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Former AFC Telford United youth stopper pens 'dream' UAE deal

A former AFC Telford United youth goalkeeper has landed a dream professional contract in the United Arab Emirates.

Jude Jones
Jude Jones

Jude Jones, 18, spent two years in the Bucks' junior set-up until last season when he was not offered a deal.

And now the teenager, who lived in Penn in Wolverhampton but whose family originate from Stirchley in Telford, has penned pro terms of burgeoning club Dubai City FC.

Jones, a former Codsall High School student, impressed the English expat-founded club via a virtual trial in London and jetted out to the Middle East on Thursday morning – and could make his debut between the sticks in tomorrow's UAE First Division League clash against Gulf Heroes tomorrow.

Dubai City earned professional status in 2018 and last season won promotion from the Second Division League.

He has signed with the club on a six-month deal with the option of an 18-month extension should he impress.

The youngster has travelled away from his family for the first time and is determined to succeed on his dream in the pro game. Jude's dad Paul admitted the experience will be a culture shock but could not hide his pride in his son's bold step.

"They've took a number of new players on from all over including my lad," Paul said. "To be fair I was quite surprised how calm he is, he's never been away from home on his own.

"To get on a plane on your own for the first time, through customs, it's all new to him. It's a big thing.

"He's been on the phone to me showing me his accommodation, they've got a private gym, swimming pool, 24-hour access to food, everything is as you can imagine out there."

Paul, who is a football coach and worked in Hednesford Town and AFC Telford's academies, explained his son's trial: "A company UK Football Schools put trials on for players from non-league clubs, players who've been released, for clubs all over the world, Cyprus, Malta, those kind of leagues.

"Instead of a one-dimensional route to English category A, B or C academies to make it as a footballer they're given different routes, for kids who have the stomach to leave home.

"The UAE league is the fastest-growing league outside of the Premier League with a lot of money pumped into it.

"He had two trials and then went for a third and they said Dubai City really liked his work rate and his movement and they wanted to sign him."

Dubai are managed by English technical director and head coach Mason Mcclelland, who hails from the north west as was a youth coach at Accrington Stanley, Bolton and Fleetwood before upping sticks for Dubai in 2017.

Jones, who has previously been on Brentford's radar and was close to a US scholarship prior to the pandemic, is hoping to play a key role between the sticks. He endured a difficult time last season after a double knee fracture ruled him out of action for five months, but he has since fought back to fitness.

"I'd like him to be looked at by a club in the UK," said Paul, who is looking to travel out to watch his son next month. "But if he likes it out there, you never know, he might want to take the 18 month (offer) up.

"They've told him he's not there to make the numbers up, he's there to force his way into the first team.

"The games there are televised, there are links and anybody could be watching.

"Dubai is a hub for players and teams, Arsenal are out there training at the moment during the winter break, these teams are staff will be in and around the hotels.

"He's gone off his own back to the trials and decided 'I'm going'. He's playing with players from all over the world, it'll teach him independence, about difference cultures, I'm so proud of him."

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