Pontypool legend Leighton Jones excited by his return as a coach
HE was a club legend as a player, in part thanks to his thunderous performances in helping lead Pooler back to the top flight the last time they fell into the second tier.
And now ex-skipper Leighton Jones hopes to inspire a new push as coach of his beloved Pontypool.
The former hooker made more than 200 appearances as a player for the club, following in his father’s footsteps, the legendary Steve “Junna” Jones in starring in the number 2 jersey for Pontypool for more than a decade.
Renowned for his relentless commitment and firebrand play both in the loose and in the scrum head coach Mike Hook decided to turn the man they call “Slug” this Summer to beef up his backroom team by bringing him back as a forwards coach.
“It was an easy decision in the end,” he explains.
“Obviously I had a year with the Garn which I really enjoyed and it was my first season proper coaching. But when Pontypool rang me and asked me to come back, it was obviously something I always wanted to do.
“The club’s been such a big part of my life.”
Jones feels there are comparisons in where Pooler stand this term, and where the squad was when he returned from a year at Newport in 2006 to captain them back to the top flight.
“We’ve got a good core of local boys who the club means that little bit more to.
“They get on well off the field and that’s the sort of atmosphere we’re trying to create so they go that bit further for each other on the field.
“That was similar last time we were in this position.”
He’s been impressed with the standard and competition in the front row, but didn’t stretch the comparison with 2006’s title winning season any further.
“ Anything less than top six would be a failure,” he said “but I think top six is being realistic. We’ve still got some catching up to do on those sides like Bargoed and Ebbw Vale who’ve been together for a while. They’re the two to catch again I think, and Newbridge are always around that top four. “
But that certainly doesn’t mean he will expects anything less than Pontypool being fiercely competitive in every game.
“I’m a straight person, I say it how it is, and I’m clear about what I expect and I expect all the forwards to buy into it.
“We want to bring back what Pontypool are renowned for. That hard edge up front and grinding teams out,” he said.
“Pontypool always seem to be able to come back from the bad days, that’s what makes this club special,” he said.
If he’s right, and it won’t be for his own lack of effort, then this could be another of those ricochets back to the good times.