, and he’s already been approached to represent the Socceroos’ U23s.
“Australia contacted Everton two or three months back asking for me to play for their U23s but I didn’t want to make any decisions then,” he said.
“I feel more Welsh than Australian. I’ve been Wales captain from the U16s to the U21s so if the first team called I’d definitely go for that.
“But it depends now. If Australia came in before Wales you never know, it’s something I’d have to seriously think about.”
For now it’s all about the Championship promotion race and trying to help Barnsley sneak into the play-off places.
“They came up last season and what they’ve achieved so far this season is really good,” Jones said. “But they don’t want to stop now.
“We’re taking it game by game, working really hard in training and hopefully we can keep getting results and get in the play-offs.
“You can tell with all the lads and staff members there’s a winning feeling where you want to go into the next game.
“Leeds were in good form when we played them but we beat them – coming off the pitch that day I knew I was in a really good place.”
*This article originally featured in The FLP’s 12 February 2017 edition.
Tagged Barnsley, Gethin Jones, Paul Heckingbottom