Sky Blues winger Jodi Jones talked about his influences growing up and the prospect of his Sky Blue future...
When the Sky Blues completed the emergency loan deal to sign Dagenham and Redbridge winger Jodi Jones, the vast majority of the City faithful responded to it in puzzlement.
An 18-year old and sitting on the bench for a team in the Football League relegation zone, it was quite understandable. However, since his performance for the Under-21s against Bristol City, Jodi has been a bright light during the second-half of the season.
Just like the signing, his route into the game hasn’t been conventional. Jodi started playing at his local Sunday league side Senrab, one of the most successful Sunday League teams in the country.
“It’s quite famous as Ashley Cole, John Terry and Jermain Defoe all started there and got to the highest level and I wanted to do the same thing,” Jodi explains.
“When you first turn up at Senrab, that is what they tell you. I really enjoyed it and Jermain Defoe came back to the training ground when I was young to talk to the players which was good.
“It’s in Tower Hamlets. Unusually, you had to trial to get into the Senrab team. With Sunday league teams, usually they just need players so they let you in but with Senrab, the selection process was really tough.”
Tower Hamlets is a notoriously difficult area to grow up in, with one of the highest crime rates of any London borough. In an area where the role model might be lacking, Jodi was quick to point out he was lucky to have one which others didn’t.
“I got loads of friends who are brilliant at football, on the same level of me but for one reason or another, it doesn’t work out,” he comments.
“It is really hard to grow up in that area as there are a lot of distractions for people so most do get distracted by what goes on around there. I could have been distracted but my Mum and Dad, and my Godfather especially made sure I had a good upbringing and kept me focused on my football.”
Now, you won’t be blamed for thinking Jodi came under the radar and that other clubs may have missed him despite their extensive scouting network.
It’s not the case. In fact, Jodi was highly sought after by the very best London had to offer. Arsenal, the team Jodi supports, and West Ham both attempted to sign Jodi when he was young. But for him, it just wasn’t right at the time.
“When I was younger, loads of teams came in for me and wanted me to join. I went to Arsenal for a bit and I didn’t really enjoy it and then I went to West Ham, and again I didn’t really enjoy it,” Jodi points out.
“I found it very serious at Arsenal and West Ham, and I was 10-years old at the time so it was way too competitive for me and I just wanted to have fun.
“That gave me the idea that all the Academies are the same so I didn’t go into another team and just played for my school team and Sunday league team.
“A few years later, some of my mates who were really good were at Dagenham and they got me to come along to training there as they needed some players. That’s how it started.”
His route into the game is very similar to the likes of Jamie Vardy but more so, West Ham winger Michail Antonio who rejected several clubs when he was younger to start his path in non-league at Tooting and Mitcham.
Jodi admits he follows those careers which have come from the bottom and he hopes to emulate their achievements.
“I always look at those type of players who have worked their way up. Michail Antonio has moved all the way up from non-league and of course, Jamie Vardy,” Jodi mentions.
“I’ve always read about how they started off their careers and worked their way all the way up as it proves to me it can happen. That’s exactly I want to do.
“I suppose that when you work all the way up to the top level having started at the bottom, you value it a lot more and hopefully, one day, I can experience that.”
Now at Coventry City, Jodi has started his time at the Sky Blues in great fashion. Originally thought of as playing in the Under-21s, Jodi quickly proved himself in training and in matches to put himself down as one of the first names on the teamsheet.
With a permanent deal agreed in principle for the summer, Jones is already planning for a future with the Sky Blues and the challenge doesn’t faze him at all.
“I knew it was a big club. The supporter base is huge and I’ve really enjoyed it. I want to keep playing games like I’ve been able to already. It’s a new challenge but it’s been great coming in here and experiencing it. The lads are great and it’s a really good club to play for.
“I look around at the quality of the squad and the players coming in, it definitely gives hope for next season. Next season, I think we’ll be right up there for promotion.
“The plan wasn’t for me to impact it straight away. It’s funny really because me and my Godfather always talk about it. I went to Dagenham, went straight into the first-team and it’s happened again here. Every challenge I’ve faced, I’ve been able to rise to it so far and I hope to continue that….”