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Gary Jones still basking in Bradford City dreamland
The winger with the full head of hair has changed as much as the club where he took his first steps in the professional game.
When Swansea took a chance on the 19-year-old from Caernarfon Town, neither could have possibly imagined their paths would one day cross again at Wembley.
Not only that but Gary Jones will be leading out a League Two team against them in the Capital One Cup final. It truly is the stuff of dreams for all involved.
The club and player are unrecognisable from when they first got together in 1997.
Jones was playing for pin money in the Welsh Premier League at the time. Swansea were trying to keep their heads above water in the bottom division.
“Caernarfon was a good grounding but the standard wasn’t the best,” he recalled.
“We didn’t get paid very much and were travelling long distances to south Wales. It was a bit of a trek when you’re part time to places like Barry Town and Cwmbran.
“Most of the lads were Welsh but I didn’t learn any of the language. They’d speak it all the time in the dressing room and were probably slagging off the rest of us!
“But I must have done something right because Swansea spotted me. Jan Molby signed me up and I was very grateful for that start.”
Jones’ debut in a 2-0 win over Scunthorpe was one of only two starts in eight appearances before Rochdale came calling.
Less than 5,000 watched that first appearance at the defunct Vetch Field – which is now a temporary allotment until the authorities decide what to build on the land.
It was Swansea’s proud home then, though, and where the brown-haired lad got the nod on the right flank.
“It was many, many moons ago,” laughed Jones. “But the Vetch was a bit of a fortress, to be fair.
“The ground was really old fashioned and there was a prison next door. Not many teams liked going there.
“Swansea have come on leaps and bounds since. They weren’t that far off going out of the league at one stage and now look at them.
“It’s nice to see because it’s a lovely city with very passionate supporters. It mirrors Bradford really.”
Jones can dream of City following suit one day. The skipper’s been doing a lot of dreaming lately, visualising that moment when he could be lifting silverware towards the claret and amber hordes on Sunday evening.
He said: “I dream all the time. In fact, I’m not going to lie, I’ve dreamed about it every night since we beat Aston Villa.
“I know I’m not meant to look forward but we’re all human. To lead such a great club out at Wembley for a major final is something you never imagine happening.
“I’ve played at Wembley before when Rochdale lost 3-2 to Stockport in the play-offs. The crowd was about 35,000.
“But this is so different because it will be a full house. Let’s not mess about, it’s going to be an absolutely amazing occasion for Swansea and, in particular, for us.
“I wouldn’t have thought it when I first signed at the start of the season. Nobody would.
“Of course our league form has suffered over the last few weeks. It’s frustrating but that happens to every club.
“We’ll dust ourselves down and enjoy the week. We’ll try not to get carried away but you don’t want to let anything pass you by.”
Jones has also checked that his passport is up to date. In the realms of cup fantasy which City have inhabited this season, you can never be too careful.
He admitted: “I was watching the Europa League the other night. Liverpool were playing in Russia and I sat there thinking ‘that could be us next season’!
“Just imagine playing Inter Milan on the Thursday and Dagenham on the Sunday. Actually, hopefully not Dagenham, because we’ll have gone up, so maybe Yeovil ... It still sounds mad.
“It’s too unbelievable for words but that shows you what we have achieved. Everyone connected with Bradford City should enjoy this moment.
“We’re all dreaming. Seeing all that claret and amber at Wembley is going to be amazing.”
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