Doncaster Rovers: Louis Jones talks letting chances slip and bouncing back
The life of an up and coming young goalkeeper can be a tricky one.
The window of opportunity is rarely wide open, with chances to inspire confidence in managers typically fleeting in a world where the demand for positive results is so strong.
Louis Jones had the summer to do so at Doncaster Rovers.
New boss Richie Wellens handed him the number one shirt on his arrival at the club and instructed the Thorne-born keeper to prove he deserved it.
Knowing he needed to bring in another keeper, Wellens was torn between making a signing that would expect to be first choice or bringing in someone as back up to the academy graduate.
With inconsistent pre-season performances, Jones struggled to show the manager that he was ready to stand between the sticks on a full time basis.
And that has taken some processing for the 23-year-old.
“I was given the number one shirt at the start of this year and I played all the pre-season games,” he told the Free Press. “But I know myself that I didn’t do my best in them.
“Ultimately it was in my hands at the start of the summer to make this the season I wanted it to be and I didn’t achieve what I wanted to in pre-season to impress the gaffer enough.
“That was tough for me.
“But it also gave me the chance to learn.
“I’m still young in keeper terms, so I can learn how to deal with things like that.
“Last year I did well in a lot of games but there were no fans and we had a lot of players that I’d played with for a long time.
“This year was a step forward for me and I wanted it to be a big season for me but it was always going to be difficult and I probably didn’t anticipate that I had a lot of new things to conquer.
“I maybe wasn’t ready at the time.
“But I’ve gone back, I’ve trained, worked hard and worked on these things.”
Jones’ work in training in recent weeks has been lauded by Wellens who has been impressed with how hard he has been pushing for an opportunity.
Having been restricted to Papa John’s Trophy action and an outing in the Carabao Cup at Stoke City, the academy product finally got his chance in the league against Lincoln City, due to an illness for Dahlberg.
And he impressed greatly with an assured performance that went a long way towards Rovers emerging from the game with a clean sheet.
It was a thoroughly mature performance from Jones and a noticeable step up in the levels of composure and calm he has demonstrated on previous outings in the high pressure league environment.
His decision-making was better, as was his distribution which has been a point of note since his debut at senior level.
Jones believes the source of his improvement has been growing more comfortable with the demands of senior football.
And he admits, having broken into the team last season when supporters were absent, dealing with fans in stands has taken some getting used to as well.
“At the start of this year, it was probably something that I didn’t have the tools to be ready for,” he said.
“I’ve not played in front of supporters before this season.
“It wasn’t something I ever thought about in the game on Saturday. It was a derby but none of it ever crept into my thinking.
“I just concentrated on doing what I normally do and playing the game subconsciously without thinking about anything and just doing the actions that I go through during the week.
“With distribution, we do have a game plan. The first five minutes we go a bit longer to settle into the game.
“But when I’ve got the ball it’s my decision to pick whether we should be playing out or going longer.
“That’s something I’ve matured with my decision making and by working on it in training and watching the games, how we want to play and what we want to do.
“I think it showed in the game.”
Jones has long been a deep thinker about his game - which is reflected in his detailed answers about his performances and journey into senior football.
And he is thankful for the role of James Coppinger in developing his mentality, even before the Rovers legend stepped into his role as mental performance advisor.
“Copps has been here since I came to the club,” he said.
“He’s seen me from when I was coming in before school as a 15-year-old all the way through to where I am now.
“He’s someone I have a really good relationship with and he’s there for me.
“He’s spoken to me along the way so he knows me well and he knows himself how much he needs to give me and when I need a call.
“I don’t go to him. He knows me so well from my time that he knows when to leave me alone or when I need some help.
“The main thing I’ve taken from the challenges I’ve faced this year is that ultimately you’re in control of everything you think.
“You should never really see negatives to anything that’s going on.
“Since learning about that side of things and the mental thing, it has really helped me to enjoy what I’m doing.
“I enjoy training, I work hard and as the gaffer said to me, play how you train and that’s what I’ve done.”