Saddling-up and scuba diving are my passions

Crystal Palace v Sheffield Wednesday.....Dave Jones suffers his first defeat since becoming the Owls Manager
Crystal Palace v Sheffield Wednesday.....Dave Jones suffers his first defeat since becoming the Owls Manager

When I tell Dave Jones this interview is going to be a bit different and kick off by asking his thoughts on Sheffield as a city the eyes crinkle and the dry wit crackles.

“What do you mean, the nightlife?” quips the Sheffield Wednesday boss sitting across a desk in his office at the training ground.

That’s an early glimpse of why this chat does indeed prove different. But then Jones himself is different.

It’s hard to find a manager anywhere in living memory who’s made a better start at a new club. He took over from one of Wednesday’s most popular figures of recent times, won promotion and went 17 games unbeaten before finally losing by the odd goal at Crystal Palace.

But did you know Dave Jones likes to scuba dive in what little spare time he can manage? Or that he owns and rides three horses? Just a little insight into the self-confessed “private man” who can mislead you with a slightly dour demeanour when in reality he is actually anything but.

Neither are his teams dour or dull, always reflecting his demand for “attack as the best form of defence” - right through Stockport, Southampton, Wolves and Cardiff.

Typically, he starts head-on with the initial controversy surrounding his replacement of Gary Megson - without being asked directly.

He then talks frankly about his relationship with chairman Milan Mandaric ... how the owner broke down his doubts about taking the Hillsborough job. . . and the purist footballing background that will always fashion his approach. “Since I’ve been here I’ve had nothing but best wishes from inside and outside the club,” says Jones.

“Most of the time I’m out on my own - and nobody has attacked me!

“It was always going to be a tricky situation for the chairman and when he approached me he mentioned that. But it was not my problem. The only problem I saw - as in any job - is that it’s a results business.

“Somebody asked me after promotion: Did Gary deserve 75% of the credit? All I knew was that if I hadn’t done it I’d have got 100% of the blame. So I might as well get 100% of the credit.

“But I didn’t feel on a hiding to nothing. If not me, it would have been somebody else - and, from what I gathered, the chairman’s mind was already made up. He wanted the play-offs and it was felt the top two was out of the question. If you come to a club where the manager was liked it is always a difficult thing.”

Jones has also come to be regarded with affection, though in an entirely different way. Fans can’t help but warm to a bloke who gets these sort of results and provides this level of entertainment. And he doesn’t seek popularity in any other way.

“I’m quite a private person,” he admits when I suggest he is unlike the stereotypical Scouser despite being brought up in an extrovert city famed for its humour.

“I do the job to the best of my ability. The limelight just follows you around and I’ve had plenty of that. But I don’t say things to cause harm or disturbance. Or attention.

“One thing that gets labelled against me is that it’s said I have no passion. It’s just that I don’t show emotion. But if you turned me inside out you would see it.

“I suppose it’s because I’m not a ranter and raver. I’m more studied. But if shouting and bawling got me results then I’d do it.

“I don’t think players can give you what you want if you’ve got no passion or emotion yourself. It’s just contained in my case.”

The 56-year-old family man gets his release from his hobbies - though not as often as he’d like.

“I love horses,” he says. “I’ve got three of them but haven’t ridden them for a while, which is a pain in the backside. And I play golf with Wilko (assistant manager Paul Wilkinson).”

Then comes this, almost matter-of-fact: “And I like scuba diving.” Really? “Yes, I learned to do it in Thailand while I was with Southampton. I like to go diving when I’m on holiday.”

Serious stuff, by the way, going right down to the permitted depth of 30 metres. With Jones, there is clearly a lot going on below the surface. Like his humour for a start.

“Sheffield is similar to Cardiff when it comes to water. . . with one it’s because of the sea and here it’s because of the rain!”

On a more serious vein: “I’ve always had a rough idea of the place from people like Sean Connelly, my physio at Cardiff who was born here. Then there was knowing Danny Bergara in Stockport and also the physio there, Rodger Wylde (an Owls favourite of the 1970s). What strikes me is that it’s quite a young city with the two universities.

“And of course I know that Sheffield Wednesday has had 15 or more years of hurt. And that I have 25,000 or 26,000 managers out there watching the team!”

Not that any of them are telling Jones what to do right now. But here’s where his natural humility and down-to-earth nature kick in. . . “it’s a very fine line and it could easily have gone the other way.”