BIG INTERVIEW: Former Sheffield Wednesday and Doncaster Rovers captain Rob Jones on his new role at prestigious soccer academy

Orient v Sheffield Wednesday......Owls Rob Jones
Orient v Sheffield Wednesday......Owls Rob Jones
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Professional footballers are said to be creatures of habit.

Many of them train, prepare and recover in the same way, borne out of years of repetition and sometimes superstition.

Doncaster Rovers Rob Jones celebrates winning League One at Griffin Park, Brentford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 27, 2013. See PA story SOCCER Brentford. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.

Doncaster Rovers Rob Jones celebrates winning League One at Griffin Park, Brentford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday April 27, 2013. See PA story SOCCER Brentford. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.

But that's certainly not the case for Rob Jones.

Jones forged a successful career as a no-nonsense defender and will always be fondly remembered in these parts for his leadership skills at both Sheffield Wednesday and Doncaster Rovers.

His reputation means he could easily have taken the traditional route of working his way through the coaching rungs at a professional club.

Instead, he shunned that option and decided to try something completely left-field.

Former Bradford City footballer Mark Ellis, launched the RIASA -  Richmond International Academic Soccer Academy, based locally working from Leeds Beckett University. This unique academic/football programme, offering international students the opportunity to play football across the country and abroad whilst studying for a dual American/UK accredited business degree.3rd October  2018.'

Former Bradford City footballer Mark Ellis, launched the RIASA - Richmond International Academic Soccer Academy, based locally working from Leeds Beckett University. This unique academic/football programme, offering international students the opportunity to play football across the country and abroad whilst studying for a dual American/UK accredited business degree.3rd October 2018.'

Jones is head coach of the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy, or RIASA as it is more commonly known.

Situated on the outskirts of Leeds, it offers international students aged between 18 and 22 the chance to combine studies with playing football across an intense, four-year course.

At the end of it they come out with a degree that is recognised both here and in the US.

The set-up is not professional by name, but Jones' background in the Football League means he has transformed the academy into one that many League clubs cast an envious eye at.

Rob Jones .

Rob Jones .

"It's something not many people know about or understand it straight off," Jones told the Star.

"I could have stayed in professional football and gone in to the under-18s and under-23s.

"But for me I wanted to try something new and different and get some more experiences under my belt.

"It was something that I knew absolutely nothing about when I was approached.

"But I looked at it and I thought it was a good fit.

"Me having time off is not a good thing! I need to be busy and work.

"It was right for me to come out of the pressurised professional environment.

"The big thing is we teach the boys how to play football properly.

"I make them play how I want them to, which takes a bit of time.

"The boys want to play proper football 

"It's been great and I'm 18 months into it.

"It's been an education for me."

Speaking of education, Jones worked as a teacher before he swapped the classroom for the football pitch.

He says that his current role has certainly been aided by his teaching background.

"I see coaches as teachers," Jones said.

"From my time when I was a teacher, that probably has helped me a little bit in terms of transferring across what I want from the player in an easier and effective manner.

"I know that I'm a better coach now than I was 18 months ago."

In terms of the specifics of RIASA, it was founded by former Bradford City player Mark Ellis in 2010.

Ellis and Jones both stress that the course is one that prioritises the academic side as much as the football side.

Despite that, there is no shortage of success stories, with the most high-profile graduate being current Burnley striker Nahki Wells.

Jones' current group is also attracting plenty of interest.

He said: "We have someone who is about to join a very big club.

"We also had some players joining a Scottish club recently.

"We're at a level where we have top teams looking at us.

"It's not something we try to manipulate and find.

"People come to us because the brand of RIASA is growing and we're producing very good footballers."

Given the way Jones has helped transform the academy, it would be understandable if league clubs were sniffing with regards his availability. 

The 39-year-old has just one short stint as caretaker at Doncaster on his CV, but refuses to rule out the possibility of one day re-entering the professional ranks. 

"Right now I'm trying to be the best I can be at what I'm doing," Jones added. "When I first walked into the academy I had to change things to get it to where I wanted it to be.

"No matter what I do, I try to make it the best experience I possibly can.

"You never know what the future holds.

"But the football world is very strange and one phone call can change your life."