The Imps have secured the first signing of the summer by luring Crewe Alexandra midfielder James Jones to Sincil Bank on a three year deal.
The 24-year-old former Scotland Under 21 international was revealed earlier today as a target for the Imps, having rejected new terms with David Artell’s Crewe. The official club statement said:
“We are delighted to announce that midfielder James Jones has joined the Imps ahead of the 2020/21 campaign signing a 3-year deal with the club.
The former Scotland U21 international has joined the club on a free transfer from Crewe Alexandra following the expiration of his contract at The Alexandra Stadium.”
Talking about his move, the midfielder said: “I’m delighted to sign for this club and after speaking with the gaffer and Jez, it was a no brainer. The more I found out about the club, the more it seemed like the perfect fit and this was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”
He explained his style of play, which is very much like that of Joe Morrell.
“I’m a box to box midfielder and I’ll always give 100%. I like to get on the ball, run in behind and chip in with goals and assists but I also get back and do my defending too. The manager likes to develop young players which was a big selling point for me. As an away player playing here in the past, it’s a tough place to come and there is a great atmosphere here. Playing in front of the Lincoln fans is something that I’m really looking forward to and I can’t wait to get going.”
Quotes from new signings can be very generic and there’s little there we didn’t expect. However, it isn’t purely lip service either; we do have great fans and a super atmosphere. It’s also interesting he mentions young players at 24 and with almost 200 senior appearances behind him, he is going to be one of our more experienced players.
Michael Appleton is also delighted to have landed his first target of the summer.
“James is a midfielder who scores and creates goals which will give us a different dynamic in the middle of midfield. He’s also at a great age with plenty of games under his belt, he’s ready to kick on and be an asset to this club. We are really pleased to get this deal over the line and look forward to working with him ahead of next season”.
Chairman Clive Nates has also added his thoughts on the signing, claiming Jones has exactly the right ambition. “This signing fits our recruitment model perfectly and James is the exact profile of player that Michael (Appleton) wanted to add to the squad.”
“James is an accomplished player at this level and it’s unusual for someone of his ability, age and experience to be available as a free agent. He is a player with aspirations of playing in the Championship which matches our ambition and we are thrilled that James has chosen to join us as we look forward to the 2020/21 campaign.”
Jones came through the youth ranks at Crewe, making his debut at the age of 18 in League One. He appeared 26 times that season, scoring once, following it up with 32 appearances in 2015/16 as Crewe were relegated. He excelled in the 2016/17 season, bagging 11 goals from 50 outings and earning himself a £300,000 move to Preston, or so it seemed. The move collapsed as he suffered a prolonged recovery from a hernia operation. He resumed light training and made six appearances before he suffered a medial ligament injury in training and was ruled out for the season.
Despite that set back, Jones earned a two-year deal in May 2018 and has since appeared 71 times for Crewe, scoring eight goals.
There will be obvious comparisons with Morrell here, a player who came through the academy of his local club and who has senior experience. Remember, Morrell came to us having only played for Sutton and Cheltenham before us, so a player coming out of League Two is not a bad thing. I’ve heard lots of positive stuff from Crewe fans already, talk of him being Championship standard if he stays fit. We know in the past, the likes of Michael O’Connor and Neal Eardley have come here with dubious fitness records and been big players and Jones has youth on his side.
Jones has played much of the season on the right side of a three man midfield for Crewe, with a license to get forward, but not overall responsibility. His return in terms of goals and assists was modest, two of each, although he did bag an assist in their final game, a 3-1 win against Exeter. That game put them top of the table, a position they relinquished on the PPG model, but it was a vital result.
His stats certainly back up his claims to be a box to box midfielder; his passing accuracy topped 80% last season which was very impressive. He played 11.57 forward passes per game as well as 6.5 into the final third. Crucially, he created 0.87 shots per game for teammates, which points to his ability in and around the area as a creative force. Those figures stand up to Joe Morrell, who played 8.39 passes into the final third, 15 forward and created 0.85 shots per game for teammates.
That is where the comparison will stop for me; Jones is a player in his own right and one I know Crewe are very sad to lose. It has been a long while since Lincoln City have been able to tempt players away from promoted clubs, even under DC we were attractive but perhaps not in a position to poach the top players from successful teams. It isn’t a big change in emphasis, but today’s signing is a great start to a summer that doesn’t promise to be all sweetness and roses.
Fans of both the Imps and Crewe have take to social media to welcome Jones, with the best of their responses below after a word from the man himself.
— James Jones (@_JamesJones96) July 6, 2020
Finally we can have abit of enjoyment after a few crappy months. Welcome James ❤️⚪️
— Live 4now 4get forever (@lincslass86) July 6, 2020
— Alan Power is an Imp (@HeHatesGrimsby) July 6, 2020
Class one you’ve got there, hard worker, beautiful pass on him
— Ed Cole (@edcole04) July 6, 2020
top player who’s gives his all, all the best jonah x
— Shaun Dog (@shaunwoof) July 6, 2020
Keep him fit hes top draw, gutted to see him go
— Will Saunders (@wts1990) July 6, 2020
Need this quality in the middle. Class signing 👏👏 #UTI
— Aaron KD Bourn (@AKDB_MCFC) July 6, 2020