Obituary: Mick Jones (1947-2022)
Mick Jones enjoyed a two-year spell at Huddersfield Town, between 1993 and 1995, as Neil Warnock’s assistant manager. During that time, Town left the old Leeds Road ground and moved to the new Alfred McAlpine Stadium. They also reached two Wembley finals in a year, with the latter leading to promotion. Jones even helped design one of the club’s most popular shirts and was a popular member of staff at the club. He sadly passed away on 9th August 2022, at the age of 75.
Mick Jones was born on March 24th, 1947, in Sunderland and enjoyed a modest career as a central defender and also a midfielder with spells at Derby County, Notts County and Peterborough United between 1969 and 1976. He had a brief spell at Ottawa Tigers as a player-coach in 1976 before returning the same year as a “trialist coach” at Notts County under Ron Fenton. He later resigned in November 1977 in protest at Fenton’s dismissal.
Jones then became player-manager at Kettering Town but quickly retired from playing to concentrate on management, and in 1979, led them to the F.A. Trophy final, where they lost to Stafford Rangers. Next, he had a spell as manager of Mansfield Town between 1979 and 1981, before joining Roy McFarland at Bradford City, where he worked as assistant manager. When McFarland took over at Derby County in 1984, Jones followed him.
In November 1984, Jones took over the manager’s job at Halifax Town in a spell that lasted until 1986. He then assisted Noel Cantwell at Peterborough United before taking over the top job between 1988 and 1989. After a brief period as the Blackpool assistant manager, he was appointed as chief coach to Neil Warnock at Notts County in March 1990. He helped the Magpies achieve promotion to Division Two via the play-offs at the end of the season. In July, Warnock promoted Jones to the role of assistant manager and said: “I had never worked with Mick in the past, but we have got on very well in our short time together.”
Warnock and Jones, along with Paul Evans (coach) and Dave Wilson (physio), led Notts County to two successive promotions as they won the Division Two play-offs in May 1991, securing promotion to Division One. They suffered relegation after just one season, which cost them a place in the new Premier League. Warnock (and the rest of his staff) was sacked in January 1993.
Following Warnock to Leeds Road
In July 1993, Warnock arrived at Leeds Road as the successor to Ian Ross, who had departed a day earlier. With him, Warnock brought in Jones, Kevin Blackwell, Paul Evans and Dave Wilson to complete his backroom team. While he arrived at the club with good pedigree, Warnock did not initially endear himself to the Town faithful and was deeply unpopular amongst the fans as the 1993-94 season progressed. Town, for most of the season, were battling relegation in what was to be the club’s final season at Leeds Road.
There was a distraction, however. Town were progressing through the early rounds of the Autoglass Trophy, which to begin with was mostly seen as an annoyance. They made their way through the group stages (with a win against Doncaster Rovers and a draw against Rotherham United) and then beat Preston North End on penalties in the 2nd Round to go into the Area Quarter Final against Crewe Alexandra.
By January 1994, Town were in a precarious position, 19th in the table, and relegation was looking a real possibility. Warnock was now deeply unpopular and calls for him to be sacked were growing. In the Autoglass, Town beat Crewe and set up an Area Semi-Final against Stockport County in March, which they won 1-0 thanks to an Iain Dunn goal. Before the Stockport game, Town were still 19th in the table. Warnock later admitted: “For the first and last time in my career, I was saved by the Autoglass Trophy.”
Town would play Carlisle United in the Area Final over two legs in March, they won the home leg 4-1, and although they lost the away leg 2-0, they reached the final 4-3 on aggregate. This secured Town’s first Wembley appearance since the 1938 F.A. Cup Final and also helped to rescue the club’s season and Warnock’s job, as a 12-match unbeaten run ended the season, with Town eventually finishing 11th.
Throughout their time together, Warnock and Jones were recognised as a formidable partnership and despite the bad start, their previous success at Notts County was perhaps a sign of things to come. While Warnock was known as the hot-head, Jones was a more calming influence in the dressing room. In 1994, he explained his role:
“The key thing I always remember as number two is that Neil is the manager and I’m there to assist. My role is to pick up the pieces which the manager has dropped and I am very, very loyal. Never, in the slightest way, would I undermine the manager. I’ve got to make sure that what he says goes.”
