It is safe to say that it has been an early rollercoaster ride of highs and lows for Jodi Jones in his eight years as a professional footballer so far. Since his first senior appearance for Dagenham and Redbridge against Portsmouth in 2015, our wing-back has experienced some of the worst injuries Football can serve dealing with three cruciate ligament injuries between Jun 2018 – August 2021 where he missed just under 900 days and 153 games.
It pained me to start there, but I am here to speak about his time at Notts County so far and to emphasise the remarkability of the comeback, it felt natural to begin speaking about his misfortune with injuries.
Jodi first signed for us on January 26, 2023, and our only previous memory of him was when he scored that hat-trick against us for Coventry City on the opening day of the Sky Bet League Two season back in 2017. Almost immediately it was met with an array of laughter and doubt from fans of opposing football clubs, yet it is firmly safe to say they are simply not laughing anymore are they. Jodi first appeared for Notts in a 1-0 victory over FC Halifax Town as a substitute and although showing signs of the player we always expected him to become for us, it was evident it was going to take time naturally due to the lack of games played over the course of the three-year period of his career before joining us. It would have been extremely unrealistic of any of us to have expected him to hit the ground running straight away and also natural for him to have worried about any reoccurring injury as injury was unfortunately all he had known for a large spell of his career so far.
However, beyond his first cameo in the famous black and white stripes, it has been evident that Jodi has gone from strength to strength and always looked like he would turn into that first team regular that he is today. It was almost unfair to have him in the fifth tier of English football, and that was ironically where the majority of the previous doubters were upon his arrival. I remember quite specifically a through ball he clipped over the top to Macca away at Chesterfield where beforehand he had carried the ball from the edge of our penalty area and started the attack singlehandedly, that was the moment where I looked at him personally and thought that he was the serious real deal.
Hard to ever speak about Jodi without thinking of that Boreham Wood semi-final really, isn’t it? I mean, before the game and with it being the calibre of game it was, you arrived at Meadow Lane that day wondering who the guy would be to step up and be that hero to take us to Wembley Stadium and as much as Aden Baldwin produced his own heroics, the ultimate hero will forever be Jodi. It could not have been a more deserving player, the player who came here to a level in which a player of his quality should never have to consider with all due respects but had to due to mistreatment with game time at Oxford United, the player who missed a large spell of his developmental years as a footballer before his peak due to three of the same injuries that some footballer are fortunate enough to never experience once. Even now typing it out brings a smile to the face, of course because of the moment and the jubilation it brought, but also the fact it was Jodi to deliver that moment because in my personal opinion and I am sure many of you would agree, there was no other player with a significant personal story in that playing squad we wanted to have that moment more.
With that moment came the day out at Wembley Stadium, the day that the left foot of Jodi Jones secured. We all know what happened that day and as much as I would like to go back over it, this is not what the purpose of this piece is about. However, there are two things that came from that game that I would like to touch on. The first being a caption used by Jodi on social media which read, “Endless days in the dark for a glimpse in the light! Priceless moment.” Could that be any more accurate to his career so far? Impossible and I think the overhaul of emotion within him on the day was released when he converted his penalty in the shootout.
Oh, and the other thing I would like to mention… “Semi-final comeback, final comeback, think we are losing? NEVER!”
We were very fortunate to sign Jodi permanently this summer, as it was more than evident that he deserved to play higher than League Two, but it showed how much he valued the love and support he received from all here during his short spell previously. However, one thing I can safely say is that any Bristol City fan optimistic about Liam Manning opening opportunity for players to prove themselves are going to be in for some disappointment.
Following his permanent arrival, Jodi stated that, “2022-23 was my comeback season, my chance to get back to playing week in, week out and I have got so much more in my locker.”
I wanted to include that as reference point for when we get to talking about his already incredible return from left wing-back this season but first I would like to highlight the fact that Jodi was selected by thw Malta national team to represent them against England in June 2023. A more than deserved opportunity for him that he would have not received had he opted into remaining at Oxford United in the second half of the 2022-23 season but instead just goes to show that the opportunity he took to come here and play for us at Notts County was more than beneficial to both club and Jodi as Notts now have a Maltese international within the playing squad and Jodi has regular opportunity to lace his boots up for his country.
