HOMEGROWN prospect Ben Jones will never forget the moment he realised he would be pulling on the blue and white shirt of Chester City to make his senior debut.
The strapping youth team striker was an unknown quantity to Blues fans when he was named as a substitute for last month’s League Two clash with Chesterfield. But an impressive appearance from the bench was enough to ensure he stayed in the squad for Saturday’s trip to Lincoln, where he again made a positive impact as a late sub.
Jones, 16, of Connah’s Quay, is the latest player to graduate from the ranks of the Flintshire Schoolboys team to professional football, following in a long line of famous names including Chester icon Ian Rush and England striker Michael Owen.
He admits he is still coming to terms with his unexpectedly rapid rise.
The teenager said: “Mark Wright said I was going to be in the squad against Chesterfield, but I didn’t think I was going to be on the bench. I thought I was going to be the 17th man.
“When I saw my shirt up on the wall with my name and number on, it was a really special feeling and a great buzz.
“I’d never been involved with the first team before so I really enjoyed my time on the pitch, even it if was only for three minutes. I got a bit longer against Lincoln and I could have won a penalty.
“Mark Wright’s just told me to go out there and enjoy it and I will because every appearance is a bonus at my age.”
Jones, who left Connah’s Quay High School in May, signed a twoyear scholarship with Chester in the summer after he was released by Preston North End.
Rivals Wrexham passed up the chance to sign the Wales Under 17s international, a decision they quickly lived to regret.
Mark Newman, Chester’s youth development manager, said: “We had Ben when he was an U14s player and, for whatever reason, at that time we lost him to Preston North End.
“But he came back to the area and, towards the end of last season, he was on trial at Wrexham. They didn’t take him because they had an abundance of strikers, so Steve Cooper, who was Wrexham’s head of youth at the time, called me and asked if we wanted to take him on.
“So Ben came in on trial and the first match he played for us just happened to be against Wrexham. He absolutely destroyed them and I remember Coops turning round to me and saying he’s made a big mistake. And I think he has because Ben’s got the raw potential to be a player.
“He’s still only half way through his YTS but the gaffer, Mark Wright, loves him and has got a lot of time for him. He’s a real, real prospect for the future.”
Jones has been promoted to Chester’s senior squad ahead of schedule as Wright, whose hands are tied by a Football League transfer embargo, has a shortage of recognised strikers to call on. With no new players expected to join the Blues before the January transfer window closes on Monday, Jones may find himself getting more tastes of first-team football between now and the end of the season.
He isn’t the only rookie to be called on by Wright in recent weeks. Fellow teenagers Kristian Platt and Connell Rawlinson – another former Flintshire Schoolboys starlet – have warmed the bench for City, while midfielder James Owen made his debut in Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat at Port Vale.