Former Wales international Jones returns to inspire young Swans
Matt Jones is back at Swansea City helping to inspire the next generation of young players on and off the field at the club's academy.
The Welsh international – who made 13 appearances for the national team – recently worked with the under-13s side to help them win a pre-season tournament in Belgium.
Jones began his football career with the Swans at the age of nine before ‘the big lights and Premier League facilities’ of Leeds United attracted him to their academy.
The 34-year-old was forced to hang-up his boots through injury in 2004 but returned to the game with Welsh Premier League side Llanelli in 2007, helping his hometown lift the title and Welsh Cup whilst taking his coaching badges.
His journey back into football inspired Jones to give something back to grassroots football and help develop the next generation of young players in Wales.
“To be working at the club I first started at is a huge reward for me," said Jones. “I’m based at the club's academy as part of an inspirational role to help mentor players from age eleven to under-21s.
“I know what it is like to come through an academy process - it is about hard work, dedication, hunger and showing that you are passionate.
"Players also need to be willing to listen and perfect their game.
“I love being able to pass over advice and experience I have learned throughout my career not only at a coaching level but also to be able to inspire them and talk to them about what they need to do to improve and develop.
“If I can help instill these qualities into these players, it will give them a direction.
“I do not want any player to turn around at the age of 18 and regret they didn’t make it because they didn’t work hard or have enough confidence or determination."
Jones' first task was to work with the academy’s U13s side during their pre-season of Belgium in August.
The U13s lost their first game 2-0 against Sparta Rotterdam but bounced back to win their next three games against Anderlecht, hosts KY Mechelen and Royal Antwerp to lift the tournament title.
Jones added: “The group had a tough season last year, only winning a handful of games so I was asked to come in alongside Darren (Jones) to help motivate and inspire them during the tour.
“To compete and win against some top European teams shows how far they have come in a short space of time.
“I gave the players one goal to win the tournament telling them to believe they could win it.
“Twelve months ago they would have struggled but I hope we have given them confidence to help them come out as winners.
“We have come away from that tournament with a number of positives we will take into the season.
“The team needed a fresh start and confidence boost before this season to bring the mentality of losing to an end.
“The players have done the hard work, all I have done is participate in their training session, help them believe in their ability and make sure they put it to use on the pitch.
“Confidence is hugely important, not just in sport but in life. Without it you can’t achieve success.”