This season has seen the emergence of a promising young talent from Wrexham in the Football League against the odds.
After three campaigns with both The New Saints and Altrincham respectively, James Jones‘ career has taken an upturn with a move to League Two club Barrow.
Despite a difficult start to the 2020-21 season, the Bluebirds, promoted from the National League as champions last term, have improved of late under caretaker-manager Rob Kelly.
They currently lie five points clear of the drop zone with a home game against Crawley Town to come today (Saturday, March 20).
James, who turned 24 this month, has made 15 appearances for the Holker Street side to date.
Here is a Q and A he took part in with Grassroots North Wales.
How does it feel breaking into the Football League this season? Were you confident you would always get there?
I’m delighted to be in the EFL. As a kid I’d watch Wrexham every week with my dad when they were in League Two and that’s all I ever wanted was to be out there.
I obviously live in the world of football now, so it doesn’t bowl me over like the thought of it did when I was a child, but I think it’s somewhere a lot of footballers aspire to be so I’m very happy to be here and feel a good sense of achievement playing in it.
I suppose I was confident that I was good enough to get an opportunity to play in it and I would be able to earn that. The next bit is can you be consistent enough to stay there year after year and build a career for yourself and that’s what I’m hoping to do.
How is life at Barrow? Results are improving, have you settled in well?
It’s been an up and down season for me, I felt like I really hit the ground running.
I cemented my place in the starting XI over pre-season and was performing well, then I partially tore my ankle ligaments at Carlisle about 5/6 games in which saw me out for about 3 months.
Then coming back in there isn’t a reserves here to build your game time up, so when you’ve been out for a while it can be tough to get back in the side, but I was patient and waited for my chance and thankfully took it and at the moment I’m back in the side and really loving it.
The team’s doing well, I feel like I’m getting better as I continue to grow into it after my time injured and I just want to play as many games possible and play my part in helping keep the club up.
In terms of settling in here, I felt at home straight away. With the club coming from non-league, a lot of the lads have played non-league like myself, so they’re all really honest, down to earth lads that I’ve fitted in well with.
It must be nice to have other Welsh-linked lads like Neal Eardley, Dion Donohue and Scott Quigley on board. Do you all get on well?
Yeah, I travel with Scott so me and him get on really well, we were together for a couple of years at TNS as well so we know each other well and what we’re both about.
Then Dion and Eardz coming in has boosted the number of Welshies and they’re both really good lads, Eardz is a good one to chat to because he’s been there and done it, played in the Prem, played for his country so it’s always interesting hearing about the football and the lads at that level.
Please tell us about your early career. Where did you start playing football? How did you progress as a junior?
I started at about 7 or 8 playing for Llangollen, playing in the same team as Harry Wilson and that’s where the similarities in our careers end!!!
He went to Liverpool and I went to Wrexham, then I did 7 years there before getting released which i knew was coming, I was constantly struggling with growing pains and injuries and when I was fit I simply wasn’t good enough but I took it well because I knew deep down that it wasn’t my time, and I just had to keep my head down and my time would come.
I left there for TNS to do a two-year scholarship in college and with the youth team, where at first I couldn’t even get on the bench, playing the likes of Rhyl and Druids and I wasn’t involved at all, but again I just kept my head down and kept working and by the end of the 2 years I earned a pro contract there.
How did you find your time with The New Saints with appearances being limited?
TNS was good and bad for me, the full-time training with seasoned pros who won every week and had very high standards did me the world of good, it really sharpened me up and toughened me up mentally because I was miles off it in my first few months with the first team and quickly realised it was sink or swim – get better quickly or I’ll be gone, so that’s what I did.
But game time was massively limited with them.
There were so many experienced CB’s I was never going to get a sniff and my second year was tough because I didn’t get sent on loan but didn’t play either.
I must have played 5/10 games all season and that’s when I knew I absolutely needed to leave.
Altrincham next. Things seemed to go really well for you there….how was that experience?
Altrincham was a brilliant three years for me that I look back on really fondly.
In terms of the success we had as a team and the improvements I made as a player, it’s the club that made me really.
Going there I was such an incredibly naive defender and had barely played men’s football but I learnt an awful lot there.
The management team of Phil Parkinson and Neil Sorvel are people I regard very highly, they saw the potential I had and even when I made mistakes stuck by me.
We got two promotions and I got a move into the EFL so it worked out for everyone and I’ll always be incredibly grateful for what the club gave me.
What are your hopes for Barrow? I guess the aim first and foremost is to stay in the league?
The season hasn’t gone how anyone envisaged at the start.
We as players haven’t done well enough, then we’ve had 3 different managers, there’s been a fair turnover of players, different formations, different styles, so it’s been difficult for everyone involved but we are where we are and the sole goal now is staying up, that’s it.
There isn’t really anything else to think about like next season or anything, stay up now and we’ll think about next season when it comes.
As a Wrexham lad, you must be excited to see the team attract the new Hollywood owners and improve their results too. Can you see them getting promotion?
Yeah it’s brilliant for the club, there’s obviously a real buzz around the place that really seems to be feeding onto the pitch as the team’s in great form.
It’s been a real shame to watch Wrexham get almost suffocated by non-league over the last decade because there’s such massive potential at the club.
I’m surprised it’s taken this long for new owners to come in but I really do think the sky’s the limit for them now.
In terms of this season it would be a massive achievement for them to go up and I think a relief for everyone.
There’s always such expectation on the players and the club, that can be hard to live up to given the budget they have compared to others in the league.
There’s clubs spending serious amounts of money so it can be difficult to compete with them, but Wrexham are going along really well now and I really really hope this is their season.
What are your future ambitions as a footballer?
For me. I just want to get everything out of myself and when I stop playing in hopefully 10+ years time know I had nothing left to give.
Whatever that looks like, as long as I can look at myself and know I got every ounce out of myself I can be happy.
But I’ve worked incredibly hard and against the odds to be in this position so I want to make the most of it and hopefully will continue to progress.
How do you see your chances of playing for Wales in the future?
I don’t know! That’s not even a thought in my mind at this point. I’m just focusing on trying to build a career for myself and my family.
If one day I do go down that road I’ll be the happiest man in Wales, but like I say I desperately hope I’ve got 10+ years left in this game, so who knows where it might take you.