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Triumph and Despair: Dave Jones Football Manager



‘When people say you’re innocent until proven guilty, they’re wrong. You’re guilty until you prove your innocence’: the former Wolves manager on the allegations of child abuse that saw him arrested and out of a job [Interview by Arindam Rej]….Becoming Southampton manager in 1997 was the highlight of my coaching career. I had enjoyed two great years at Stockport, during which we won promotion to Division One and reached the League Cup semi-finals. But, of course, you want to test yourself against the best and that means being in the Premiership. Southampton may not have been the biggest club in the world, but it was a great opportunity. Those first few years weren’t easy, but I kept the club up in difficult circumstances. I felt as if I had established myself as a Premiership manager. I have spent most of my life living in a fish bowl, but I am quite a private person and so is my wife. So when I was arrested, in 2000, having been accused of indecent assault and child cruelty, it felt as if my world had collapsed. I thought it would just be an investigation where I’d fill in the forms, say what I had to say and move on. But the whole thing snowballed. What happened was this. I had taken a job as a social worker in the north-west when my playing days finished in 1985. I took the job because I needed to work; it was as simple as that. The job didn’t turn out to be what I expected. You had to deal with people who had both physical and mental problems. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to work in that environment unless they were truly prepared for it. There is no way I would stop an investigation into child abuse, but when they came to question me I felt that the police were getting carried away, thinking they had caught a very big fish. There were 13 charges against me. Had they investigated the case properly, they would have dismissed each of them out of sight. In truth, the only people who were abused were my own children. Their innocence was snatched from them the day I was accused. I can never really know what my eldest three went through while I was under suspicion. They became fair game for everybody to criticise at school. Being a parent, the biggest pride you have is in protecting your family. I couldn’t do that because I wasn’t being protected myself. My 10-year-old knows nothing about the case. When she’s of the right age, we’ll show her the documentation, the papers and everything else. Having a strong family got me through. My wife’s not just my wife: she’s my best friend. We’ve been together since we were 16 years old and she stood by me more than ever. We would have lived in a caravan and sold everything to get the result we achieved. I’ve never recovered financially from what happened, but we would have spent our last penny to get justice. The people of Southampton were fantastic. You always get the odd crackpot who’s going to say something against you. The phrase ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ is one that I hate now. When people say you’re innocent until proven guilty, that’s wrong. You’re guilty until you can prove your innocence. What the football club did, putting me on ‘gardening leave’, was the worst possible thing. Football kept me occupied and all of a sudden I was sat at home twiddling my thumbs. It doesn’t matter what was going on in my head, it would not have affected my ability to manage. I still talk to Rupert Lowe [the Southampton chairman] on a regular basis because business is business and friendship is friendship. He had a decision to make. However, if he believed there was any truth in what the accusers were saying, I would be very disappointed. Losing my job simply made me more determined to reach the stage in football that I was at before the accusations. I wasn’t going to let people I didn’t know destroy my life and everything I had worked so hard for. That’s why I was so happy when I landed the job at Wolves. The court case was postponed by 11 months; many people involved said it should never have gone that far. I was 99.9 per cent sure it would collapse, but part of me wanted my day in court. Sadly, we never got that far because my accusers couldn’t go through with their lies. If you lie, you have to remember exactly what you have said. They didn’t. I was happy with the outcome and what the judge said. There was no evidence against me. Two of my accusers returned to jail. I blame them and the police for the death of my father and I can’t forget that. He fell ill when the news of my arrest broke and went into a coma. I spoke to one of the policemen and asked him what was going on [in the case] but he just dismissed me as though it was nothing. I never got to speak to my dad after that. It was as if the police believed these people and not me. I hope the police one day go through what I went through and see how they like it, because they treated me as if I was dirt. It makes me so angry when I think of how I used to respect the police. I was lucky because people had faith in me and because I could start to rebuild my life. But I know one man whose life was ruined because he went to prison on the basis of lies. I never once lied and being completely honest stood me in good stead. That’s something my wife and I preach to our children. Trust is another thing I have learnt to rely on and I found out who my true friends were. I can never forgive my accusers. Nor shall I ever forgive the police for what they put me through. The life factsDave Jones was born in 1956. He signed for Everton as a teenager and later played for Coventry and Preston. Shortly after retiring, he took a job as a social worker. In 1995, he became manager of Stockport County, but left in 1997 to take charge of Southampton. In January 2000, he was suspended on full pay when allegations of child abuse were made against him. After being cleared, he became manager of Wolves, leading them to promotion to the Premiership in 2003. He was sacked in November.

The Observer