Swans and Dragons: Cliff Jones

27th March 2018
Club

In a regular website feature, we look back at former Swansea City players who have also turned out for Wales at full international level.

In 1962 – and at the peak of his playing career – Swansea-born winger Cliff Jones was reportedly the subject of a then world-record transfer offer from Juventus worth over £100,000.

Tottenham Hotspur, his employers at the time, rejected the bid with manager Bill Nicholson describing the player as “priceless”.

Jones is one of the greatest left-sided players the British game has seen and his potential was obvious from an early age.

After starring for Swansea Schoolboys, the talented youngster originally joined the club as a groundsman, before making his first-team debut against Bury as a 17-year-old in 1952.

Then, just 25 matches into his career at Vetch Field, he made his senior international debut for Wales against Austria in May 1954.

On Jones’ second appearance for the Dragons, he scored what he described as the best goal of his career in their 2-1 victory over England at Ninian Park in October 1955.

It was the first of 16 strikes in 59 appearances for his country.

Perhaps the most important of those goals came in Wales’ 4-0 aggregate victory over Israel in a World Cup play-off in February 1958, as they booked their place at the finals for the first – and to date only – time.

It was a busy month for Jones, who moved to Tottenham shortly after the Israel game for £35,000 – a then record fee for a winger. The transfer brought down the curtain on his Swans career after 47 goals in 168 league appearances.

The so-called ‘Welsh Wizard’ made his Spurs debut against, of all clubs, Arsenal in a 4-4 draw at Highbury that month.

Spurs finished third in the league in the 1957-58 season, with Jones missing just two matches along the way.

The summer saw him head to Sweden as part of Jimmy Murphy’s 22-man squad alongside club-mates Mel Hopkins and Terry Medwin, as well as Swans players Mel Charles and Ivor and Len Allchurch.

The tournament was a major success for Wales and Jones, who started each of the Dragons’ five matches.

Draws with Hungary, Mexico and hosts Sweden saw Wales finish second in Group 3, while their 2-1 victory over the Hungarians in the subsequent play-off sent them through to the quarter-finals.

There, Wales were beaten 1-0 by Brazil, with a 17-year-old Pele scoring the winner.

In October 1958, Bill Nicholson replaced Jimmy Anderson at Tottenham, a move which heralded the start of a glorious period for the North London club.

Three years later, Spurs became the first side in the 20th century to win the double, securing both the Football League title and FA Cup.

Jones played a major part in this success, scoring 15 goals in 29 league appearances that campaign and making many more assists, while he also netted four times in six FA Cup matches.

Jones collected two more FA Cup winners’ medals during his time at White Hart Lane, in 1962 and 1967.

Spurs also became the first English club to win a major continental trophy after beating Atletico Madrid 5-1 in the 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup final.

In April that year, Jones became the 10th player in Welsh history to score a hat-trick for the national team in their 4-1 thrashing of Northern Ireland in Belfast.

Only four players have scored three or more goals in a match for Wales since.

He also netted in his last victory for Wales, a 5-0 triumph over the Northern Irish at Windsor Park in March 1965.

He departed Tottenham for Fulham during the 1968-69 season, netting in his last match for Spurs as they drew 2-2 with Manchester United in October.

Two weeks later, he made his final competitive appearance for Wales in a World Cup qualifier against Italy in Cardiff.

The Prince of Wales Investiture match was Jones’ last for the Dragons, who went down 1-0 to a ‘Rest of the UK’ side that included legendary figures of the game such as Pat Jennings, Jack Charlton, John Greig, Billy Bremner and George Best.

It was a fitting international send-off for a player who had the right to feel at home amongst that calibre of opponents.

After scoring twice in 25 league appearances for Fulham, Jones retired as a professional footballer.

He briefly played at non-league level before embarking on a new career as a PE teacher at a North London comprehensive school.

Now aged 83, he still works for Tottenham Hotspur as a corporate host on matchdays – and remains a big fan of the Swans.