KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
Brad Jones is the kid from Perth who’s gone from childhood fan to goalkeeper for one of the biggest clubs in world football. Now after several years marred by tragedy, he’s about to return down under for a history making clash between Liverpool and Melbourne Victory.
Brad you’re about to live a boyhood dream. You get to play for Liverpool in front of an Australian crowd.
Yeah and I can’t wait. Any excuse to come back to Australia is a good one. The fact we get to play at the MCG is a bonus. Although the trip is a relatively short one I’m sure the boys will enjoy it and the fans will love seeing the players in action.
There’s a strong Aussie connection with the club too. You’re continuing on what I guess Craig Johnstone started.
Certainly the story of how Craig came here is pretty legendary. Everyone knows his story. And he was at Middlesbrough as well so we’ve got a bit in common. I know that he’s been about a few times. I haven’t had the chance to catch up with him though. I can tell you the fans still appreciate him. He’s definitely someone that has a strong connection with the club.
It’s fair to say the team hasn’t quite lived up to expectations again this season. What’s the problem at Liverpool?
A lot of it could be put down to the changes with the owners and managers. We’ve gone through three or four people’s different opinions on how things should be done over the past three or four years. So you’ve got players coming and going. You’ve got different strategies. The previous owners were looking at things differently to the new owners. There’s a lot of change within he club and a lot of that probably relates to what happens on the pitch. I think with the new owners and the new manager things are a lot more stable and the club’s going in the right direction. I think the next few years are going to be something to really look forward to. I think it’s going to be a good few years for the club.
What’s it like playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world?
It’s the pinnacle of what you dream of doing as a kid. Liverpool was the club I supported as well so it’s even more special for me to have the chance to play here. Every day is enjoyable. Obviously there’s pressure that comes with it but that’s pressure that’s worth dealing with on a daily basis because you know that you’ve reached a goal.
Yeah and her family used to send over the kits to us as well. So since I was about 5 or 6, Liverpool things would be getting delivered so that definitely got me on the red side and I’ve followed them ever since.
It’s not often players end up at the club they supported but you’re there. How did that come about?
A lot of it was down to Roy Hodgson. He was looking at me when I was at Fulham. I’m not sure how the first move came about but things happened with the owners at Liverpool and they decided to go for a new manager. So the interest followed. I kind of thought it would be all over when he left Fulham but the fact that he kept me in mind and then wanted to take me to Liverpool turned out even bigger for me.
Unfortunately what would normally be such a happy occasion was marred by incredible sadness for your family though wasn’t it.
At the time that it all happened we’d just found out that my son Luca had got leukaemia. I was in France with him and I’d just left the Australian world cup squad in South Africa. It was a crazy period but I got a call from Darren Burgess who was the Australian fitness coach that Liverpool had just signed. He said he’d been in a meeting and they’d been speaking about me and wanted to know if I would be interested. Which obviously I was. It was a crazy time trying to decide what to do, what was best and whether I could cope with it. But I think it was something that I needed and something that was too good to turn down.
So with your career going through change your little boy was battling leukaemia. That’s incredibly tough to deal with. How did you find balance through it all?
There were a lot of things going on so it was tough. There was no exact science to it I guess. It was just a matter of surrounding myself with good people. There was a lot of support from friends and family. And the fact that I was able to spend time with Luca as well helped. We got through as best we could.
You were at the world cup with the Socceroos in South Africa when you received the call to say Luca was sick. That must be the worst phone call a parent can receive?
Yeah it was hard to take. You don’t think that anything like that is ever going to happen. Especially to someone is so young and healthy as Luca was. He was always so full of energy and then all of a sudden he was really sick. You really don’t think anything can happen but you know cancer doesn’t pick and choose its people and everyone can be affected. And unfortunately, Luca was. It was devastating to go through and something that you can’t really explain to people who have never had to go through it. It’s horrible and certainly something I hope we never have to go through again.
You made the decision to leave the Socceroos camp immediately. Was that a tough decision to make?
To be honest at that time it really wasn’t. People say everything pales into insignificance when family is involved and I can tell you it literally does. I got the phone call and that was it basically. Football is something I have put a lot of time into and had taken a lot of effort but at the end of the day it means nothing compared to the health of your family. So there was no decision to make really. It was just a case of getting to Luca and being with him. Staying didn’t even cross my mind.
How did you cope with your emotions through that? Women are usually better at it than men.
My partner Dani has been the biggest support. Obviously my family as well. It is difficult. In general people don’t like asking for help. And I’d have to say I was like that as well. You just want to get on with it and deal with it in your own way but I’d have to say without the help you’re going to struggle. I was fortunate I had people there who were willing to help. And in any way really. Whatever it took. Sometimes just to sit down and chat is the best thing.
Yeah in the UK there is a charity called Anthony Nolan and it’s basically a list for donors for bone marrow transplants. When Luca was ill he had to have a bone marrow transplant and it was only then that we found out how hard it is to find donors. So we were researching it and trying to find out as much as we could at the time. It really is a difficult time for the families not knowing if they’ll be able to find that match. So we became close to the charity and wanted to help them. We’re trying to get more people on the register so more people have a chance of surviving.
