Australian goalkeeper gets his chance to start the FA Cup semi-final with Reina and Doni suspended for the match.
Brad Jones is the third man for Liverpool
In one respect, Brad Jones owes his place at Wembley Stadium today to Pepe Reina and Alexander Doni. In another, he owes it to Roy Hodgson. And in a third, it is due to Michel Platini.
This is the strange case of Liverpool's third-choice goalkeeper who became the fourth man do don the gloves in 125 minutes of football. On April 1, Reina was sent off in the 83rd minute and replaced by left-back Jose Enrique. Doni put in one game but was dismissed in the 25th minute at Blackburn on Tuesday.
That brought on Jones, the man from one of the world's most remote big cities who counts as a homegrown player.
At the start of last season, Uefa implemented a regulation, pushed by Platini, that each club's 25-man squad could contain a maximum of 17 imports. After years of Rafa Benitez's recruitment, Liverpool were short of domestic players. Reina's previous deputy, the Brazilian Diego Cavalieri was leaving, and a search for suitable replacement involved reference to the rule book.
And while Jones was born in Perth, Western Australia, and speaks with a distinct Antipodean twang, he qualified. Having joined Middlesbrough in 1999, recommended to the manager Bryan Robson by Peter Shilton, he came through the youth system at the Riverside Stadium. His only regular Premier League football came in the 2008/09 campaign, when Middlesbrough were relegated.
His 2010 arrival at Anfield, signed by Hodgson for £2.2 million (Dh12.9m), was less a part of team-building than filling quotas even if, for Jones, a Liverpool fan with ancestors from Merseyside, it was an ambition realised. But if the reserve goalkeeper is a spare part at most clubs, that is especially so at Liverpool. Reina played 183 consecutive league games before his red card at Newcastle led to Doni's first match with Liverpool.
Doni's sending off at Ewood Park brought Jones's belated league debut, 20 months after joining. While he lines up at Wembley today, it should be a far cry from his only previous domestic cup tie for Liverpool. It was one of the most embarrassing in Liverpool's history as they exited the Carling Cup, at Anfield, to a Northampton side 85th in the league ladder.
Defeat came on penalties, a theme of his brief Liverpool career. Jones's first touch of the ball in the league was a spot-kick save from Blackburn's Yakubu. He subsequently conceded another, which Yakubu converted, in a nervy display in which his wayward and unconvincing kicking is likely to have attracted the attention of the watching David Moyes.
In the aftermath, there was a greater focus on Jones's personal life rather than his professional capabilities. Last year, his five-year-old son Luca died of leukaemia. Last week, another son, Nico, was born.
"What's happened to Brad would have tested most people and he's come through it a very strong character," said Kenny Dalglish. "We can only guess what it must be like to go through what he's been through."
They are reasons why there will be a groundswell of goodwill for the unassuming Australian, catapulted into a game he seemed likelier to watch from the stands than the bench and facing one of his closest friends, Everton's Tim Cahill. Semi-finals, however, are rarely determined on sentiment.
Liverpool tried and failed with an appeal for Doni's red card this week, that would have enabled him to start ahead of Jones, and the Anfield club have recalled Peter Gulacsi, from loan at Hull City, presumably as back-up for Jones.
The bonus for Jones is that while Liverpool are depleted in one department, they are strengthened in another. They collected the Carling Cup on their last trip to Wembley, but Daniel Agger fractured a rib.
This should be his first start since then and Liverpool's defensive record is vastly superior when the Dane plays; in the league, they concede a goal every 68 minutes without him, one every 99 minutes when he is on the pitch.
Yet the presence of an untried goalkeeper gives Everton an incentive to attack.
They have beaten their neighbours only three times in David Moyes's decade-long reign and can be accused of harbouring an inferiority complex towards a club with a far bigger budget and greater expectations. Yet Everton arrive at Wembley as Merseyside's leading representatives in the league and, in Tim Howard, with their regular goalkeeper.
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