Part two of our exclusive chat with Dave Jones covers the play-off final and how he reflects on all three Wembley games, a decade or so later.
How did your approach to the Portsmouth game, where you were now very much the underdog, differ from the Barnsley game and how do you reflect on that match?
We didn’t set up to try and stifle, that wasn’t my style. We put a team out to try and win the football match. There’s no point trying to stifle or get a draw because that’s not how the cup works. Don’t forget, there wasn’t many chances in the game and in the end Peter (Enckleman) let one in at his near post. We had a couple of chances too. It was a game that was fought out in the middle of the park and they had players that went on to play for Real Madrid. They were a top side at that time and had some fantastic players.
With the benefit of hindsight, I would have made my full back make a tackle ahead of their goal, but it doesn’t work that way. We’re all wise after the event. Maybe we should have done this or that, but you can’t live your life like that. I think our cup final was the semi-final. Winning the cup would have been a fantastic achievement, but it wasn’t to be.
How does an FA Cup final differ to a play-off final? Which feels like the bigger occasion?
The play-off final has more riding on it because of the amount of money involved and where you will be playing for the next 12 months. The FA Cup is more about history. The tradition of it being on the telly from 11 o’clock in the morning and all the build-up, which I hope we never lose because it’s a fantastic tournament to play in. When you play in a cup final, no one can ever take that away from you.
The play-off final, you’ve just got to win it. Like I said, the more big games you play, the more experience you have and the more you can deal with the occasion. Your nerves may settle quicker, but you never know what the opposition are going to do. If you play a match and you don’t have nerves, there’s something wrong with you.
How do you recall the Blackpool game?
On the day, we knew we were the better team over the course of the season, by a million miles. Joe got a quick goal, then we made a couple of mistakes. That’s the sad thing about it because we knew, player for player, that we were better than them,
Losing Jay Bothroyd so early in the game was a massive blow. I remember feeling at the time that I would rather we lose a goal than him. Why did you favour Kelvin Etuhu rather than Ross McCormack in his place?
These are the decisions where when they come off, you’re labelled a hero. Ross wasn’t at his best in the second half of that season and was not firing on all cylinders by a long, long way. You also go with what you see in training.
How was it facing off against your friend Ian Holloway?
You want to beat them! The friendship is always there, it doesn’t go away, but at the end of the day, it’s my livelihood. I think reporters sometimes forget that. When I’m at a club, you get everything I’ve got. The day I leave, if I have to go back to an old team, I want to beat them. That’s our job.
I was brought up supporting Everton and the last game of the season when I was managing Southampton in the Premier League, they needed to beat us to stay up and we won 2-0. The side they were fighting relegation with also lost and went down, which is just as well because half of my family wouldn’t have talked to me otherwise!
How does losing a cup final compare to losing a play-off final and how hard is it to lift a side after such crushing blows?
When you lose a play-off final, especially to get in to the Premier League, it’s hard to pick the players up. You have to change some things and maybe move a few out because you’ve got to be able to go again. That’s what you have to drum in to the players because if they won’t, you have to find players that will. Losing a play-off final was harder to swallow than losing an FA Cup, but on the day, they’re just as bad as each other. In my career, I’ve been very lucky because I’ve had good times to go with the bad times.
Do you look back on those games with pride, regret or a mix of both? In retrospect, would you have done anything differently?
A mix of both. Did you make the right call? Did you say the right thing? In these big games, you don’t get a second chance, whereas in the league, you always have another game. You always question if you could have been better. Those are the things you draw upon next time you get there. You never know if a player is going to get injured, like Jay, or if you’ll be hard done by. I think playing to our full potential, we could have won that game and I think the players felt that as well.