23 August 2007 :: by
Hot on the heels of yesterdays rumours about Blackpool's player of the year Shaun Barker heading towards Elland Road, comes official confirmation of a bid by Dennis Wise for the Hibernian captain, Rob Jones.
Jones, a lower league player in England left Grimsby Town in the summer of 2006 and then led Hibs to claim the CIS Insurance Cup (League Cup) in his first season. Jones who towers at six feet six inches in height has an eye for goal too, netting eight times last season. Jones has three years remaining on his current contract and the Hibs manager, John Collins, is keen for him to stay. Collins said, "...he is too important to the team to let him go. We have to think about our own team and the way that we want to play."
The official Leeds website quotes Dennis Wise as confirming that his approach has been rejected, "We put an offer in and it got turned down,"
"We're waiting to find out what else they would like really.
"We're trying to get certain players in, and he's one we're interested in.
"We'll wait and see over the next week or so."
Clearly Wise is keen on Jones but in no hurry to splash the cash and he may have good reason to feel quietly confident.
The agent of Jones, Kevin Smith has said that Jones has expressed a desire to return to England and that there was "a lot of bad feeling and disappointment on our side" after Hibs had refused to sell their captain. An unsettled player is bad enough but a captain is too much - witness the appalling behaviour of ex-Leeds United captain Kevin Nicholls last season. The Hibs fans will be sure to let Jones know how they feel about his desire to leave - Leeds fans can empathise with their feelings having watched the likes of crowd-heroes Rio Ferdinand, Harry Kewell and Lee Bowyer all engineer moves away from Leeds United that were solely in their interest.
Collins may already have realised that he cannot keep Jones - even if he stayed he would not be the same presence for the team that he was last season and the fans would be against him - and so now he will be trying squeeze as much as he can from Leeds who are now shorn of most of the effects of the Ridsdale debts. But the highest fee paid for Jones prior to joining Hibs was just £5000. The Leeds offer was rumoured to be £400,000 which is a huge sum for a League One club.
Wages, however, shouldn't be a problem. Hibernian's ground capacity is just 17,500 and a club salary cap tops out at £1750 per week. Leeds United, who had over 24,000 fans watch their first League One home game, will have no problem matching those terms. Last season over 50% of their multi-million pound wage bill was being paid to players no longer at the club - of the remainder Gary Kelly alone was trousering £41,000 per WEEK for sitting on the treatment table. Leeds United's fan base and clean financial start mean that they can offer better deals than almost any club outside the EPL. The Elland Road crowd last Saturday was the biggest outside the EPL and it was higher than four of the games in the Premier League itself.
Like many Leeds United managers over the last five seasons, John Collins may find himself fighting a pointless battle that he cannot win, to keep a player that wants to be elsewhere. His time may be better spent sourcing a replacement for Jones, deciding on his next captain and rallying his fans behind a team that has already seen Scott Brown, Steven Whittaker and Kevin Thomson depart over the summer - at least Rob Jones wouldn't be going to Celtic or Glasgow Rangers like the others!
Rob Jones - Hibs record - season 2006-07
SPL: 34 games 4 goals
SFA Cup: 6 games 1 goal
League Cup: 5 games 3 goals
Other: 4 games
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