Feyenoord defeated NEC 2-1 at the weekend to extend their perfect start to the Eredivisie season and put themselves five points clear after nine games.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men’s lightning start has been led by seven-goal Nicolai Jorgensen and club legend Dirk Kuyt and built on a solid defence that has conceded just three so far.
The man in goal behind that defence is Kuyt’s former Liverpool teammate Brad Jones, who is enjoying something of a renaissance in the Netherlands.
The 34-year-old’s career looked more or less over after leaving Anfield and primarily sitting on Bradford City’s bench for six months. His contract was terminated by mutual consent in January.
It is unlikely Jones had many suitors as in his five years on Merseyside he played just 27 matches, eleven in the league.
His last spell in the team came when Simon Mignolet’s desperate form had Liverpool fans wondering why the Australian had not been given a chance, only for him to quickly show them by getting out of the way of two strikes at Old Trafford.
During his spell at Liverpool he suffered a personal tragedy when his six-year-old son Luca died from leukaemia in November 2011. He and his wife won many friends in the city for their work with charities to help families in a similar position.
He told the Daily Mail in 2013:
“I don’t think anybody can fathom what goes on in your life, so to talk to someone who knows makes a difference rather than people saying sorry.
‘We know first-hand what the situation is and if we can help in any way then that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
He learned of the his son’s illness on the eve of the 2010 World Cup meaning he had to turn down the opportunity to feature for Australia in South Africa.
Regardless of the affection he may have felt for the city, professionally the move to Liverpool did not advance his career and his relative inactivity meant that when he left Bradford he was quite inexperienced for a player of his age.
In fact he played just 113 league games and spent no more than a season as a first-choice player in 16 years as a professional before his move to the Eredivisie. Two of those matches came for Irish club Shelbourne in 2001, when he infamously conceded four goals on his debut at Bohemians’ Dalymount Park.
But NEC Nijmegen acquired his services after he left Yorkshire and he played out the rest of the season as their number one before Feyenoord came calling in the summer after Dutch international Kenneth Vermeer ruptured his Achilles tendon.
Jones himself even seemed surprised to have found his way back to such a prestigious club.
“It’s all gone very fast these past days,” Jones said of his move, according to The Daily Mail.
“That’s made it a bit of a crazy week for me, but I’m happy to be here and look forward to getting to work. When Feyenoord called I didn’t have to think to long about my decision.”
Jones has not looked back since, with the highlight being a Man of the Match display away to PSV Eindhoven, where he made a fine last-minute save to secure a 1-0 victory.
The team’s fortunes have mirrored Jones’, with Feyenoord an entirely different proposition to the side that lost a record six on the bounce earlier this year. They showed that when Jones kept Manchester United at bay in their Europa League clash in Rotterdam.
The Australian could hardly have enjoyed a better start to life at the De Kuip Stadium, and given the side’s record so far he could yet silence some doubters and add an unlikely glory-filled final chapter to his career.
Simon Bracken, Pundit Arena