The day Lynn's keeper squared up to Ronaldo and Scholes
- Credit: PA
Paul Jones knows all about the FA Cup – the King's Lynn Town keeper has ‘history’ with some of the game’s biggest names. Ahead of Lynn’s first round tie against Walsall, he spoke to Chris Lakey
Paul Jones is a quiet man – even though he has quite a story to tell when it comes to the FA Cup.
Jones was on work experience at Exeter City, then playing in the Conference, when the Grecians were drawn away to Manchester United in a third-round tie in 2005.
Old Trafford, a packed house of 67,551. A United team containing the likes of Phil Neville, Wes Brown and Gerard Pique. A team which, in need of a goal, brought on Paul Scholes and a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
But it was a United team that couldn’t get past 18-year-old Jones.
It finished goal-less – the fact Jones was beaten by Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in a 2-0 replay defeat doesn’t tarnish the size of Exeter’s achievement.
“I was only 18 at the time and at that age you don’t have any fear,” says the one-time Norwich City keeper, rather matter-of-factly.
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“I had only just signed for Exeter, from Leyton Orient and it was the fourth or fifth match of my professional career. At the time it was massive for Exeter because they were struggling financially and getting to the third round sorted them right out.
“It was all a bit surreal, going to Old Trafford and coming away with a 0-0 draw and a replay.”
What about nerves?
“I wasn’t nervous, not one bit of nerves, genuinely.
"We obviously got to half-time 0-0 and we expected an onslaught in the second half. They have scoreboard with a clock and it was facing me the whole of the second half. It was in the left-hand far corner and I could see it and you could just see it ticking away, minute by minute.
“They made a double substitution (bringing on Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes) and you thought, ‘here we go, they’re going to up it a step now’.
“But I wasn’t actually that busy that day. Sometimes you have those type of ties and the keeper does well on the day – but anything I had to do was just routine. If I hadn’t dealt with anything thrown at me that day I would have been disappointed.”
Exeter lost the replay – Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney getting the goals.
“What I would say is that Ronaldo then wasn’t the Ronaldo he is now,” said Jones. “You have to remember that; he was young, like me at the time, not the superstar he is now.”
Lynn won at Port Vale in the first round last year and face another League Two side, at The Walks.
Despite Lynn’s indifferent league form, Jones - who joined Lynn in the summer - is in confident mood.
“I definitely think it’s winnable,” he said. “It’s the old cliché isn’t it - it’s a one-off cup game, anything can happen. There is no pressure on us, there is nothing to prove. It is winner takes it all - I think we are more than capable.”
Lynn slipped into the National League relegation zone this week, they have lost their last four league games and haven’t scored in any of them. Jones believes their football deserves better.
“I think some of the football we have played has been outstanding,” he said. “There are a lot of new faces who have come in so it is about gelling together - I don’t think the performances have been bad. But it is not about performances, it is about winning and results haven’t come at the moment and it is up to change that around.
"The group is hurting a lot because of results and we are working so hard to put it right. The performances have deserved more points than we have got.
"I am really hurting that I haven’t kept a clean sheet - I have never had that at this stage of a season so we need to find a way of keeping clean sheets and if we can do that I think the results will flow.”
Left wing-back Tyler Denton will miss the game, while Cameron King remains sidelined, but manager Ian Culverhouse says the rest of his squad are fit for selection.