Jones key to success

Sheffield Wednesday v Scunthorpe Utd...Owls....Rob Jones
Sheffield Wednesday v Scunthorpe Utd...Owls....Rob Jones

Lee Bullen sees Rob Jones as a leader in his own image and backs him to repeat the promotion triumph he led in 2005 - minus the palpitations!

He also knows the value of the home market as a footballer turned estate agent - and it is on their own patch at Hillsborough that he believes his former club have laid the foundations for promotion.

Bullen skippered the Owls during an era when the words “Hillsborough” and “hoodoo” were too often adjacent. Gary Megson said there was no such thing and it’s been a case of out of sight, out of mind.

“In the past, home form has been the club’s Achilles heel,” said Bullen. “Now all that has changed and I think it’s because the players have learned to handle the pressure of playing at Hillsborough.

“It’s the key to what happens this season and I certainly wouldn’t bet against Wednesday gaining automatic promotion.”

Skipper Rob Jones - a player in his own mould - is another important factor, believes the former captain. Bullen drove the team before handing over to Graham Coughlan and now Jones is another leader of the Captain Courageous variety.

“It’s a very important job,” says Lee. “Looking at the three of us, we have never played at the top level but we have all been wholehearted, 100% tryers.

“Rob is also a Wednesday supporter and I’m sure he’s a very proud man. I hope he can help the team to a top-two finish. If not, I hope he enjoys the same experience as me and lifts that play-off trophy.”

Bullen, of course, was once a player you could put your mortgage on as a one hundred percenter and a leader of men.

Now he is one of Sheffield’s biggest movers and shakers in the housing market after giving up fantasyland for the real world.

And no-one could accuse the former Wednesday skipper of being some head-in-the-clouds footballer who doesn’t know the value of money.

Rounding up all his many admirable traits, it’s perhaps no wonder that he’s taken such a seemingly radical career change in his stride.

For starters, he did have a proper job before he went full-time into football. Then there is the remarkable fact that he had experience of playing in every position on the field - and did just that in the course of a single season at Hillsborough.

Bullen, who will always have a place in Owls folklore as the man who lifted the 2005 play-off trophy in front of more than 40,000 Wednesday fans in Cardiff, recently returned to the city to become a director of Spencers estate agents.

“I had a real job before, you know, and now I’m back in the land of the living, out of the bubble,” he says. Latterly, his occupation of that bubble cast him as assistant manager of Falkirk where he helped plot a famous victory over Glasgow Rangers this season.

But bubble certainly didn’t stand for inflation in the wages department. Were the truth to become known, people would be astounded by the generally low level of pay in Scottish football.

Lee, who has two children living with their mother in Scotland, grasped the opportunity to pursue a more financially viable future by taking up the Spencers directorship along with girlfriend Nicola, the daughter of the company’s founders.

“It’s a great opportunity for me with such a highly regarded Sheffield firm,” he told the Telegraph, having worked for Alliance and Leicester Building Society while playing part-time in Scotland at the start of his career.

“I started as a filing clerk and ended up dealing with repossessions.”

Now his working life has turned full circle. Alongside his Spencers role, he retains an involvement in football, scouting for Watford and helping with the youngsters at Hillsborough, and hasn’t give up on returning to the management side of the game.

But, as a man of the people who is still a cult figure for Owls fans, Bullen has the ideal background for his latest role. “There are so many interchangeable skills,” he insists.

“As assistant manager of Falkirk I was dealing all the time with people and strategies. And as a football captain, as I was at Wednesday, you have a big role.

“You are the next man after the manager as the face of the club. You have a responsibility to him, to your team-mates and supporters. A lot of people look up to you. Property is a tough environment. The market is in a hard place but we are doing really well and hopefully the only way is up “I’m learning on my feet, doing information gathering in the first few months, some administration and dealing with accounts.”