David Jones relishing East Lancashire derby day
THIS time last year David Jones was trying to prolong a record.
This weekend, he’ll be trying to break one. When the East Lancashire derby was last played out at Ewood Park the midfielder was wearing the blue and white halves of Blackburn Rovers, having signed on loan from Wigan Athletic less than three weeks earlier.
The 29-year-old was expected to make the move permanent in the summer, but Rovers boss Gary Bowyer looked to other targets and Clarets counterpart Sean Dyche seized an opportunity.
Free agent Jones signed a three-year deal on the eve of the campaign, having spent the whole of pre-season with Burnley and forging a central midfield partnership with Dean Marney that has served the club well in their quest for promotion.
Five points clear in second, they are working towards the ultimate prize. But with a recent foot in both camps Jones knows exactly what is at stake on Sunday.
“I hadn’t been at the club long when I was told of the fierce rivalry,” said the midfielder.
“In my time in football it’s definitely up there as one of the biggest, if not the biggest, rivalries I’ve been involved in to be honest.
“And from my time there I know it’s seen as a big game,” added Jones, who scored on his Rovers debut last season, in a 3-2 home defeat to Peterborough.
“When I joined on loan last season there was a big emphasis from people around the club, and it’s the same at Burnley. When you go and get a coffee somewhere and people are talking about the season more often than not a conversation about Blackburn comes up in terms of how big a game it is.”
There are reminders, on both sides, of how long it has been since the Clarets last beat Rovers – 11 games across almost 35 years.
Jones observed the emphasis was weighted on extending that record last season, when he was in the home dressing room at Ewood Park.
“The gist I got from Blackburn fans and people around the club was about not losing to Burnley.
“Now it’s the opposite for me,” said the former Manchester United man.
“In Burnley’s performances over the last few games against Blackburn they’ve done really well and probably deserved more.
“We’ll be looking to replicate that, but hopefully get the result.”
For Jones is now fully aware of how much it would mean to the Clarets if that long-standing winless derby run was to end this weekend.
He knows the Clarets would welcome the rub of the green too, with a contentious equaliser, cancelling out captain Jason Shackell’s opener, fresh in their memory from last March.
“Of all the people to score – Mr Blackburn,” added Jones of David Dunn’s late leveller, which replays confirmed was scored from an offside position.
“The last few times Burnley have played against Blackburn they’ve been unlucky, especially last season there. There was a controversial decision – very controversial I think.
“It was definitely a fortunate decision last year. Hopefully we can put it right this season
“I’m happy to be on this side and looking forward to getting a good result.”
And Jones is hoping his insider information on the rival camp will be of benefit to Burnley.
“I suppose knowledge of what goes on there does give you some sort of insight,” he said.
“But in football I’ve learnt that it doesn’t really count for too much – it all depends on the day and what mentality and what performance you bring.”
And Jones, who grabbed his first in the league for the Clarets last weekend in their 2-0 win over Derby County – another of his old clubs, said that while he is relishing another derby atmosphere, he has urged team-mates not to get swept up in it and lose sight of the bigger promotion picture which Jones hopes will end with Clarets clinching a return to the Premier League come May.
The former Wigan man added: “We know it will be a special atmosphere, there’s a certain edge to those games.
“But you have to play the game, not the occasion, and approach it like any other game, and with that mentality I’m sure it will take us far,” he said.
“I’m sure the Burnley fans will push us all the way.” Jones added: “I’m looking forward to going back there with Burnley, and looking forward to a good performance and a good result.”
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