What a fortnight it’s been for goalkeeper Brad Jones.
Just 10 days ago, the Australian stopper was Liverpool’s third choice between the sticks during what was turning out to be an unspectacular season for the Reds.
Their form in the Premier League has been particularly poor, with victory in the League Cup and progress to the FA Cup semi-final the saving grace in a season where they failed to reach the Champions League qualification places – Kenny Dalglish’s original target.
After defeat to Wigan at Anfield, Liverpool went to Newcastle on April 1st already thinking about that semi-final – against Merseyside rivals Everton – and Pepe Reina’s red card meant he would miss three matches, including the clash in the capital.
Brazilian international Alex Doni made his Reds debut the following week against Aston Villa in a 1-1 draw. The former Roma keeper was solid, and unsurprisingly appeared composed with over a decade’s experience in the game on a couple of continents.
However, his first-half dismissal at Ewood Park yesterday, bringing down Junior Hoilett after a dreadful back-pass from Jon Flanagan, meant the spotlight would be thrust on Jones.
He instantly delivered with a penalty save from Yakubu – his first Premier League touch for the club after moving from Middlesbrough in the summer of 2010.
And, whilst his performance wasn’t blemish free – Jones gave away another penalty in the second period – it was good enough to provide some sort of confidence in his abilities ahead of this weekend’s clash with the Toffees.
Life has been about more than football for Jones in recent times though, with the former Derby County loanee only recently making his return to reserve team football following the sad passing of his five-year-old son.
Luca Jones died of leukaemia in November, and the goalkeeper admits that life away from the pitch has been extremely tough.
However, the birth of son Nico last Wednesday has brought some joy back into Jones and wife Dani Lawrence’s life, and he's thankful to everyone at the club for their unrelenting support in recent times.
"It's been a difficult 18 months and the result was thanks to the fans for their support," Jones told the official Liverpool website post-match.
“Luca is with me every day. I carry him everywhere. His face is on my washbag and his toys are in my travel bag. In that sense I've 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."
A former understudy to Mark Schwarzer at Middlesbrough, Jones’ rarely got the chance to be the main man during his time on Teeside, and moved to Liverpool knowing he again would not be first choice.
But, as fate would have it, he now gets his biggest chance as a professional footballer and a date with destiny at Wembley. His participation was all-but confirmed earlier today, when The FA confirmed they would not allow the Reds the opportunity to sign a player on emergency loan before Saturday’s match.
That means teenager Danny Ward is likely to take his place on the bench, signed from Wrexham in January with an eye on the future. Tyrell Belford is also a substitute option.
Either way, it’s Jones who will make his first competitive start, and therefore gets the chance to become a Reds hero.
And, nobody can begrudge this 30-year-old, signed for £2.3 million 20 months ago, his big moment.
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