Hard work pays off and despite constant setback due to injury, it is fair to say Jodi never let that prevent him from getting back to his best and I for one will forever be grateful that his return to the best version of Jodi Jones was with Notts County.
Now then, let’s talk about this season, shall we? To say Jodi is a crucial member of this current playing squad feels like a severe understatement whilst being the biggest statement of appreciation at the same time.
The first real look we got at what we could expect from Jodi this season was in the 3-2 win at home against Grimsby Town. I do not think it’s any secret that we started that game poorly for our standards and found ourselves lucky to be level at half-time. But when you come out to the second half, attacking the KOP with a player who again possesses the quality that simply should not be found at League Two level, you always have a chance. Yes, there was a huge element of luck with his goal, but when it is your day, it is simple your day. However, what was not luck was the audacity to put the ball through the legs of Toby Mullarkey and whip that delightful ball into the back post for Dan Crowley’s winner. With all due respects to the Grimsby Town defender, I personally would not be surprised if he is still spinning now.
Then you move on to Doncaster Rovers away from home, and you look in the fifty-fourth minute in particular where Jodi scored again. They say that 0-2 is typically a dangerous score line in football, not when you have players like Jodi who can score so emphatically to make it three. Beyond that goal however, I will always look back on that day by the celebrations at the end. The celebrations where the 2,500 Notts fans who made the journey on the day remained to serenade the players off the pitch. Jodi was the last to leave the field, even John Bostock joined in with his song, he deserved it for another fine display.
Beyond that game at Doncaster Rovers, it’s been an assist against Accrington Stanley, two assists against Forest Green Rovers, a goal and an assist against Colchester United, and three assists in a 3-0 win over Newport County and that was the first time in forever I have felt any sympathy for any opposing footballer trying to play against one of ours as their right back did not get within ten yards of Jodi all evening. In the summer, many were unsure how it was going to go with our left wing-back position as we had Adam Chicksen, who had just completed his greatest season statistically as a pro and then of course Jodi, who let’s set it straight now is a top end League One and arguably Championship player in terms of quality. But, as of right now, I do not believe there is much debate on who should start, and with that, there may not be too many debates of who the player of the season is if this incredible form displayed in the opening stages of the season is continued for the full duration.
The whole point of this piece was to discuss Jodi’s time at the club so far and even now in what has been just ten months as a Notts player, I think it is fair to say that he has been a massive success. I remember an interview that was released back in summer whilst he was away on international duty with Malta where he stated that he felt fully fit and ready to deliver his best again, and now you simply have to believe it because if there is ever one rule in the rulebook of forever changing rules in this sport that always remains factual is that numbers simply never lie. Its three goals, nine assists in fourteen matches currently and if you do the maths and work out what it should be come the end of it, it should look like six goals, twenty-seven assists in forty-six games. It is essential of me to emphasise the word should in that because what it should be to what it is going to be are two different things. Although twenty-seven assists can be unrealistic for many in this division, if there was one player that you would look at being realistic for, that player is Jodi. However, personally I think it is only a matter of time before he enters double digits in both departments, he is quite simply that guy.
That brings me on nicely to addressing the rest of League One and League Two, what on earth were they thinking? Worried about taking the chance on a player who has had severe misfortune with injuries in the past, but I am almost certain they would all snap our hands off for him now. One of the greatest successes of Luke Williams’ reign as Head Coach so far, other than the promotion, has been the recruitment and what he has done with the players he has brought in. With Jodi, he never even looked at the injuries as a put off factor and the rest has been some sweet and fine history.
The story has written itself so far, and the more he continues to deliver on the pitch, it will not be a story that fizzles out after a brilliant first chapter. Long may this comeback continue, and long may he stay free from injuries, as if he does, we always have that extra chance of winning football games. He has been key for us so far in the ten months he has been a Notts County player, and it is undoubted that he will continue to be.
Why? Because at the end of the day we do not sing it for no reason… you simply always have to believe in, Jodi Jones.
*Article provided by K-Ci Rennicks (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @Official_NCFC Jodi Jones has revitalised his career at Notts County.