FA romance puts Jones in spotlight

FA romance puts Jones in spotlight

LONDON - Agence France-Presse
FA romance puts Jones in spotlight

Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones (R) saves a penalty kick by Blackburn Rovers forward Yakubu Aiyegbeni during the two teams’ English Premier League game. AFP photo

Fresh evidence that the fabled romance of the FA Cup is thriving will be on display at Wembley on April 14 as goalkeeper Brad Jones prepares to turn out for Liverpool in the Merseyside semifinal against Everton.

The 30-year-old Australian -- Liverpool’s third-choice goalkeeper -- has been propelled into the spotlight after the suspensions picked up by first-choice stopper Pepe Reina and his understudy Alexander Doni in recent weeks. If he plays against Everton, it will be only Jones’ fourth appearance for the Reds after his transfer from Middlesbrough in 2010.

It also comes after a tumultuous period in Jones’ personal life following the tragic death of his five-year-old son Luca from leukaemia in November and the birth of his second son Nico last week.

Instant impact
Jones entered the reckoning for an FA Cup semifinal appearance after Doni’s sending off against Blackburn on April 10. Jones made an instant impact in that match by saving a penalty with his first touch.

“It’s been a difficult 18 months for me with losing my son,” Jones reflected this week. “Luca is with me every day. I carry him everywhere. His face is on my washbag and his toys are in my travel bag - I take him everywhere.

“In that sense I’ve definitely got someone looking over me. It’s been difficult not being involved and with everything that has gone on but I’ve trained as hard as I can and hopefully that will stand me in good stead.

“The last few days have been hectic after my girlfriend gave birth to Nico. I’ve been getting into the routine of having a baby in the house - it’s been a good week for me.

“Obviously now I’ll be preparing for a big game so she might have a bit more work on her hands.

“It’s going to be a big occasion against Everton. I have to make sure I do the right things and it’s going to be an extra special day.” Liverpool’s goalkeeping crisis -- and their alarming recent dip in Premier League form -- means Kenny Dalglish’s side are taking nothing for granted against Everton, who they have beaten twice this season.

Saturday’s clash at Wembley also carries an added poignancy as it coincides with Sunday’s 23rd anniversary of the 1989 Hillsbrough disaster, the same year that Liverpool and Everton met in the final at Wembley.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has urged his teammates to remain tightly focused on the game rather than the occasion.

“It’s a proud day for me to lead the lads out at Wembley again and it’s a proud day for the city,” Gerrard said. “It’s a massive game and it’s been a long time since Liverpool played Everton at Wembley so it’s a fantastic occasion for the supporters. We realize that it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves. Although the game is at Wembley, it’s still only a semifinal.”

The winners of Saturday’s showdown faces a final date with either Tottenham or Chelsea, who play on Sunday in an evening kick-off.