“Only God Can Judge Me” – The Tumultuous Tale of Schalke’s Jermaine Jones

by Adrian Sertl

As his Schalke side prepare to meet Freiburg on the final matchday of the season, where a single point should be enough to secure fourth place in the table and the valuable Champions League qualification spot, Jermaine Jones stands at a crossroads in his career.  In a recent article in Bild Jones hinted at a possible exit from the Ruhr Valley club, perhaps even as early as this off-season.  Two things were made clear however; one is that Jones would not leave Schalke for any other German club and would go abroad, and the second is that North America would likely not be the destination at this point in time.

But regardless of where Jones ends up, if in fact he decides to leave this summer, it creates a rather sizeable problem for Schalke.  While he’s definitely not the flashiest player around, indeed there are times where he has difficulty staying on the pitch at all; Jones’ potential departure would leave the relatively young club without one of their more experienced players going forward, potentially meaning a massive hole to fill for Die Königsblauen.

By the Numbers – Utility and Versatility

Taking a quick look at Jones’ statistical data for the 2012-13 Bundesliga season, well 33/34ths of it anyway, we should be able to come up with a reasonable determination on how valuable he is to his club.  Jones has appeared in 24 matches so far this season, with 2 of those appearances coming off the bench, which is the most he’s played since coming back from a serious injury that ruled him out of the entire 2009-10 season.  In this time he’s managed a single goal and 5 assists.

Offensively speaking Jones tries to get into the mix as often as he can.  His 32 total shots (1.33 per game) are the most for any player outside of the more traditional attacking positions and are fairly evenly distributed between mid to long range efforts and attempts from inside the 18 yard box.  He is also a fairly important figure in terms of chance creation with 26 key passes good for 6th on the team.

In terms of his passing Jones is one of the more active passers in the Schalke side having attempted nearly 1150 passes in total although he’s only connecting at a 76.1% completion rate, which ranks him in the bottom third on his team.  However when taking into account that Jones attempts a large number of long balls, the average length of his passes is over 20 metres, a lower passing accuracy number should not be unexpected.  Conversely, Jones is very adept at using the through ball having attempted 11 but connecting on 9 of them.

Attacking and passing numbers aside, looking at Jones’ defensive statistics, one really starts to see where his true value lies.  He is the leader in total successful aerial duels won with 88 (60%) in spite of not being the tallest player on the squad.  Jones is also a key contributor in both tackling, having won 81% of his tackles, and interceptions.  Perhaps somewhat unsurprising Jones is far and away the team leader in fouls conceded with 61 and is second only to Christian Fuchs in yellow cards, although Jones has been sent off once this season, something he can laud over the Austrian.

What we can then safely conclude from looking at the numbers is that Jermaine Jones plays a very significant role in the Schalke midfield due to his (mostly) positive contributions across the board.  However, the numbers don’t even begin to tell Jones’ entire story as there are many intangibles that make him the player that he is and for that we’ll need to take a look at his maturation over the course of his career.

From Rogue to Role Model

A recent article from 11freunde chronicles Jones’s transformation from a reckless youth into the veteran footballer he has ultimately become.  The article discusses how his brash, ‘rock-star’ like attitude served as a severe detriment to his success and how a chance meeting with a coach on a team he wasn’t even playing for managed to convince Jones to drop the bad boy image and focus on becoming a well-rounded professional football player.  But, a little background to start.

Jermaine Jones was born on the 3rd of November, 1981 in the Bonames district of Frankfurt to an American father, a United States Army soldier stationed overseas, and a German mother.  Jones would spend some time living in the States before his parents would divorce and he returned with his mother back to Germany.  After playing in his youth for SV Bonames and FV Bad Vilbel, Jones was then bought by Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt where he would begin to develop the skills necessary to continue along his career path.

Sadly for Jones he fell into the trappings of a life full of indulgences, and ended up paying closer attention to the nightlife in Frankfurt than to the football pitch and the training ground.   But in spite of all of the off-field antics Jones’ play on the pitch for a top flight Eintracht team made him the target of a move to Bayer Leverkusen in 2004.

However the party lifestyle followed him and he quickly earned the ire of then manager Klaus Augenthaler who demoted Jones to the Leverkusen 2nd team.  Jones appeared resistant to shedding his stubborn ways and was starting to gain a reputation of being somewhat injury prone, qualities that would never endear himself to any club vying for his signature.  Clearly something had to change.

And change it did.

The details are a little spotty but according to 11freunde then Eintracht Frankfurt coach Friedhelm Funkel invited Jones to meet with him in a café in Köln.  A 3 hour conversation took place that seemingly opened the young man’s eyes, as Funkel spoke to him about the virtues of living a righteous life and how that was going to be the only way that the young footballer was going to be able to get his life sorted and his career back on track.  Jones himself said it was “Perhaps the most important conversation of my life”.

Having had his epiphany, Jermaine Jones would leave Leverkusen behind him and make his return back to Frankfurt, at first on loan, permanent for the start of the 2005-06 season, however a serious leg injury suffered early in the season kept him out of action until the final matchday.  Jones would play one more season for Eintracht before departing for Schalke on a free transfer in the summer of 2007.

Jones would continue on an upward trajectory for Schalke over the next few seasons, even receiving 3 call ups to the Germany Men’s National Team in 2008 (all friendlies), before yet another serious leg injury sidelined him for the lion’s share of the 2009-10 season.  If that wasn’t bad enough, after making a full recovery Jones butted heads with then Schalke manager Felix Magath who criticized the player on his lack of commitment to training, perhaps to the almost unachievable standards of Herr Magath, and then sent Jones to train with the Schalke reserves.

With his future at Schalke in jeopardy, in January of 2011 Jones accepted a loan deal to go to Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League in order to garner some attention for a possible move in the summer.  However, despite playing rather well in England no sides came calling and he made his way back to Gelsenkirchen at season’s end, to much more favourable conditions as Magath had been sacked that spring.

After an indifferent time under Ralf Rangnick’s abbreviated tenure at Schalke, Jones found a keen backer in the form of Dutchman Huub Stevens who saw the player occupying a strong leadership role on the pitch and one that he has yet to relinquish under current manager Jens Keller.

The Future – Amerika?  Es Ist Wunderbar!

So what does the future hold for Jermaine Jones?  In 2010 he became a fully fledged American International, by virtue of his father’s heritage and the new FIFA rules regarding national team eligibility and it just appears logical that Jones will choose to end his career in the United States, perhaps after a short Continental detour.  And it makes perfect sense too.  Jones is admittedly approaching the twilight of his career and with two serious leg injuries in mind his window of opportunity to use his playing career to provide for his family (he’s married with 5 children) is closing ever so quickly.  He’s clearly come a long way from being the punk kid from Bonames.

**All stats were taken from WhoScored.com and Squawka.com**

Header image courtesy of dpa.

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