In-form Gateshead midfielder Sam Jones has his sights set on even more goals after an impressive start to the campaign.
Midfielder Jones has bagged nine goals so far this season, including a brace in the Heeds surprising 5-0 demolition of title challengers Dagenham and Redbridge.
The win at Victoria Road extended Gateshead’s unbeaten league form to seven whilst also marking Jones’ sixth goal in his last eight games.
Although top scorer for his previous two clubs; Midlands League Heanor Town and National League North Alfreton Town respectively, few would have expected such a return from a player primarily utilised in the centre of the park.
But Jones expects, with the recent run of playing time, to exceed his previous tallies.
“The two seasons before I managed 17 goals, top goal scorer, and then last season at Alfreton I got 19 goals as top goal scorer so my aim was to be top goal scorer again but get another two on the tally so 21 was my aim for the season” admitted Jones.
“I didn’t play many games at the start of the season but I think I’ve found my form and I know what i’m capable of so I do think i can do it.
“Hopefully I can meet it – whether I do or not isn’t massively important – I’d rather do what I can for the team.”
The former Leeds trainee is part of a Gateshead side in scintillating form and the current run of consistency, traditionally not a trait previous Heed sides have held, is something Jones credits to a developed togetherness within the squad.
“With bringing a new squad we maybe didn’t see that consistency at the start of the season but now we are starting to see the squad getting to know each other” said Jones.
“The chemistry of the team is starting to happen.
“Its a new team I feel like we’re just starting to find our rhythm – the lads are starting to play together, know each other.
“The key is is to keep doing what were doing, keep doing what the gaffer is saying.
“Take every game as it comes.”
Eastleigh travel to the International Stadium next fresh from there midweek FA Cup giant killing of League One Swindon Town.
Since the appointment of former Tranmere boss Ronnie Moore at Ten Acres, the Spitfires have only been defeated twice and now sit one place and single point behind Gateshead in the National League.
While both teams are within touching distance of the play off places, Jones is choosing to focus only on the Tynesiders game plan.
“Like any team in this league you cant say that there going to be difficult or there going to be easy” said Jones.
“We don’t need to concentrate on them we need to focus on ourselves.
“You know in the next game anything can happen.
“Teams are beating teams from the bottom to the top so theres no guarantee but well stay level headed.
“We’ve just got to do the same thing we’ve been doing.”
It would be understated to say that the 25 year old has not had the most conventional journey into full time football.
A school boy at Leeds United, Jones took a break from football upon his release at Elland Road after admittedly falling out of love with the game.
After time spent travelling Australia, the former Welsh U19 International was approached by local club Retford, a turn of events that had an overwhelming effect on Jones’ career.
“After I finished at Leeds I travelled and when I came back someone from lower league knocked on the door and asked if they could have me for a couple of games – they were in a bit of a relegation battle” explained Jones.
“From there, playing at lower level, I just thought; I could do this every day, I really want to do this full time.
“So I gave myself two years, if i got back into full time in two years i’ll have a good crack at it.”
That decision to prolong a lifelong dream sparked a spiral of events that lead the midfielder to where he sits now; one league away from Football League prominence.
“Out of the blue a team from the same league came (Heanor Town), offered a bit more money, and then Alfreton came in at the beginning of last season” said Jones.
“Then Gateshead came in, so within a year and a half I was playing full time again.”
As fairytale as Jones’ journey may seem, the adaption from part-time player to full-time footballer was far from plain sailing.
The organisation of opposition alongside commitments as a professional footballer was not an easy transition for the Doncaster native.
However hard work, coupled with a guiding relationship with Gateshead boss Neil Aspin, influenced Jones to persevere.
“When your not getting played you do doubt your own ability, you question yourself” admitted Jones.
“But he always had the belief in me.
“Even when i wasn’t playing he said ‘look, this is just a transition – you’ve come from part time to full time just trust me keep working hard in training – i know its going to come.”
“Now he’s seeing the fruit of what he believed in me and i’m seeing the fruit of that as well.
“It’s a good relationship, I feel he can get the best out of me.”
An early contender for player of the season, Jones can so far be happy with his “crack” at full time football and will be eager to make his maiden season at National League level a one to remember.
“My aim is to just to the best as i can, progress as far as i can but theres no rush and i feel like I’m in a good place”.
Article: James Bell (@jamescb90)
Images: Used with permission of Gateshead FC (Neil Smith)