Read a story about a ‘Jones’ being an idiot when it comes to football and you’d be forgiven for thinking that we were talking about Vinnie Jones. In reality, though, this is about Paul Jones, the Welsh goalkeeper who suggested that he was going to play brilliantly when he strode onto the pitch with what can only be described as a ridiculous haircut. Not only did he have ’50’ shaved into the side of his head to represent his 50th international appearance, he also had the Welsh dragon shaved into the back of it.
Players who have such ostentatious haircuts usually head out to show the world that they’re brilliant at what they do, but it’s fair to say that Jones struggled on that front. The match was being played at the Millennium Stadium and saw Wales taking on Slovakia in a qualifying match for the 2008 European Championship. Winning was essential for Wales to have an real chance of qualification, but a howler from Jones in goal meant that that ended up being impossible for the Dragons, who ended up losing the match 5-1, with Jones shouldering most of the blame.
A Horror Show
Sometimes phrases like ‘a horror show’ can be an exaggeration and actually just mean that a scoreline was bad for one of the teams. As far as Jones was concerned, however, there is little question that his performance in goal for Wales as they hosted Slovakia back in 2008 can be described as little else. That is shown in the fact that the Welsh side suffered their worst home defeat since 1908, when they lost 7-1 to England in a game during the sport’s more formative years. Certainly not the result that the manager wanted.
John Toshack was at pains before the match to point out that Wales needed to win not only their game against Slovakia but also the one against Cyprus on the following Wednesday if they were to have any hope of qualifying for the Euros that were being held two years later. The Slovakians went 1-0 up early on, only for that to be doubled when Jones made his first error. He attempted a clearance that ended up being sliced straight to Marek Mintal, who improved his position before curling the shot over the back-pedalling Jones.
Gareth Bale, who was just 17 at the time, curled a free-kick past the Slovakian goalkeeper in order to give Wales at least some hope, but Mintal added a third just a couple of minutes later. Jones should’ve done much better, given the shot was from so far away, but his slow dive couldn’t get near it and Wales’ hope all but evaporated. Though the fifth goal was a decent one that few goalkeepers could do much about, Jones will be disappointed at the manner in which he was caught out for the fourth when a quick corner say him beaten at his far post.
It summed up Jones’ day that he received ironic cheers from the supporters every time he touched the ball and wasn’t having to pick it out of his own net. His manager pointed out afterwards that ‘he knows he could have done better’. He wasn’t alone, of course, which is why the scoreline ended up being as high as it was. Toshack, though, was far more generous towards his goalkeeper than someone like Roy Keane would’ve been. The Northern Irishman is famed for having no time for people who turn up with such ridiculous haircuts and without the ability to back it up.