You feel locked up – Jodi Jones compares injury struggles to being ‘in jail’

Coventry City v Nottingham Forest – Sky Bet Championship – Coventry Building Society Arena
(Image credit: Bradley Collyer)

Jodi Jones would be forgiven for being bitter.

Three serious knee injuries have robbed him of nearly four years.

The Coventry winger has battled mental demons as well as his physical ones but has refused to buckle.

Since 2017 a trio of anterior cruciate ligament injuries have threatened his career and while Jones has a remarkably positive outlook, it does not mean he has not returned from a dark place.

Peterborough United v Coventry City – Pre-Season Friendly – London Road

Jones is fit again and helping Coventry surprise in the Championship (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“I was definitely depressed but I wasn’t one of those people to come out and talk about it,” he told the PA news agency.

“I wouldn’t know how to go about it and I wouldn’t want people to think, ‘oh, he just wants people to feel sorry for him.’

“My mum said if I needed her to get someone to speak to me she could do that.

“Because of the guy I am I tend not to go that way, I don’t want other people to worry. They have got enough to worry about. I felt it was selfish to chuck a problem onto them.

“There were a lot of tears. I’m not afraid to tell people because it was a horrible time.

“My girlfriend, Zoe, lives with me so it’s going to impact her. My mum, godparents, friends… they all know all I wanted to be was a footballer.

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“It hurt even more to pick up the phone and give them more bad news because they don’t know what to say.

“My mum and dad aren’t together but she held it in and rang my dad, spoke to him and said he cried too. I don’t think he knows I know that but they both cried on the phone.

“There have been so many days where I just cried. The third time I sat crying on my landing and said to my girlfriend, ‘I can’t believe it’.”

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His first ACL injury came against Stevenage in November 2017, the second – again to his left knee – was just over a year later and 10 games into his comeback at Peterborough.

A heartbreaking third, this time to his right knee in training, happened in September 2020 and left Jones, who has played just 15 times in four years, bereft.

“I was never going to harm myself, I never felt that way, but there were times where I couldn’t be bothered any more,” he said.

“I told one of my friends I couldn’t be bothered with life any more, I was too stressed, so him and another friend drove up that day and chilled with me.

“There were days where I didn’t even want to deal with it, just not do anything.”

Dagenham & Redbridge v Whitehawk FC – Emirates FA Cup – Second Round – Chigwell Construction Stadium

Jones made his debut for Dagenham as a teenager in 2015 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Now, though, Jones is comfortable speaking about his feelings. He describes himself as stubborn but, once he started talking – including to Lisa, a psychologist at the club – a weight lifted.

He cherishes the influence of Zoe, who would get up at 2am to fetch ice when he had woken in agony.

His mum Frances, dad Jay, godparents Terry and Geraldine and Brendan and Emma Spain, who he was living with when his first injury happened, have all been there for him.

Coventry boss Mark Robins and assistant Adi Viveash have also been a constant support – Jones received two new contracts while he was recovering – during a time where the 23-year-old called himself “helpless”.

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“I used to say to everyone when I came back from the injuries if I could compare it to something I would be like being in jail, coming out and going back in,” said Jones, who has made 88 appearances, scoring seven times, for the Sky Blues having joined from Dagenham in 2016.

“You feel locked up, you can’t do anything and I felt like I was going on adventures in my house.

“If I did go downstairs I’d have to take a backpack with me and put everything in it: food, my PlayStation, I’d carry a bucket of ice.”

That Jones’ first injury occurred when Coventry were sixth in Sky Bet League Two underlines their progression and what he has missed.

Yet it is clear he is at ease with his past, which allows him to focus on the future with Coventry surprising most to sit third in the Championship ahead of Saturday’s trip to Blackburn.

Coventry City v Exeter City – Sky Bet League Two – Final – Wembley Stadium

Jones watched while Coventry climbed from League Two to the Championship (Steven Paston/PA)

Jones has three appearances for the Sky Blues this term and has made all but two squads having signed a new one-year deal in the summer.

“I maybe took football for granted when I wasn’t injured. Now the best thing is to play injury free,” he said.

“I was unlucky but some people are homeless, someone’s been diagnosed with cancer today. I had to keep reminding myself there are a lot of things going on in the world which are terrible. I’ve grown up a lot.

“It is hard to put it into words but, then, some days I think I can write a book about it.”

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