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Meet the Englishman who is plotting England’s downfall at the World Cup

The Geordie had a job delivering mail while playing non-league football but now he is Red Devils' boss Roberto Martinez's No2

For one-time postman Graeme Jones, June 28 will be a red letter day.

The Geordie had a job delivering mail while playing non-league football — but is now a first-class coach working for Belgium as Roberto Martinez’s No 2.

And it means Jones is putting his stamp on a team his home country will meet in a potential World Cup Group G decider.

Graeme Jones is the former postman who could end up hurting England’s World Cup dreams

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Graeme Jones is the former postman who could end up hurting England’s World Cup dreams

The ex-striker, 48, said: “When the draw was made, I was absolutely delighted.

“As a kid, I wanted to play for England, then obviously you hope one day to work for them.

“That hasn’t happened so to compete against them is going to be great fun instead. But it’s also going to be difficult as I’m a proud Englishman.

Graeme Jones is Roberto Martinez’s No2 and part of the same Belgium coaching staff

PA:Press Association
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Graeme Jones is Roberto Martinez’s No2 and part of the same Belgium coaching staff

“I love the national anthem and the minute I hear that I’m going to want to join in!

“But I don’t think it’s respectful to Belgium and Belgian people and my job — and that’s my priority.”

Graeme Jones is a proud Englishman but has no worries about trying to derail England

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Graeme Jones is a proud Englishman but has no worries about trying to derail England

It will certainly be a proud day for Gateshead-born Jones, whose brother Elliot, wife Debbie and sons, Jacob, 21, and Isaac, 19, will be in the stands in Kaliningrad.


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He said: “They’re all English through and through but support me first and foremost.

“They will be in Belgium shirts, with England shirts underneath!”

Sadly for Jones, his parents will not be present.

He lost his mum, Rita, to cancer in 1991 and his dad, Ray, also died the same way two years ago.

SunSport’s David Coverdale met Graeme Jones, who was once a postman in his younger days

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SunSport’s David Coverdale met Graeme Jones, who was once a postman in his younger days

Jones said: “I miss them. They were unique people.

“I never stop thinking about them. They were a huge part of my life.”

It was through his dad that Jones found work after he was released by Millwall aged 18 and moved back to the North East to play in non-league for Newcastle Blue Star.

He said: “My dad was trying to give me some direction and work to earn some money. I worked with him as an insulation engineer.

Greame Jones is now part of Belgium’s set-up and trying to bring out the best in the likes of Michy Batshuayi

PA:Press Association
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Greame Jones is now part of Belgium’s set-up and trying to bring out the best in the likes of Michy Batshuayi

“We went out to places and lined their pipes, insulated lofts. It wasn’t nice — I didn’t enjoy it.

“I was coming home at 8pm, had my tea and before you blink, you’re going to sleep and doing the same thing the next day.

“It went on 2½ years and then I was a postman for two four-month spells.


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“I used to get up at 4.45am and had to be in the sorting office in Gateshead at 5.30am.

“Because I was a temp, I used to have to fill in for people who were off, so my round was never the same.

“You couldn’t find streets, you couldn’t find houses, so my days used to go on until 4pm or 5pm.

“But the sorting office was like a football dressing room. Lots of people who want to have a craic and a laugh. I enjoyed it.”

Graeme Jones met Roberto Martinez during his playing days at Wigan

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Graeme Jones met Roberto Martinez during his playing days at Wigan

At the same time, Jones was doing the rounds in the North East — moving from Newcastle Blue Star to North Shields.

Then it was on to Bridlington, where he won the FA Vase at Wembley in 1993.

He finally earned his first pro contract later that summer with Doncaster Rovers, before moving to Wigan three years later — where he met Martinez.

Sitting in Belgium’s team hotel in Tubize, 15 miles south of Brussels, Jones said: “We hit it off instantly. You are talking about a guy from Gateshead and a guy from Balaguer in Spain — it’s just poles apart.

“But one pre-season, me and Roberto just paired up when we were stretching and we had a connection from that day on.

“We’d never played on a football pitch together — but it then transferred on to the pitch.

 

Belgium’s squad is one of the strongest at the World Cup

FRANCOIS LENOIR
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Belgium’s squad is one of the strongest at the World Cup

“We’d never played on a football pitch together — but it then transferred on to the pitch.

“Then two years into my spell at Wigan, I decided to move my family back to the North East and Roberto invited me to stay at his house twice a week.

“We’d go out for something to eat and talk football and talk football — it’s never really changed 20 years on.”

Jones would go on to play for St Johnstone, Southend, Boston, Bury, Clyde and Hamilton Academical, scoring 106 goals in a career he calls “satisfying”.

But it is meeting Martinez that helped make him a coach, with the Spaniard taking him to Swansea, Wigan, Everton and Belgium, where he shares assistant duties with Thierry Henry.

Graeme Jones will be hoping to give Kevin De Bruyne and Michy Batshuayi some help in defeating England

FRANCOIS LENOIR
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Graeme Jones will be hoping to give Kevin De Bruyne and Michy Batshuayi some help in defeating England

Now Jones, who did his Pro Licence with England boss Gareth Southgate and holds managerial ambitions of his own, admits he is loving life with the star-studded Red Devils squad.

And despite spending most of his playing days in the lower leagues, he is not overawed.

Jones insisted: “I don’t think like that. They are human beings like the rest of us but they are also good boys.


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“That’s been the biggest pleasant surprise – how together they are. They’ve an incredible bond.”

Belgium’s best World Cup performance was reaching the semi-finals in 1986.

But with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku in their side, some are tipping them to win in Russia.

Graeme Jones admitted his patriotism will go out of the window come the World Cup

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Graeme Jones admitted his patriotism will go out of the window come the World Cup

So can they? Jones replied: “Why not? But remember Belgium have never been there before, so we are going to have to take steps into the unknown.

“We are going to have to go beyond the quarters, where this group of players have been in the last two major tournaments.

“And then the momentum will grow — and confidence will grow with that.

“The one thing for certain is we’ve got the ability.”

The World Cup trophy? Now that would be a special delivery.


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