PICTURE by Paul Evans/Oval Ways.
THERE are a number of players over years gone by to have donned both the royal blue of Bangor City and the yellow and green of Caernarfon Town. One of the most recent ones to do just that is Sam Jones.
The 20-year-old forward began his footballing career with Menai Tigers – working his way up from the under 7’s squad to the under 16’s before going on to play for Bangor City’s under 16’s and under 19’s sides.
Some impressive performances there saw him break into City’s first team, where he was seen as a top prospect for the club. However, when Caernarfon came calling last summer, he says the opportunity to switch allegiances was one he couldn’t refuse.
Jones said: “I left Bangor to join Caernarfon because it was an opportunity to play at the highest level in Wales again in the Cymru Premier, which I could not turn down.
Speaking about the coaches who have helped develop his skills and help him progress to playing at the highest level in Wales, he added: “I learnt a lot from every single manager I’ve worked for, but there are two standouts for me.
“The first being Sean Brett who was my manager throughout my time at Menai Bridge Tigers. He always gave his all when coaching and taught me from a very young age starting with basics of football and gradually as we got older it got more technical and a lot more competitive, which I enjoyed a lot.
“The other manager would have to be Dave Cavanagh. I was with Dave for two years in the u19’s at Bangor and in the first season we won the u19’s Welsh Premier League title. He was a very vocal manager and brought out the best in me and I’m sure most of the other players he’s coached as well. He knew exactly what players needed to improve and he would help everybody achieve that.”
Despite still only being 20 years old, Jones has already enjoyed a glistening career. As mentioned before, he’s won the U19’s WPL title and worked his way up to playing in the Cymru Premier. However, the stand out moments, he says, came in the unforgettable Island Games football tournament of 2019.
Jones joined the likes of Llangefni Town striker Melvin McGinness, Porthmadog midfielder Jay Gibbs and Conwy Borough winger Liam Morris in the Ynys Mon squad that glorious summer as the formidable team, led by Campbell Harrison, went onto win gold on home soil.
Jones himself was impressive throughout, hitting three goals – including two in a nervy 2-1 win over the Shetland Isles in the semi-final stage. And, despite missing a penalty in the final (which was later won 2-1 by Mon), he says representing the island was “the best week of his life”.
He added: “It’s definitely the career highlight for me to date, 100%, the squad of players was a pleasure to play along side. It was really special what we did for the island, we created history, and all the thousands of fans who attended for the whole week just made it that extra bit special.
“t was just unbelievable, I really cannot explain the feeling I got playing for that team and to go on and win it. Words really cannot describe how I felt when the final whistle went in the final. I made friends for life playing for that squad, the morale was so high from the get go and the togetherness was unbelievable.
“Hopefully, we can have the chance again to play in front of a home crowd in 2025, because I’ll say again, the support from the island made it that extra bit special, it was like having a 12th man, they pushed us every single game and we did it for them.”
Jones’ determination and drive in the Island Games tournament caught the eye of Caernarfon Town and The Canaries swooped in quickly to secure his services soon after – in fact, Jones was one of many players to switch clubs after their stunning performances that summer.
This season, he’s had the opportunity to play in Wales’ top flight and has even scored once too. But what does he make of his journey at The Oval to date?
Jones said: “I am very grateful to Sean (Eardley) and Fish for giving me the opportunity to play at the highest level in Wales because it gives me the opportunity to improve massively playing with the best players around. I am able to learn a lot from the coaching staff and also the players, so I am obviously very thankful to them for bringing me into this great club. I try and give me all to them and also the fans every time I put on the shirt.”
Speaking on his hopes for the rest of the season, when it returns, he added: “Obviously the goal with Caernarfon is to get to Europe. The goal before I joined I’m sure was to finish in the top Six, but they proved that they could compete with the big teams in their first season. The goal for this season was Top Six and then compete and get into Europe. We have achieved the first goal, so now we are looking towards the play-offs.
“With the squad we’ve got I really do believe we have what it takes to get qualify but it’s gonna take a lot of hard work and determination. From a personal perspective, I’d like to become a regular starter and improve every season with the club playing with some of the best around and trying to score as much goals as I can for this club.
“I love absolutely everything about football and this lockdown has just proven that life without it really is boring!”
Asked about some of the “best around”, Jones mentioned above, he said former Bangor player-manager Gary Taylor-Fletcher is the best he’s played alongside.
He added: “I’ve played along side many great players and everybody in the Caernarfon squad are great players but the standout one for me has to be Taylor-Fletcher, as he’s an ex-Premier League player (with Blackpool).
“He was so composed on the ball, won headers against players twice the size of him and got into the right positions all the time. I thoroughly enjoyed playing along side him for that short period at Bangor.”
I always like to close these interviews with a question that’s a bit more “fun”. The one I put to Jones was; ‘If you could be one pro footballer, who would it be and why?’, to which he replied: “This one is easy for me, Fernando Torres at Liverpool – I absolutely loved watching him play from an early age.
“I based my game similar to how he was at Liverpool, which was his pace and finishing, he was electric and could use both feet just as good as each other.”
Cheers for the chat Sam and all the best to you and Caernarfon when the season eventually returns!