Wigan Athletic’s Jamie Jones is drawing upon heartbreak from almost 10 years ago to fuel his fire as the Latics gear up for next week’s Papa John’s Trophy Semi-Final.
Stopper Jones has reached the Semi-Final of this competition before. It was in 2012/13 that the goalkeeper bowed out at this stage, just one game away from the showpiece Final, with Leyton Orient.
The O’s were locked in stalemate heading into the dying moments in the final instalment of the two-legged tie with Southend United, but Ben Reeves’ 90th-minute strike proved to be the winner.
“We got beat in injury time which was like a season-ender,” he reflected. “We were chasing the Play-Offs and we got beat so it really deflated us as a team. We didn’t do much in the League and didn’t make the Play-Offs. I’m the only one here that’s experienced that downfall.
“This Club, since I’ve been, haven’t reached a stage like this in a competition before. I know a lot of our lads have won this trophy and a couple won it last year; Max (Power) won it last year with Sunderland and Jack (Whatmough) won it the year before at Portsmouth.”
The Latics edged out Arsenal Under-21s to book their place in the Semi-Final, having finished second in Northern Group C and going on to complete a North West derby double, seeing off Accrington Stanley and Oldham Athletic in the subsequent knock-out rounds.
And Club captain Jones has played his part in getting Leam Richardson’s side this far, with three clean sheets in his last four in this competition.
“It’s a trophy that we want to win,” he added. “We’ve got this far now and done all our hard work and preparations in the games before – we’ve won a few on penalties – but we’ve deserved it. We’re looking forward to putting in a good performance to try and lift the trophy. A packed-out crowd would be phenomenal. We just want to get there first of all.”
Wigan Academy graduate Divin Baningime scored the match-winner as they beat the young Gunners, and, as one of the more senior members of the Latics squad, Jones praised the role of the competition in the career progression of players such as the 21-year-old.
“It builds relationships within the Club,” he said. “It’s a trophy that gives opportunities. Some of our youth players have played four or five games in this competition, and for them to seek reward and to get to the Semi-Final is huge for them. It’s a huge confidence builder for them. It’s also a huge thing for the gaffer to say, ‘yeah, I can trust them’.
“It’s really helped, and we’ve got to a stage now where we’re one away from Wembley, which is a credit to the the Academy for developing these players into players that are capable of going out and winning matches.”
Sutton United await in the Semi-Final, with the South Londoners eyeing a place in the Final in their inaugural EFL campaign.
“Sutton are doing really well in League Two,” Jones explained. “We can’t turn up thinking we’re at home and we’re the in-form team in the League and things like that. We’ll have to be at our best, it’s as simple as that.”
Jones will be on hand to meet Latics supporters when the Papa John’s Trophy concludes its Semi-Final tour, on the back of visits to Hartlepool United, Rotherham United and Sutton United.
The goalkeeper, along with team-mate Baningime, will be available to meet-and-greet fans at the Papa Leam’s shop for photo opportunities with the silverware.
“It will be great to have a few of them down there at the Papa John’s shop,” he remarked. “Hopefully, come April, we’ll have our hands on it lifting it ourselves at Wembley.”