Sunday, 12 April 2015

Jim's column 11.4.15

It is sad to report the death of former City player Ken Jones, aged 89. Ken, a right-back, joined City from Llanelli AFC in 1949 & played 88 games for the club between 1951-56. He later played for Lockheed Leamington & Rugby Town. With the help of his daughter Jayne Prosser I have been able to get a better idea of Ken's life.

Born in the Welsh steel and tin town of Llanelli during the depression in 1926, young Ken was always destined to work in one of the numerous works around the industrial town. Aged 15, he left school & went to work in the Tin plating works but within a year suffered a serious industrial accident that strangely signposted a football career. He was working close to the acid baths used in the tin plating process & accidentally slipped into one of baths, finding himself up to his waist in corrosive acid. A colleague immediately pulled him out & immersed him in cold water. When they got the teenager to hospital they cut his skin off 'like nylon stockings'. His injuries caused him to spend over a year in hospital and as part of his recuperation he was encouraged to kick a football to strengthen his legs.

His hospital stay meant his call-up to the services in 1944 was delayed & when he finally joined the Army he was able to impress his regiment with his football talent, helping his squad to win a Lichfield League championship. His army service saw him sent to Norway & he was involved in the liberation of the country.

After leaving the services he returned to work in the tin factory & played regularly for Llanelli AFC in the Welsh League. He came to the attention of the senior Welsh league clubs & Swansea beat off the challenge of Cardiff & Newport to sign him on amateur terms but Llanelli, who had ambitions to become a Southern League side persuaded him to sign professional forms with them & he continued his development. By 1949, Ken's reputation was growing & eventually West Ham & Coventry were serious about their intentions. City's South Wales scout, former player Ernie Curtis, recommended him to City manager Harry Storer & Ken's preference was for City because the booming car industry of Coventry offered a back-up in case things didn't work out in his football career. On 29 October 1949 Storer missed City's league game at Blackburn to watch Jones at Llanelly & was so impressed he signed him after the game. His old contracts record that Ken was paid £7 per week & £6 in the summer with a £2 bonus if he played for the first team. In the close season he would take casual work for a Coventry builder Ted Smart to supplement his income.

Ken had to be content with reserve team football for almost two years but in September 1951 he got his chance in a Second Division game at Barnsley. The Bantams lost 0-1 but Nemo, writing in the Coventry Telegraph noted his debut: 'Jones...had no reason to feel he had let the side down. He improved with every minute of the game, and, if he can tidy up his work in the air, his value will increase considerably'.

His next chance came the following March when he deputised for flu victim Dick Mason in a 1-3 home defeat to Leicester. City were having a tough time & were relegated to Division Three that season but Ken was improving slowly in the 'stiffs'. After just one first team game the following season, Ken became a regular at right-back in 1953-54. His performances were outstanding & according to a press cutting he was 'the most improved player at the club that season', with 'his standard of play surprising even his friends'.
                                                        Ken receiving treatment from Dick Hill

City finished 14th in Division Three South but improved the following season to 9th despite lots of boardroom wranglings & changes in management. Ken was a virtual ever present in 1954-55 and was a member of the City team that held First Division Huddersfield Town to a draw in the FA Cup, only to lose the replay at Highfield Road.

Jesse Carver took over as manager in 1955 & after Ken lost his place after 10 games he sought a transfer. He was briefly recalled to the first team towards the end of the season but it was insufficient to win him a further contract & he was put up for sale. Birmingham League Lockheed Leamington stepped in and signed the 30 year-old Ken and immediately appointed him captain. He missed just one game in his two seasons with Lockheed playing a total of 92 games and in both campaigns the team reached the Birmingham Senior Cup final. In 1957 they beat Redditch 2-0 at St. Andrews and in 1958 they lost 0-1 to Moor Green at Nuneaton.

In 1958 he joined Rugby Town & made 32 appearances in their Southern League side and meanwhile Ken had gone to work at the Jaguar factory in Brown's Lane. Later he moved to the Standard Triumph at Tile Hill & he lived in that area until his death.

When the Former Players Association was formed in 2007, Ken enthusiastically joined & attended the first Legends Day, along with his old team-mate, fellow Welshman, Trevor Lewis. He loved meeting his old Bantam pals from the early 1950s. Sadly, there are few of them left now.

Ken's funeral takes place on Tuesday (14th April) at 11.15 at Canley Crematorium and his family would be pleased to see his friends afterwards at Lime Tree Park Club, Templar Avenue, Tile Hill Lane CV4 9BQ . Flowers can be sent to Grimmett & Timms, 118 Albany Road, Earlsdon, Coventry CV5 6NG.

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