What’s the response been like?
Over the last couple of years we’ve been to a heap of events and just been trying to spread the word. We’ve been trying to educate people on how it’s done and what you go through. People think it’s a really invasive, painful process but really it’s not. It’s pretty much along the lines of giving blood. And to think if something that simple can possibly save someone’s life then we really wanted to spread that word and make sure that a lot of people know how easy it is and they can go on the register.
Have you been surprised by how little knowledge there is out there?
No it didn’t surprise me at all because until I was exposed to it I had no idea myself. Unless you’re around it you’re not going to know. So that’s why we were so passionate about doing it. Anyone walking down the street who hasn’t been through this wouldn’t know, same as we didn’t. It has opened our eyes and hopefully by us telling people about it, it will open theirs and maybe it will make them think about becoming a donor. The knowledge certainly isn’t too widespread so we need to do what we can.
And now little Nico is with you. He must just be a little ray of sunshine in your life?
Yeah he’s just turned one and he’s getting to that age where he’s starting to move about and grab things you don’t want them to. Personality wise he’s brilliant. He’s always laughing and making us laugh. Obviously all parents think that their children are unbelievable. We might be a bit biased but we can certainly say that and he’s definitely helped us get through all this and keep us smiling.
You even tweeted when he was born that he was a future goalie! Do you see a little footballer in him?
He’s been on the ground at Anfield and we’ve got a few snaps of him in goals. Hopefully when we show that to him it will steer him in the right direction. Haha. But at the moment all he cares about is Mickey Mouse. We might move onto football after that.
Mark Schwarzer has been a big influence on your career hasn’t he?
Yeah well I was young when I first met him and I looked up to him when I was at Middlesbrough. The fact that he was there and Australian it was good to have someone like that. He took me under his wing and helped me out a lot through that time. It was brilliant to have somebody like that. At a lot of the clubs the young players are separated and they’re not really integrated with the senior players as much but fortunately at that time at Middlesbrough everyone was kind of together and I got the chance to work with Mark. And I probably needed someone to talk to. Especially someone who had gone through the things that I had gone through. You know, leaving home and moving abroad. He was someone I could talk to about football as well as life outside. He was a big help.
His time with the Socceroos is almost up. Obviously you’d like that spot when it comes up for grabs?
I hope so. But at the moment I haven’t been getting picked for all the games. The Manager obviously has his reasons for that but I don’t really now what they are. I haven’t been involved in the last three games for the Socceroos which for me is very disappointing but there’s not a lot I can do. If he doesn’t pick me I’ve just got to try and carry on with what I’m trying to do at Liverpool.
Is the communication process thorough? Have you spoken to Holger Osieck?
No. I haven’t spoken to Holger. I’ve spoken to Tony Franken, the goalkeeping coach and people from the FFA but not with Holger himself. I don’t know if he’s in touch with the outfield players. I’m not sure how it works. Tony has told me he was really happy with how I’m going but it’s not his decision on who gets picked. It’s just down to Holger really.
You’d expect they’ll take three keepers to the world cup?
Yeah they always take at least three to the big tournaments.
Well I’ve got to be involved in that group of possible candidates to go. But at the moment if I can’t get in the squad for qualifiers and friendlies there’s obviously a reason behind that and that will no doubt come into thinking when and if we get through to Brazil.
What if we don’t qualify? What would that mean to football in Australia?
People would be disappointed no doubt. The goal is to make world cups. Germany was obviously a massive achievement. The thing with South Africa is people kind of looked at that with a little bit of disappointment but the crazy thing is we had the same points total and it came down to goal difference and we didn’t get through. The way the fallout from all that was negative seemed a bit strange to me. So to be in a situation this time where we might not make it means there’s big pressure on the players and the staff to try and get there. We’ve had a lot of success and the game has grown massively in Australia so we need to make sure we stay on that path.
You’ve just re-signed at Liverpool. Having your services retained in what is a pretty brutal industry must give you a massive sense of achievement?
Yeah it was good in a different sense. Obviously when there’s a new manager you’re never sure how they’re going to take to you or what they’re going to see in you. So the fact that I was able to prove myself to him and he wanted to keep me around was a big boost. The amount of games that I’ve played this season was maybe a lot more than I might have expected earlier on so I’ve obviously done enough and shown him in the work that I do in training what I can do. I’m really happy working under Brendan (Rodgers) and it’s been enjoyable.
What’s it like having the best seat in the house when Anfield is at full voice?
It’s brilliant. Especially the night time games. That’s when the atmosphere really gets going. It’s what you kind of imagined it to be like. Everyone standing up waving their scarves and singing songs. Second to none really when there’s a big game. It’s hard to describe but it’s certainly one of the best atmospheres in the English game.
And I guess as the goalkeeper you have to make sure it doesn’t become a distraction?
That’s something you learn as you’re coming up through the grades. Not to get caught up in the moment. For us it’s just about doing our job and the atmosphere is just a bonus. But certainly at Anfield the fans are probably among the most knowledgeable. They’re very understanding of the game so when you’re playing good football, the fans are behind you and they let you know that you’re playing some good stuff.