Jones was also seldom seen in the dugout during his time at the club, preferring to sit in the stand during a game:
“If I watch from the stand, it provides us with a different viewpoint, which can be crucial. It can put a different perspective on things and sometimes Neil and I have different opinions, sometimes we don’t. It’s a system that works well for us, though, and I feel I do a better job when I can watch from the stand.”
New Stadium, New Shirt, New Division
The 1994-95 season was a new beginning for the club as they moved into the brand-new Alfred McAlpine Stadium. Apart from one week in 12th position, Town did not dip below 5th all season and topped the division for much of the campaign. Promotion was looking likely until a bad run of form saw the club slip into the play-offs. Not that it mattered, as Town saw off Brentford in the semi-finals on a thrilling night at Griffin Park that saw Darren Bullock put away the winning penalty in a shootout.
That win saw Town in their second Wembley final in a year, where they took on Bristol Rovers in the Second Division Play-off final. Goals from Andy Booth and Chris Billy secured a 2-1 victory and subsequently promotion, returning the club to the second tier for the first time since 1988. On that day, Town wore the popular Panasonic home shirt, which Jones himself had designed.
It was announced in April 1995 that Town had secured a £250,000 sponsorship deal with Panasonic, which included a new kit that was launched in a press conference at the McAlpine Stadium. In a first for the club, Town’s assistant manager was the brains behind the new design. At the time, Town were already guaranteed a play-off place and it was quite possible that they’d be running out at Wembley in it in just a few weeks’ time.
Jones spoke about this in 2018:
“Our strip supplier wanted a brand new strip for Wembley and then another one designed to use the following season. Terry Fisher was determined not to rip the fans off by having a ‘Wembley shirt’, then another design for the next season, so the ‘Wembley shirt’ was also the following season’s.”
Bizarrely, Fisher approached Jones to help with the new shirt:
“Terry came to me for advice. Neil (Warnock) had too much on his plate to worry about a shirt design, so he told me to ‘get on with it’. I searched the archives for Town’s original shirt, [and] with Terry’s permission we—myself and the designers—came up with a fabulous design. Very Argentina, but very modern. They sold at unbelievable rates and our shirt suppliers found it hard to keep up. Joyce Pickles, the part owner, admitted they found it very hard to keep up with the demand, but Super League shirt suppliers were so proud of the design and of course the sales!”
Following the promotion, Neil Warnock shocked the Town faithful by announcing his resignation just eight days later. Jones remained at the club briefly, taking charge of the team on a tour of Singapore, where a mainly junior side won an international sevens trophy. He left the club on June 20th, 1995, along with Kevin Blackwell.
Jones had fond memories of his time at Town:
“It was a great time at Huddersfield. I have great memories. There was a fantastic chairman in Terry Fisher, very much in the same mould as the current owner (Dean Hoyle), someone loving the club and caring for the club too. When Neil Warnock took over, things were not easy at first, in fact, whilst I knew we were not right on the field, I had great faith that we would turn things around and of course we did. WEMBLEY! Play-off winners and a brand-new stadium, plus a brand-new Huddersfield Town strip organised and designed by myself. Leaving Town for Plymouth Argyle was an enormous decision although ironically the following season we were back at Wembley with Argyle, once again winning promotion. It seems Neil Warnock and Wembley were made for each other!”
Life After Town
Jones later worked with Warnock at Plymouth Argyle, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and Leeds United, where he was his trusted aide, achieving another three promotions along the way. He had a short spell as manager of Plymouth between 1997 and 1998 and also managed Brunei and Telford United in the early 2000s. His final job in the game was a brief spell as Chris Kiwomya’s assistant at Notts County in 2013.
The outpouring of tributes from the world of football in the last few days, including Town fans and former Town players, shows just how highly respected he was in the game and as a person. He is well remembered and respected amongst the Town faithful for the part he played in what was ultimately a successful period for the club and a time that helped bring some pride back to the club.
Mick Jones passed away on Tuesday 9th August, at the age of 75. Our thoughts are with his loved ones.