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Vinnie Jones on being Wales Captain and losing 7-1 to Holland

- Created: 11:15, 11th May 2020 | Last updated: 09:53, 2nd June 2020

Vinnie Jones is writing a new weekly column on called By The Balls. The Ex-footballer and Hollywood actor will be giving his unbiased, straight-to-the-point opinions on all that is happening in the world of sport every Tuesday.

The light at the end of the tunnel is shining a touch brighter now - just a touch, mind.

I know you guys in the UK will stay sensible and take it one step at a time, but we’re moving in the right direction. Fingers crossed we’ll be watching top-flight football again soon. Liverpool will be crowned champions - and Leeds will go up!

I’m sure you all celebrated VE Day in the right way. I spoke to the family over there and people were in their gardens, keeping their distance, but saying thanks in their own way to those who made such sacrifices in World War II.

It was all very patriotic - and everyone knows I wear my heart on my sleeve. I always gave everything for my teams and there was usually a tattoo involved, too.

Certainly, one of the proudest moments of my career was when I was called up to play for Wales, although it might have been the Republic of Ireland first!

Jack Charlton apparently wanted me and we scrambled around trying to find Nanny Harris’s birth certificate - she was born in Dublin. But everything had been destroyed in a fire - so it was left to my grandad Arthur Jones to come up trumps.

Grandad was Welsh. He’d been born in a workhorse in Wales before moving to England - and to Watford where the family settled and I was eventually born. But those Welsh roots helped Wimbledon have a new international footballer on their books!

I’d been made captain by Joe Kinnear who’d signed me back to the club from Chelsea. It was a pretty decent contract for that time and, while I didn't want to leave the Blues, coming back to Plough Lane was great - especially as the captain of a Premier League side.

So professionally things were going well - and being selected to play for Wales really was the icing on the cake. 

I learnt the national anthem and helped a few others along the way - Mark Crossley being one of them. Crozz is a mate and him belting out Land Of My Fathers in his broad Barnsley accent was something to behold - although I can't talk!

I actually captained Wales once - although I’m not sure it’ll go down as one of the high points in Welsh footballing history. We lost 7-1.

We were always up against it, though. It was a World Cup qualifier in 1996 - against Holland no less - and the usual captain Barry Horne was out injured. So instead of picking another captain to replace him, the gaffer Bobby Gould called a vote.

He got all the players together and we each passed him a note. I’m not sure Bobby thought I’d make the ideal captain - I’d been sent off in only my fourth game for Wales against Georgia, and missed five games suspended - but the players voted for me.

So to the game - and you can picture the scene Holland v Wales in Eindhoven. The Wales team in those days were just like Wimbledon - always the outsiders, always up against it, always the underdogs - and now we’re facing one of the best Dutch teams ever.

In the tunnel, I’m at the front next to Frank de Boer. Behind him is Edwin van der Sar in goal, then you’ve got Frank’s brother Ronald - then Clarence Seedorf, then Jaap Stam, then Dennis Bergkamp. There were easier games to be captain.

We couldn't win. It was just about keeping it respectable. We were three-nil down and just trying to keep them at bay - then Dean Saunders only goes and scores. That was the worst thing we could do.

There was no letting up now - they came back roaring - and goals number four, five, six and seven completed the rout. They were knocking it around like a training exercise - and ‘Big Nev’ (Neville Southall) in goal was still our man of the match!

I’ll always have fond memories of my time with Wales - and there’s always stories to tell, even right from my debut when I almost missed the match - a Euro qualifier at Cardiff - because I didn't have my passport with me.

You needed it for international matches back then - even for home games - but thankfully neither had ‘Sparky’ (Mark Hughes). Anyway they moved heaven and earth to make sure Sparky played - he was vital - and I was just riding on the back of his coat-tails.

I might never had played for Wales again had I been kept in my suit in the stands.

Anyway, I played and that started a nine-game international career for me, which should have been more but for the suspension. They were great days and I have a dragon and feathers tattoo on my chest. It took three hours - and cost £150!

In the meantime people, keep safe and stay alert.

It will soon be emotional again!




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