At his very best Gary Jones was a sublime winger, occasionally untouchable in the way in which he wriggled past opposing defenders with an aura of effortless skill. He had all the technical attributes
to make a name for himself as one of the era’s great showmen: acceleration, change of pace, and an abundance of flair that could ignite the Goodison crowd into raptures. Others, however, said he was tactically naive, a showboater who put individual glory before team effort.
Jones emerged from the Everton youth team in the 1970/71 season, a time when it was proving to be especially fruitful, having seen Mick Lyons and David Johnson progress from the same group. Jones’s solitary appearance came in a 2-1 3-0 home defeat against Wolves of Coventry, the sort of result that epitomised a rare ray of light in a disastrous campaign in which Everton had failed to capitalise upon the previous year’s title victory.
ALTHOUGH JONES made a further five appearances the next season, not until Billy Bingham’s appointment as manager in April 1973 did he make a proper breakthrough, with the new boss favouring the youngster ahead of Jimmy Husband. Although naturally a right-footer, Jones was more effective on the left wing where he could cut inside and wreak havoc. Despite Bingham’s initial faith Jones remained on the periphery of the first team until the 1974/75 season.
Brought back into the side in October 1974, he made an immediate impact, scoring in three consecutive games; after the regular left winger John Connolly broke his leg, he was able to fit into his favoured left-sided position as Everton challenged for the league title.
Yet when Everton’s form faltered over the 1975/76 season, so too did that of the winger, who became increasing mercurial. After being substituted at home to Leeds in March 1976 he publicly criticised Bingham and never again appeared in an Everton shirt.
After a brief spell at Birmingham City, he played in the NASL for Fort Lauderdale Strikers before returning to his native Merseyside to run a pub. Alas nobody ever really made the most of Jones’s talents and the man who was once wistfully likened to George Best slipped quietly into obscurity.