Jonah makes his 300th appearance
THE man they call Jonah is still having a whale of a time stoking the midfield engine room for Cirencester Town.
James Mortimer-Jones joined Town in October 2010 and last Tuesday night at St. Neots Town he chalked up his 300th appearance for the club – 291 starts and nine substitute appearances.
Now that Charlie Griffin has swapped the first team strip for the manager's tracksuit, Jonah is the elder statesman of a young group. But he remains one of the first names on the team sheet.
Jonah does the dirty work in midfield, breaking down attacks, shielding the back four, harassing and getting in the face of opponents – and scoring worldies, like the one on debut for the club that he still rates the best of his career. "I've scored some good goals down the years but the best was on my debut against my old club Didcot," he said. "It was a volley from some distance and was still rising when it hit the net.
"The circumstances were a bit awkward as the Didcot manager didn't want me to play against them in my first game so I was not very popular in the bar afterwards. I had played against Ciren a fortnight earlier in a FA Cup replay, and scored a goal which helped knock them out. Steve Hale, now goalkeeping coach at Forest Green, I knew from my days in Carterton. I think it was due to Haler's influence that Brian Hughes came in for me. Hughesey insisted I came over to the Corinium Stadium and he really sold the club to me.
"I've been here ever since and still enjoying my football, although it is always better when the results go your way."
Mortimer-Jones was a permanent fixture in the 2013/14 championship-winning team and his goal in the final-day 3-1 victory at Yate also lives long in his memory.
"It was not the greatest of goals but in the circumstances it was so important to help clinch the title. It was also the first game that my son George had ever been to so that made it extra special. We had suffered a wobble with last-minute defeats at Taunton and Didcot after which there was a tear-up among players and management in the changing room. But from that point we won seven on the bounce to the end of the season.
"After that busy league campaign my right knee was playing up. I'd had problems with the right medial ligament for years but I had learned how to manage it. I had just achieved something great in winning the league but I was concerned that the knee might jeopardise my livelihood as I was working as a builder at the time, so I thought about quitting football. It was just me having a funny five minutes before I realised I would miss it too much.
"I had asked Hughesey for an extended break over the summer and did nothing during pre-season. Then it was mutually decided that I would get some games for Clanfield in the Hellenic League and see how the knee stood up. I think I played just two, we had some injury problems and I was back in the Ciren team again. Nowadays I am fighting fit, touch wood, and feeling very good."
The Cirencester Town team down the years has never been short on characters. As part of new players' initiation, they have to sing a song on the team bus.
"We've had some fine singers down the years but when Glyn Garner sang American Pie word for word from start to finish – that was mighty impressive," said Jonah.
"Our former 'keeper Mattie Bulman is the funniest person I have ever encountered in football and Jamie Reid can be a real prankster off the field. On the field Reidy is a different animal and he would be the first pick in my team every time. When the chips are down you can always rely on Reidy. When I think how unfortunate he has been with injury I appreciate how lucky I have been in comparison. The low points were obviously our relegation season and the sacking of manager Brian Hughes this September. I'm sure he will be back in charge of a team soon. He was born to be involved in football. Hughesey did a lot for me on and off the field and saved me hundreds of pounds in fuel alone with lifts. It was very disappointing to see him go."
Jonah is confident, however, that new boss Charlie Griffin will turn things around.
"When Charlie came in we were all told there would be a clean slate," he said. "But I had played with him for two years and he knows what I can and can't do. He watches a lot of football and I knew he had a big phone book but I'm still surprised he has been able to bring in eight new faces.
"We now have a good spine. Alan Griffin works incredibly hard and the ball is a magnet to him, Lidds is a terrific midfielder, Ben (Brown) keeps on improving now he has put together a run of games and Raaj (Gill) is a great keeper. As for me, my missus Amy has given me permission to carry on playing. and as long as my knees hold up and I'm wanted, I'll keep going."
The last word goes to boss Griffin. "What Jonah has done to play 300 games for one club is amazing. That's some achievement. The best I ever did in one spell was 55 at Woking. But then the first thing managers do when results are not going well is get rid of the striker!"
JAMES MORTIMER-JONES FACTFILE
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Winning Southern Lge Div One SW title
BEST GOAL OF MY CAREER: Volley on debut for Cirencester against Didcot
FUNNIEST MAN IN FOOTBALL: Matt Bulman
FIRST NAME ON MY ALL-TIME TEAM SHEET: Jamie Reid
BEST SONG ON THE COACH: American Pie (Glyn Garner)