Exclusive: Jamie Jones & family tried to buy into Wigan Athletic
Jamie Jones wrote his name into Wigan Athletic folklore as the man who skippered the side to the greatest of Great Escapes.
It’s afforded new owners Phoenix 2021 Limited a solid platform – in League One – from which to embark on the massive rebuild.
But in a parallel universe, it could easily have been Jones himself who was helping to call the shots - with one foot in the dressing room and one foot in the boardroom!
Because the 32-year-old goalkeeper was a genuine contender at buying into the club at the beginning of the season – when the club’s very future was hanging in the balance.
Speaking exclusively to the Wigan Observer, Jones lifts the lid on the quite remarkable set of circumstances that led to his dad putting an offer in for the Euxton training ground.
To Jones’ anger, that was sold by the admins to near-neighbours Preston North End, and ex-Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale – like Gerald Krasner, a former chairman of Leeds United.
Thankfully the club itself was saved when Phoenix 2021 Limited took over in March... a happy ending to a story in which Jones found himself an unlikely central figure.
“Most of the fans probably weren’t aware of what happened,” he said.
“But during the really diabolical times, me and my family were looking at buying into the club, buying the old training ground, doing whatever we could do to save it.
“It was during the time we were all going in each day thinking: ‘Is there going to be a game this week, are we going to get through to the weekend?’
“And it did get to a point where I had a conversation with my dad, and he said: ‘Where are we at?’
“So we had a phone call, which Jonathan Jackson organised, and it would have had the fans on board, with all the money they’d raised, to integrate them into the club.
“My dad’s a football man, but he’s not a chairman of a football club, he’s just a fan who wanted to see a club he cared about surviving.
“If the worst came to the worst, we would have stepped in... thankfully it didn’t.
“But it was a very real option, to ensure whatever happened, the club wasn’t going to die if we could help it.
“The preference was always for someone else to come in with the means to take this club to the next level. With the best will in the world, we’d have loved to do that too, but I don’t think the finances would have been there.
“The main thing was it would have stopped the club being liquidated, what happened to Bury, we weren’t going to let that happen.”
Having arrived at Wigan in the summer of 2017 at the start of the Paul Cook and Leam Richardson regime, Jones is one of the longest-serving players on the books.
And having got used to training day in, day out at the magnificent Euxton facility, the Liverpudlian is clearly still angry at the chain of events that saw Latics having to vacate the premises.
“One of the biggest disappointments was the old training ground, and what happened there,” he acknowledged.
“How the administrators dealt with that situation was absolutely horrendous. And that was one of the reasons my dad first came into the discussion.
“We met with Jonathan Jackson to discuss whether we could buy the training ground, my mum and dad were ready to come in.
“They would have put in however much money they were asking, and would have rented it back to the club for nothing, basically just the running fees.
“And then when the club was bought, and the financial situation was a little more comfortable – whether that be two years, five years, 10 years later – the option would be there for the club to buy it back. But the admins just shut it straight down, because I think they were looking to Ridsdale.
“That was such a blow as far as I was concerned, because that training ground was everything we needed to get back to the top level in time.
“Obviously we’ve still got Christopher Park, which is great and has housed the club in the Premier League, but Euxton was something else... it’s such a shame.”
Jones makes no attempt to hide his disdain at the administrators’ conduct.
“I had discussions with a couple of the admins, and they were horrendous in every aspect of it,” he added.