• Eric Jones, Preston North End

  • Eric in PNE 'A' team c.1953 (bottom row, far right)

    Eric Jones PNE
  • Eric with Willie Cunningham, Tom Finney & Tommy Docherty at a head tennis tournament

    Eric Jones PNE
  • Eric Jones (No.11) in training 1954

    Eric Jones PNE
  • Eric taking a Penalty for PNE Reserves

    Eric Jones PNE
  • Eric with Les Campbell

    Eric Jones PNE
  • Eric with Pete Higham & Derek Mayers

    Eric Jones PNE
  • If medals were awarded for attending our Associations functions, since our inception back in 1998, Eric would definitely be up there on the podium. He has been, and still is, one of our most enthusiastic members.

  • Eric Arrives In Preston

    Although born in Ulverston, then in Lancashire, not Cumbria, Eric was brought up locally in Preston, living in Kingfisher Street, just a few minutes away from Preston North End’s football ground. The Jones family had moved south when Eric was only two years old, due to lack of work for his father, who was a master boot & shoe maker/repairer. Eric went to the same Deepdale School as Tom Finney, leaving at the age of 14, starting work at Starkies Wire Works.

  • Eric The Trialist

    Eric, who supported North End as a youth, can remember the Americans playing baseball at Deepdale, during the war years, and it was around this time that he had started playing football regularly himself, with Deepdale Youth Club in the local YMCA league. He was deemed promising enough to have trials with Blackburn Rovers, training with and playing in their ‘A’ team, in the West Lancashire League. Two of his colleagues at that time were Preston-born Ronnie Clayton and Bryan Douglas, both of whom went on to represent England later in their careers with the Rovers. As Eric was just about to sign as a part time professional for them, he was called up to do his National Service. He was to join the Royal Air Force, stationed near Nottingham at RAF Syerston, which is now mostly derelict, but still houses the local Volunteer Gliding Squadron. Eric played for the station team and whilst in the vicinity, was invited for trials with both Nottingham Forest and Notts County, albeit with amateur status.

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    Eric Signs For Preston North End

    Towards the end of Eric’s two-year stint in the Forces, his father, unbeknown to Eric, wrote to Preston North End asking for a trial for him. His trial period went very well and instead of joining Blackburn Rovers after being demobbed, he signed for the club on his Deepdale doorstep, Preston North End. Eric, then aged 20, signed professional forms towards the end of 1951, on terms of £6 per week Very soon after joining PNE, Eric played centre-forward in a few ‘A’ team games, scoring 3 against Blackpool ‘A’ in a 5-0 win, and five goals in a Richardson Cup tie against Milnthorpe. The pride he felt when wearing that PP badge was immense, whether it was in the ‘A’ team or the reserve side. Eric made his Central League debut at Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday on the 15th December 1951, due to Gordon Kaile stepping up to the first eleven. PNE Reserves were actually sitting pretty at the top of the league the morning of his debut, but came down to earth with a 1-4 defeat! Preston North End Reserves finished a creditable 3rd and 2nd in the first two seasons Eric played with them. After 78 appearances with the reserves he got his big chance. Eric felt that he received a good soccer upbringing playing in the Central League alongside the likes of Bobbie Beattie and recalls playing against all the ‘Busby Babes’ at that level.

  • Jones, Number 7, Makes His League Debut

    He made his league debut on Boxing Day 1953 at Deepdale in front of a full-house (32,416), against local rivals Burnley, in place of the injured Les Campbell. It was to be Eric’s biggest thrill in his football career. Les Campbell himself had been selected due to the usual number 7, Tom Finney, being out with groin trouble. Tom was in and out of the team that season due to his injury, playing in just 23 games, but he played in all the FA cup games as North End reached the cup final at Wembley. Eric Jones had played in the number seven shirt in the last league game prior to the final but in hindsight was just keeping it warm for the great man. Although not fully fit Tom was re-called for the final against West Bromwich Albion much to Eric’s personal disappointment of missing out on the big event. Despite his own feelings, he fully respected and supported the decision, and did have a good view of the game, sitting just below the Royal Box. Competition for places then, as now, was fierce but healthy, and Eric was unlucky in that the man in his position was Sir Tom himself! Having said that, Eric appeared on both wings for Preston North End and also at inside-left. At reserve team level he appeared in all five forward positions for the club. Eric notched up 116 Central League games and also played in two Lancashire Cup semi-finals during his stay at Deepdale. One reserve game worthy of a mention is an 8-1 win over Leeds United, in 1954, when Eric scored three of the goals.

  • Eric Jones Gets A Transfer

    During the first week of September 1955, a move out of the blue developed and Eric was transferred to Nottingham Forest for £1,600. His good friend and former teammate, Peter Higham had also moved there a few months before. It came out later that Leeds United were also interested in both players too. Soon after his departure from Deepdale, Eric’s father died, aged 55, and Eric himself suffered a bad knee injury on the playing front. (A very low period in his life). By the end of his first season at Forest, the Club gained promotion to the First Division. Job done Eric’s next move was to Doncaster Rovers (March 1958), before becoming captain of Accrington Stanley, playing alongside two ex-North End players, Jimmy and Harry Anders. His next move, to Southport, brought the best out of Eric, goalscoring wise, scoring 18 goals for The Sandgrounders. He was, by now, a seasoned campaigner, and the two-footed player enjoyed his spell at Haig Avenue. A short sojourn in the non-league circles with Lancaster Town followed before hanging up his boots, twelve years after signing for North End. If Eric has one regret, it is that the modern day squad system, with substitutes, was not applicable in his day, as he would definitely have had more than just 13 appearances to his name, for Preston North End.

  • Life After Football

    eric_jones_golfAfter his professional football career was over he joined an office machine company, but soon realized that it was not the job for him. Eric then became an area manager for a growing vending machine company but inside he was bursting to try his hand in the motor trade. It was around this time, in the early-to-mid nineteen sixties, that Eric was asked by Vin Sumner to work part-time as the dance floor manager at the newly opened Top Rank Ballroom in Preston. Eventually he joined the local firm of Loxhams, as a budding salesman who had a bit of a mechanical background from his RAF days. A similar capacity with Fairways followed, lasting a number of years, before going self-employed.

    Nowadays, Eric, 80 years old next year, married with four children and five grandchildren, enjoys the comradeship that the Former Players Association affords him. He also has the added interest of filming fighter aeroplanes, and he is an active member of the Lightning Club at Warton. A possible throwback to his youth in the RAF!

  • Words by Ian Rigby.