Sheffield Wednesday: Out-of-contract David Jones on the mental struggles of being a free agent
Out-of-work former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder David Jones has spoken out about the mental challenges of being a free agent, admitting: “It’s tough. I don’t like Saturdays at the moment”.
The Manchester United youth product, who spent three seasons at Hillsborough before he was released at the end of his contract in the summer, is training with Premier League Burnley – the club he joined Wednesday from in 2016 – and is looking for a club to join in the coming weeks.
“It’s tough mentally to keep giving 100 per cent every day knowing you haven’t got a game on Saturday and that you haven’t got a contract anywhere, so it is mentally challenging at times,” Jones told The Athletic.
His decline in south Yorkshire was drawn-out and painful. He was a key figure under Carlos Carvalhal, but along with other senior players, Jones found himself frozen out of first team action by Jos Luhukay. Steve Bruce saw no reason to reinstate the former England youth international, who made just two appearances for the club last season, and his departure was inevitable.
That inactivity – and the fact that Jones is now 34 years old – has prevented offers from flooding in, but in training full-time with the top tier outfit, he believes he is fit and ready to join a new club should the opportunity arise.
“I knew I was out of contract at Sheffield Wednesday so in the six weeks you are off, my agent was trying to find a club to sign with because that would have been ideal — to get a full pre-season with the new club,” Jones says.
“That didn’t happen so, as it was coming towards the end of June, I phoned Sean [Dyche]. I’ve obviously worked with him before and we still sent the odd text to each other in the three years I’ve been away from the club. He was happy for me to come in and train and they’ve been brilliant.
“It’s a great place to get fit. I knew from working with them before that they are one of the fittest teams in the league, so it was good for me to spend a whole pre-season there and get up to speed.
“I’ve only had moments where I had been frustrated. My wife is brilliant at keeping me positive about the situation. She’s schooled me over the years with the mental side of things. She helps me with that. She can read me like a book, so she knows the frustration and she knows what she is doing.”
Jones, who turned down a contract offer from a League Two side before contacting Burnley, admitted his final season at Hillsborough was a difficult one, and said he believes he can offer something to a club at Championship level.
“It was a difficult time, another challenge to keep going and keep training hard every day and stay fit. It was a disappointing end because I still felt I had something to give.
“I still feel I want to play at as high a standard as possible, so that’s a key thing.
“In football, as you get older the opportunities sometimes aren’t there straight away — and even when you are younger, but you have to keep that desire and mentality to want to play, which is still there for me. It can be tough at times, but I just have to keep going.
“It’s not ‘the Championship at all costs’ — if there is a club lower down that I feel is suitable and they want me, I’d take it.”