A TEENAGER thrust into the hardened world of professional football will never forget the moment he realised he would be pulling on the blue and white shirt of Chester City for the first time.
Ben Jones, 16, of Connah’s Quay, made an impressive 11-minute cameo as the Blues drew 1-1 at Lincoln City in League Two on Saturday.
The powerful striker, the latest talent to roll off the Flintshire Schoolboys production line that unearthed Chester legend Ian Rush and Michael Owen, made his City debut seven days earlier in the 3-1 home loss to Chesterfield.
Injuries left boss Mark Wright down to the bare bones. But Jones admits it still came as a shock when the former England defender named him in his matchday squad.
Jones said: “Mark Wright said I was going to be in the squad against Chesterfield, but I didn’t think I was going to be on the bench. I thought I was going to be the 17th man.
“When I saw my shirt up on the wall with my name and number on, it was a really special feeling and a great buzz.
“I’d never been involved with the first team before so I really enjoyed my time on the pitch, even if it was only for three minutes. I got a bit longer against Lincoln and I could have won a penalty.
“Mark Wright’s just told me to go out there and enjoy it and I will because every appearance is a bonus at my age.”
Jones, who left Connah’s Quay High School in May, signed a two-year scholarship deal with City in the summer after he was released by Preston North End.
Rivals Wrexham passed up the chance to sign the Wales Under 17s international, a decision they quickly lived to regret according to Mark Newman.
Newman, Chester’s youth development manager, said: “We had Ben when he was an U14s player and, for whatever reason, at that time we lost him to Preston North End. But he came back to the area and, towards the end of last season, he was on trial at Wrexham. They didn’t take him because they had an abundance of strikers, so Steve Cooper, who was Wrexham’s head of youth at the time, called me and asked if we wanted to take him on.
“So Ben came in on trial and the first match he played for us just happened to be against Wrexham. He absolutely destroyed them and I remember Coops turning round to me and saying he’s made a big mistake. And I think he has because Ben’s got the raw potential to be a player.
“He’s still only halfway through his youth training but the gaffer, Mark Wright, loves him and has got a lot of time for him. He’s a real, real prospect for the future.”
Like Jones, another former Flintshire Schoolboys starlet, Connell Rawlinson, was an unused substitute as the Blues went down 3-0 at Port Vale on Tuesday night.
Newman said: “Connell is a 6ft 2in, 6ft 3in big and strong centre-back who really knows how to play and hopefully he’ll make his debut before too long.”