Bradford City: Jones out to grab Ronaldo's attention by giving it a Real go against Villa (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford City: Ritchie Jones out to grab Ronaldo's attention by giving it a Real go against Aston Villa
Ritchie Jones knows he will have made it on the Wembley glory trail when Cristiano Ronaldo comes calling.
Jones was besieged with phone messages from former team-mates after City sensationally dumped Arsenal on their way to the Capital One Cup semi-finals.
But he didn’t hear a peep from a certain Portuguese...
“I’ve not heard from Ronaldo yet,” laughed Jones. “But maybe if we can cause another upset then I might get one!”
A call from Madrid may not sound as far-fetched as you think.
I see Ronaldo playing for Real Madrid against Barca on the TV and think ‘I used to play with him’. It’s bizarre reallyRitchie Jones
It’s a little known fact that Jones played alongside Ronaldo a couple of times during his teenage days on Manchester United’s books.
They both featured in the United side that won the competition in 2006, beating Wigan 4-0 to lift the three-handled trophy.
Jones had been jettisoned from the squad by the time the final was held at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium as Sir Alex Ferguson brought in the big-hitters. But he had been involved in three of the previous rounds.
Jones made his debut in the third round against Barnet and then came off the bench for half-hour cameos in the wins over West Brom and Birmingham.
Ronaldo played in those two while Jones shared a bench with the Old Trafford great and good. The three second-half subs in the quarter-final at St Andrews were Jones, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney.
By the time the semi-final against Blackburn came around, the young Jones had lost his spot in the squad to a more experienced head – Ruud van Nistelrooy.
For Jones, still a fanatical United supporter, those were memorable days, although he did not appreciate it at the time.
“I was only 19 so it passes you by. I’d been brought up at Man United since I was a young boy so I didn’t think too much of it.
“I just thought it was normal playing with those guys because you were training with the likes of Ronaldo and Rooney all the time.
“It’s only when you leave and look back a few years later, you realise what had happened. Then it sinks in.
“I see Ronaldo playing for Real Madrid against Barca on the TV and think ‘I used to play with him’. It’s bizarre really.
“I didn’t make it to the semis or the final but it was good to have played in three rounds to get that far.”
Jones will be hoping for some involvement in City’s first crack at Aston Villa in tonight’s sold out semi-final at Valley Parade.
After coming on in the Arsenal game – and missing in the penalty shoot-out – the 26-year-old is wrapped up in the excitement of their incredible cup journey.
“We don’t fear anyone after beating Arsenal. We took their strongest team all the way through extra-time so we’ve got nothing to lose.
“There’s no pressure on us and hopefully we can do the same again to Villa.
“It’s still amazing to think that we’re in the semi-finals. It’s not something you could have imagined.
“We’ve probably got the whole country behind us but we don’t need that. Playing in front of our fans is good enough for me, it doesn’t get better than when they are behind the team.
“The Arsenal game was the first time I’ve seen it full at Valley Parade and the support they gave us was amazing.
“When I first signed here, I was stood in the middle of the pitch looking round the stadium. It was completely empty and I couldn’t believe how big it was.
“To see all our fans fill it and experience that atmosphere in the last round was just incredible. I don’t think anything can beat it.”
Apart from a well-done message from a certain La Liga superstar maybe...