Alexandra Soccer & Community Association
 
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Rob Jones

England

Dario Gradi's record breaking reign as manager of Crewe Alexandra Football Club is perhaps best recognisable for the amount of talented young players to have emerged through the clubs youth system to play at a higher level. Rob Jones is arguably where it all started, the first of the Gradi era to leave the Alex's youth set up for big money, and the first Alex youth player to represent England.

Born in Wrexham in 1971, Rob signed professionally with Crewe Alexandra in 1988 as a 17-year-old having graduated through the School of Excellence and YTS schemes at Gresty Road. He made his Alex debut on 09 April of that year in a 3-1 home victory over Darlington, starting what was to become an impressive career with the Railwaymen.

The following season Jones, having established himself in the right back position, helped Dario Gradi's side to third place in the old Fourth Division and promotion for the first time in many years. He stepped up to play in the Third Division with ease the following season, helping the Railwaymen finish comfortably in mid-table, and began to attract the scouts to Gresty Road.

With his performances for the Alex, and with England at various youth levels, having selected them ahead of Wales whom he had played schoolboy football for as a youngster, continuing to remain of a high standard, Jones was only at the club for the opening two months of the 1990/91 season when Graeme Souness splashed out £300,000 to take him to Liverpool.

Jones had played twice against the Merseyside giants just one year previously, when the Alex were mauled 9-2 on aggregate in the League Cup, but now he was part of Souness' Anfield revolution and for many was the outstanding signing of the Scotsman's era.

The move was a dream come true for the young Jones, whose grandfather Bill was a former Anfield hero having made 278 appearances for the Reds between 1946-54, and within days of arriving he was thrown into the side to make his high profile debut. After signing on 04 October 1991, his first game in the top flight arrived just two days later in a televised game against Manchester United, at Old Trafford marking Red Devils wonder-kid Ryan Giggs!

At the end of the 90 minutes, having marked Giggs out of the game in a 0-0 draw, it was clear that Souness had signed a gem of a player who had been originally uncovered by Gradi.

He adapted to top flight football with apparent ease and within four months of swapping Gresty Road for Anfield he was wearing the Three Lions of England after being called up to the squad by Graham Taylor to face France at Wembley. Jones made his England debut in February 1992, alongside Alan Shearer, whilst another ex-Alex legend Geoff Thomas played his last game for his country that day as Taylor's side ran out 2-0 winners.

Jones returned to Gresty Road in January 1992 and received a superb reception from the Alex faithful as his new club won 4-0 in an FA Cup Third Round tie, and he ended his first season at Anfield by lifting the trophy itself as part of the Reds starting line up which defeated Sunderland 2-0 in the final at Wembley.

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