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Canada my home now, says former Bantams player Jones
Updated 8:30am Tuesday 10th June 2014 in Sport
Ritchie Jones shields Montreal midfielder Patrice Bernier during the first half in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semi-finals at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton Picture: Edmonton Sun
It was minus 30 when a shivering Ritchie Jones stepped off the plane to start his new life in Canada.
But the former City midfielder reckons his move to FC Edmonton has hauled his football career back in from the cold.
Jones has warmed to the task since that iciest of introductions to life in the North American Soccer League – the second tier system behind the MLS.
After leaving Valley Parade in January last year, he spent brief spells with Rochdale and Grimsby. But he needed to move 4,000 miles to get a regular game again.
Jones may be back in Manchester this week as the league shuts down for a month between the spring and fall seasons. But Canada already feels like home.
“I’ve been over there for four months and I’ve enjoyed every single minute,” he said.
“Walking outside was a no go when I arrived in February and I’ve never experienced cold like it. But the weather is scorching hot now and it’s a great place.
“I really appreciate FC Edmonton for giving me this opportunity. I’ve played for many clubs in England and only really settled at Bradford and Hartlepool after leaving Man United.
“So it’s nice to be enjoying my football here. Like any player, I want to perform at the highest level possible but I would like to stay and settle at one club.
“I could never rule out a return to England but Canada is my home now and this is a great challenge.
“It's been great for me learning a different culture and a different way of living. It's something I've always wanted to do.”
Jones has started all nine league games for the “Eddies”, including Sunday’s 6-1 thrashing of Carolina – the biggest win in Edmonton’s NASL history.
Nostalgic names such as the New York Cosmos and Tampa Bay Rowdies fill the fixture list and there are familiar figures in the opposition.
Former Newcastle striker Tomi Ameobi was on the Edmonton scoresheet; one-time Leeds man Mike Grella, looking more like a ZZ Top guitarist with his bushy beard, among the opposition. Indy Eleven, currently bottom, boast World Cup winner Kleberson in their ranks.
Jones added: “There are some terrific technical players, especially some of the South Americans. The level of football is high.
“There are some different style and good teams. There’s a bit of the Championship, League One and Two all thrown in together with the odd World Cup star dotted around the league.
“I was at Man United with Kleberson a few years ago so we had a decent talk after that game. I also played against (former Spanish international Marcos) Senna, who is still very good.”
Edmonton claimed an MLS scalp in the Canadian Cup but a last-minute penalty in the semi-final second leg cost them a date with Jermain Defoe’s Toronto.
At least the Eddies signed off the spring schedule with a first home win – in some style.
“We’ve been very unlucky in some games,” said Jones. “We knew it was only a matter of time before we start to pick up more and more wins because the squad is very strong.”
Jones, signed by Peter Jackson in the summer of 2011, played 48 times for the Bantams but found himself marginalised once Phil Parkinson installed the midfield engine room of Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle.
But he recalls his Valley Parade days fondly and still keeps tabs on his former team-mates and their results.
“I thought 11th place was a great finish last season after being promoted from League Two. The manager, staff and squad have done a terrific job.
“I know Rotherham did very well (to get promoted again) but money in the long run sometimes doesn't buy success.
“Phil Parkinson has built a very strong team of professionals and I believe next season will be a good year for the club. I’m made up for them to be doing well.”
Jones remains close to former City room-mate Andrew Davies – a friendship that wasn’t affected when he super glued the big defender’s trainers to the changing room floor after training!
He laughed: “We had some cracking banter and he always used to play tricks on me. So I thought I’d get my own back one day – and he couldn’t move his feet.
“Of course I miss playing for a big club like Bradford, I think any player would. The atmosphere created by the fans at games was unbelievable to play in.
“I think they were among the best fans in England and it was an unforgettable experience for me.
“But life in Canada has been good. My manager Colin Miller is Scottish and his unbelievable work ethic rubs off on all of us.
“He’s made me a better player, especially defensively. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
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