Electric Isaiah Jones vying for the fairytale land of the Premier League

Electric Isaiah Jones vying for the fairytale land of the Premier League

Electric Isaiah Jones vying for the fairytale land of the Premier League

Isaiah Jones of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough - PA

Isaiah Jones of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough – PA

In a sport littered with fiction, the non-league fairytale in the Premier League trumps all the rest of football.

While they haven’t been well beaten, there are enough examples of the path taken successfully for dreamers to dream. Think Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand, Jamie Vardy and Michail Antonio.

Isaiah Jones of Middlesbrough is vying to be the next name added to that illustrious list. Three seasons after leaving Eighth Division Tooting and Mitcham United – the South London club where Antonio’s journey also began – Jones is lighting up the league.

Landing on the right wing in Chris Wilder’s 3-5-2, Jones has a license to attack. With Middlesbrough in possession of him, he hugs the right wing like a baby clinging to his mother, often stationed at the height of his own strikers.

Jones’s electric pace not only threatens on the outside, but also draws the opposition’s attention, allowing the Middlesbrough midfield additional space to operate. And no one in the division has drawn more fouls since the beginning of last season; few can legally stop those stilettos.

During his team’s defeat at Watford last week, Jones was, measured by the high standards he set for himself, relatively calm. But there were still moments.

When Rodrigo Muniz nodded early on Middlesbrough to Ryan Giles’ cross, Jones was there waiting to pounce. He later somehow spooned Riley McGree’s cross from a few meters away, his blushes being spared by an offside flag.

Hamza Choudhury was in pieces; Craig Cathcart left behind with ease; and a ball that McGree seemed to have passed was hit and centered. From the defensive corners Jones was the outlet for Middlesbrough: “He always had the pace you see now,” explains Ashley Bosah, Jones’ manager at Tooting. “He had great close control and was lightning fast. He was an unreal player to face … a defender’s nightmare. “

Jones is defensively confident, although 11 yellow cards last season suggest the 23-year-old may be feeling frustrated. This was demonstrated on Vicarage Road when he first nibbled and then shot down Hassane Kamara to earn a reservation.

Also, there is a swagger; Jones straddles the line between confidence and arrogance. Twenty-four hours before Richarlison’s recent showboating rage against Nottingham Forest, Jones had done the same. Swansea’s Ben Cabango reacted with a push and was rejected.

    Tom Ince of Reading and Isaiah Jones of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship match at Select Car Leasing Stadium, Reading - PA

Tom Ince of Reading and Isaiah Jones of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship match at Select Car Leasing Stadium, Reading – PA

Jones grew up in South London. A relatively late footballer at the age of 10, he spent hours trying to beat his goalkeeper mother in Peckham’s recreational cages and playing for the Lambeth Allstars.

As a teenager, Jones joined Tooting, continuing his education as part of the club’s connection with Ernest Bevin College. Several tests with Charlton Athletic, however, failed to bring a contract.

Unbeknownst to Jones, he would be offered terms, but one morning he decided that a few more hours in bed was preferable to training. “He was late and I was very worried,” Bosah tells Telegraph Sport. “I went to Peckham, picked it up and begged Jason Euell to take it back, but unfortunately Jason said punctuality was important to them. Jason’s reputation was at stake. “

At 18, Bosah gave Jones a league cup start as part of a Tooting youth lineup. “The first team immediately asked ‘who is this guy?” Bosah recalls. In the following season (2018/19) Jones was a regular winger, dusting off some brutal attention from opponents to finish with nine goals.

Middlesbrough was swooping in for both Jones and teammate Sam Folarin that summer. An unsuccessful loan spell at St Johnstone was shortened by the pandemic, before Jones spent the second half of 2020/21 at Queen of the South in the Scottish league.

Neil Warnock made him his league debut last August, with Jones watching Marc Bola equalize at Craven Cottage. That cameo, which came a week after breaking his nose during preseason, convinced Warnock that it was worth keeping around.

Chris Wilder’s arrival in November saw Jones converted to full-back, a position he had hesitated to occupy in Tooting. It paid off almost instantly, Jones won the division’s Player of the Month award for December 2021 for his part in four goalless strikes. He also landed his first league strike to score three points against Swansea. By the end of the season, Jones had nine assists to reach that goal.

Having been named Middlesbrough’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year last season, it’s clear that getting away from London’s scraps and distractions has been a blessing for Jones. His next move, with Middlesbrough or not, will surely be the Premier League.

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