It's hardly surprising that having players of Rich's calibre meant Playford had a chance in every single match
You know you're getting old when the second generation of Playford players start retiring.
I don't possess as sharp a memory as those who are still playing or have recently finished their on-pitch days for Playford, however, the stats tell me I was on the field alongside a 21 year old Rich Jones on September 17th 2006. The day he scored his first Playford goal. My memories of that goal and the eventual 4-2 away win? Literally none.
Oddly, what I do recall more vividly was his next goal for the club, and the incredible comeback that saw a 5-3 home victory over AC Leiston. Odd because I was in accident and emergency with a stricken Simon Fisk before the first half was even over. Having personally masterminded an awful 3-1 deficit within minutes due to some rather mystifying 5-up-front formation against a team I thought we’d thrash, Jones and Jones took over as I drove Sid to hospital. This is where the future of Playford at that time took shape. A decisive and pragmatic change of system got the result I'd envisaged - they had just achieved it from 3-1 down, and in only 45 minutes.
I played a fair amount of games with Rich, even as a centre back pairing now and again. This was around the time I slowly began to acknowledge my days as an mistake-prone, occasionally average, central defender were coming to an end. Playing with Rich was a bit like playing with a professional footballer. Given that only 8 years before we were losing games 14-0, and the only professionals we played with were professional welders, journalists and insurance brokers, it’s hardly surprising that having players of Rich’s calibre meant Playford had a chance in every single match. Rich was still nowhere near what would be his best at this point either.
Two games I DO remember are the home and away league ties against a seemingly unbeatable Capel Plough in 2007/2008. A home draw felt like a victory given their apparent invincibility, and the 4-1 away win was possibly my most enjoyable victory ever as a Playford player. In both games, Rich was immense. I recall thinking that we’d have lost without him. He didn't get MOTM, but his work rate, endurance and general presence was what edged it for us. We finished third that season in a tough league, and Rich had definitely had a huge say in that.
What is even more impressive than any on-field exploits is the way in which he has been a proper ambassador for the club. From player to manager, and as a brother. Supporting Chris in lean AND healthier times, and keeping the club going strong - even overseeing the introduction of the reserve team. That is something I could NEVER imagine happening when we first started Playford FC!
(For some reason I have written this next part as if speaking to Rich)
Thank you Rich, for everything you have done and been for Playford Football Club. Your statistics speak for themselves but they don't tell anybody about the man. I look forward to reading more banterful (I know that's not a word) accounts of your changing room hi-jinx and ribbing of team mates and opponents alike. As a man who essentially willingly gave way to what I deemed was just a younger, slightly more mobile, taller, more prolific version of myself, I think you did very well to overhaul my goal tally by just the odd 65.
Enjoy your Sundays with your boys and Mrs Jones.