He’s seen it all. Multiple Manx league champion, Manx Grand Slam winner, led the Isle of Man national team and played all over the world, but on Saturday FC Isle of Man captain, Frank Jones, will experience something new. He’ll lead out the first Manx football club to ever represent the island in the English Non-League System.
So, with just over 24 hours until the big day and as the team prepared for our first ever North West Counties Football League game against Maine Road FC, we caught up with the skipper after final training this morning to get his views on what will be an historic weekend ahead.
FC Isle of Man (FCIOM):
So Frank, after 18 months of great expectations, some false starts, it looks as if we are finally going to play our first league fixture. How are you feeling about the prospect of the first game against Maine Road FC tomorrow?
Frank Jones (FJ):
Yeah, it’s only just beginning to sink in. When you consider where we were a year ago and we were all excited to get a place in the North West Counties Football League and the excitement around at that time was brilliant. Then, we had the two games against Guernsey, which were both fantastic occasions, but after that, because of Covid, it all went a bit flat again. This time it really looks as if we’re finally going to get started. I am ready to go, and the whole squad is ready to go, and to actually play our first ever league game will be an incredible experience, and an honour too.
You have all been training so hard this last six weeks with 6.30am starts, three days a week, and the intensity has been mind-blowing, but Covid continues to remind us that it’s still with us. This has meant that some players have had to isolate over the last couple of weeks, but despite that it looks as if we’ll still be travelling this weekend with a strong group of players.
We will. I actually think we’re in a good position, as most of the squad only finished the local Manx season about three week ago, so our core fitness is still there, which is probably why you’ve seen such a fast pace in our training matches. So, while it’s a pity we’ve missed a few of the lads these last two weeks I don’t think its going to be a problem. They may even have benefited from the rest, and we’re going into the game on Saturday with a competitive squad. We’re all buzzing and the spirit amongst everyone is second to none. We have all given our all in every session, but on the other hand we have all had to, because there is absolutely no hiding place in this environment, so if you’re not ‘at it’ you’ll soon get found out.
Do you think having to play these first few games away from home is going to be a problem?
No, I don’t think it will. Most of us have travelled with the national team all over the UK and Europe so many of us in the squad will be used to it. Obviously, we’ll be travelling much more often, but I can’t see that being an issue for us. We have a large and quality squad, and early in the season we’ll be travelling there and back in a day, so it’s not going to be too arduous.
Do you have any particular expectations for the game this week?
We’ve got to win haven’t we? Although we don’t know too much about the players and teams we are going up against we can’t worry too much about that because we just don’t have that knowledge yet. It’s not going to be like a local (Manx league) game when we all know the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and the players. So, we’re looking forward to coming up against different teams, players and different styles of play too. Ultimately, we have just got to look after ourselves, be confident in each other and I think the rest of it will kind of take care of itself. We know it won’t be easy on Saturday and it’ll be tough, but we’re confident we can win this first game and keep going in the same fashion after that.