Exclusive interview: Rob Jones leaves Rovers with his head held high

Rob Jones
Rob Jones

What once seemed like a relationship that could easily last for a decade is now over.

Doncaster Rovers have parted with a man who has been a talismanic leader through times both tough and glorious. And a man who at one time looked certain to become the club’s manager in the future.

Rob Jones reached a mutual agreement with Rovers on Monday to see his contract cancelled. He departs having made 78 appearances, scoring 11 goals.

And, undisputedly, he leaves a club hero. The Corporal.

Speaking to the Free Press as he drove back to his home in the North East after departing the Keepmoat for the final time, he admitted he was bitterly disappointed his three-and-a-half year stay at the club ended in such fashion.

“I can look back with very fond memories of three-and-a-half years of all sorts of ups and downs,” Jones said. “I’ve never been with any club for as long as three-and-a-half years. That is a big thing for me.

“I’ve loved my time here. There’s been so many big moments - the promotion year, the Brentford game.

“The way it’s ended though, I would have liked to have said goodbye in a more pleasant way.”

On Darren Ferguson’s arrival at the Keepmoat in October, Jones was told he had been made available for loan.

Injuries ensured he would not depart on a temporary deal - something he admits he was not keen to do - and also prevented him from forcing his way into Ferguson’s plans.

But he remained determined to play again for Rovers and finally returned to full training last week.

With an appearance for the U21s scheduled this week, he was then told that Ferguson and the board were proposing to cancel his contract, leaving him free to continue his career elsewhere.

And that is what Jones is determined to do. He wants to carry on with his playing career, despite turning 36 just before Christmas.

“I’ve not played very much over the last couple of years and I thank that stands in my favour,” he said.

“My legs are still there. I’ve had my injuries but I’m still fit enough to play at a very good standard.

“My mind is open to anything. I’ll consider anything but I want to play on.

“I’ve said for a long time that it won’t be someone else who decides when my career is over, it will be my decision.”

His departure from the Keepmoat was not down to a conflict over his desire to continue playing. There was no move made by Rovers management to push him towards a full time coaching role.

He said: “I was told that I would not be coaching the U21s beyond the end of the season and that the manager would be bringing someone else in.

“I saw the writing on the wall at that point.

“Going into management is definitely still the goal. I’ll carry on working towards that, whatever happens next.”

Jones has of course tasted management already, having twice - once alongside Brian Flynn - taken charge of Rovers on an interim basis.

His second period was earlier this season following the sacking of Paul Dickov. Jones’ six week tenure brought seven games but just a single victory, ensuring his chances of taking the job on permanently came and went.

Despite the difficult period, Jones insists he has no regrets about his time in charge.

He said: “I learned so much during those six weeks and I think it will be incredibly valuable for me in the future.

“You do not get that type of experience on coaching courses.

“It was tough, it was mixed but I think we made progress in that time.

“I have no regrets at all. I took a lot of positives from it.

“It didn’t work out in the way that I’d hoped but it will stand me in good stead.”

Though his second period in charge was not successful, there is little doubt that his time running Rovers’ development squad was fruitful.

His success helped to send into overdrive the desire of the club’s hierarchy for a regular stream of players to progress from the youth team into the senior squad.

And Jones is incredibly proud of what was achieved.

He said: “Nine of my players came through into the first team in 18 months so you can’t really argue with it

“Am I proud of that? Absolutely.

“Harry Middleton and Mitchell Lund are both thriving in the first team and have had long term deals.

“We’ve not seen a massive amount of Billy Whitehouse and Liam Mandeville but they are quality players who I’m convinced will have plenty of success.

“And there’s another really good crop coming through as part of the U21s now.

“I’m proud to have played a big part in that.”

Jones will now have to look on from afar as the young players he has worked with attempt to make their way in senior football.

And he also has high hopes for a club with which he has become synonymous in recent years.

He said: “I wish the players and the supporters every success for the future.

“I really think they will get back up there sooner rather than later. There’s a chance it could be this year, but if it isn’t I think they will be up there next season.

“The structure is there, I think Rovers are a Championship club. That’s where they belong and I’ll be delighted when they’re back there.”

Maybe this relationship is not over just quite yet.