Jones' value measured in silver and gold

THERE is a thread currently in existence on a Hibernian fans' website which ponders the question: what is the value of Rob Jones? After ten goals, innumerable defensive clearances and a string of performances which have helped Hibs to within touching distance of a historic cup double it is safe to say he is worth his considerable height in gold.

Jones was built to lift trophies. On a famous day in March he was finally given the opportunity to employ his remarkable reach, thrusting the League Cup into the air. Then, in a scene now regarded as a priceless memory by Hibs fans, came the thrum of Sunshine On Leith across the Hampden Park slopes.

Jones supplied the first of Hibs' five goals against Kilmarnock, and might later have scanned the stands for the fan whose comment supplied the player with extra motivation to prove himself.

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Jones was in rented accommodation and feeling just as temporary about himself after his first shaky outings in a Hibs shirt. Perhaps his mind drifted back to a troubled first season at Grimsby Town, or to the time when his early promise with Stockport faded after Carlton Palmer, the manger who signed him, left. He wished to erode the zero at the end of his 150,000 transfer fee, bring it back nearer the unremarkable sum required to take him from non-league Gateshead to Stockport - 5,000.

"The most worrying aspect about going to a new club is whether the fans take to you," the 27 year-old explains. "Thank-fully the fans here have taken to me quite well. I even have my own little song [a re-worked version of Gold, the Spandau Ballet classic]. I cracked up the first time I heard that. But fans can think you are the best player in the world one day and the worst the day after.

"It was difficult in my first season at Grimsby because the fans did not really take to me. I came up here and worried a bit to be honest. I remember one gentleman said that the jury was still out on me! I'd only played two or three games. But the club hadn't spent the amount of money they had paid for me for a long time, and I think there was some expectation.

"To be fair, at least the fan said that to my face," he continues. "I'd rather that than have him saying it behind my back. It gave me a kick up the backside. I vowed to prove him wrong."

Jones' capture is a piece of business which further commends Tony Mowbray. The former manager was back at Easter Road for last weekend's Edinburgh derby, when he was able to admire the centre-half's resolve. Jones endured the type of marking from Marius Zaliukas which surely had him considering simply ripping off his shirt and offering it to the Hearts player, so desperately did his opposite man appear to covet it.

With his presence required back out on the pitch for the delayed cup parade Jones failed to catch up with Mowbray, who brought him to Hibs in June. His reaction to this reveals a detachment that outsiders always find curious. On the crazily paved path of football, where Jones has ended up forming a defensive partnership at Hibs with an old school colleague from Yarm, relationships are often transitory. Mowbray is the reason Jones and his wife and ten-month old son are now in Edinburgh, but that agreeable twist of fame does not command a greater sentimental significance.

"I never spoke with him [Mowbray] at all," he said. "I only knew he'd been there about half an hour after the match had finished. I don't know if any of the players spoke with him actually. The last time I spoke to him was the morning he told us he was leaving. That happens in football. The last time I spoke to my manager at Grimsby Town was at half-time of the play-off final last season. People move on. They have other things to cope with.

"The gaffer is trying to get his new team, West Bromwich Albion, into the Premiership. My old gaffer at Grimsby has moved on to Yeovil. I moved on also. It's a cut-throat business. You have to get results and win things. It's not just managers - players also have other agendas. It's not about keeping in touch with people you have been with in the past. It's the future we are looking at."

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The immediate future takes Jones to East End Park this afternoon for a Scottish Cup semi-final dress rehearsal against Dunfermline. The past might be gone, but it is not easily dismissed. Not when the memory concerns tens of thousands flocking on streets to welcome Jones and his team-mates back from another visit to Hampden, League Cup in tow. There stood Jones on the top-deck of the bus, as tall and erect as the obelisk on Calton Hill. He has made his mark on Edinburgh despite the initial coolness of some.

Admittedly, the recruitment of a Jones from Grimsby sounded far from inspiring. But further investigation revealed the attractive properties of a player desperate to better himself. Not only did he have the physical attributes required for the SPL, but he was a useful source of goals.

Such a careful examination of his credentials befitted a player whose professional football ambitions have interrupted a degree course in criminology at the University of Hull. He might return to complete the remaining two years of his studies but is presently more concerned with analysing the minds of opposing strikers.

Having turned full-time at the relatively mature age of 23 he is not prepared to walk away from the game anytime soon. He did once quit York City in protest at plans to reinvent him as a left-back having joined the club as a centre-forward. Jones eventually did make the move to defence, but at 6ft 7in tall does not look quite as absurd as a centre-half as he might have done at left-back. There remain clues which hint at this former life, with Jones claiming his tenth goal of the season on Wednesday against St Mirren. He firmly points-out that he is on double-figures for the season, stressing how a strike given as an own-goal in the Scottish Cup against Gretna was his in reality. It's his best tally since he bagged 12 when with Gateshead and there are still seven - he hopes eight - matches remaining this season.

"If I don't enjoy something I won't do it," he says, reflecting on the left-back experiment. "I asked to be released by York when I was 15. I didn't even tell my mum and dad. It was one of the biggest decisions I have made in my life.

"I went and played local football. The team lacked centre-halves and so I decided to give it a go in a couple of games. Thankfully I moved there for good.

"If I hadn't I would not be sitting here today."

Jones has folded his frame into a seat during what represents a rare moment of calm in a week that has seen him tugged to and fro in a derby, score a goal against St Mirren and then help give one away at the other end.

He has carried on where he left off last month when, as skipper of a side winning a first trophy in 16 years, he was very much centre of attention. He might yet emulate the achievement of Bobby Rutherford, the last Hibs skipper to win the Scottish Cup back in 1902. Jones can certainly bear the weight of history on shoulders that have already flung off plenty of premature doubts.