Saturday, 7th Jul 2007 19:39
Tributes from this website and those in the game to our late, great striker, Ray Jones.
Ray Jones 1988 - 2007
"Here comes Ward, saw the gap, that's a lovely ball… and Queens Park Rangers have the goal. It's Ray Jones the teenager."
It's a piece of commentary I must have heard a hundred times by now, a clip on my Sky box that picked me up when I was low and gave me strength and hope for the future. However bad things got for our club, however crap the team was, however many games we lost there was this boy in our squad who offered hope.
Ray Jones was everything we ever wanted our youth system to produce. A big, strapping, powerful lad who ran all day and gave defenders migraines. He played with no fear, crawled all over his opponents and led the line like a seasoned professional when he played. One Friday night in Cardiff a delicious ball to the back post by Nick Ward set the scene and suddenly this fabulous specimen entered stage right. Unmarked, in space, and ready to win the game Jones slid that ball home with consummate ease.
A matter of weeks earlier 3000 QPR fans had one of those crazy hug-a-stranger-moments at Southampton when Ray chased a lost cause down to the corner, mugged Kelvin Davis and quite brilliantly slid home a goal from wide on the right flank and an almost impossible angle.
John Gregory hadn't seemed too impressed with him of late but with England Under 19 caps and six first team goals to his name already you got the impression it was only a matter of time before he burst back onto the scene in a big way. Rangers fended off bids from Colchester for him this summer, and rumoured approaches from Spurs, and it was easy to see why he attracted such interest with a beautiful natural ability to control a ball and a vision unrivalled in the QPR side.
Few who were there will ever forget him bounding on from the bench almost a year ago to the day when a home game with Leeds looked to be slipping away from Rangers. He turned the contest back in our favour that night with a frightening display of skill and power and in the end we lamented the loss of two points rather than celebrating the gaining of one - such was the impact he made that night.
Last winter the Northern R's sat three rows from the front at Crystal Palace, a matter of feet away from Ray as he played in an unfamiliar left wing roll. Rangers were beaten 3-0 and were rubbish but Ray really looked the part - strong, powerful, pacey and impressive. We all had such high hopes.
That was Ray Jones the footballer. A young boy who gave football fans like me something to look forward to. Somewhere tonight family and friends are mourning the loss of Ray Jones the human being, Ray Jones the man. Our thoughts are with them, and the friends and loved ones of the other two young people Idris Olasupo and Jess Basilva killed in the same accident.
The three of them lost their lives at twenty past midnight on Saturday morning when the car they were travelling lost control and crashed on East Ham High Street. Ray Jones would have been 19 on Tuesday.
Of all the tributes paid today Adam Bolder's said it best for me.
"Ray was one of us. A footballer with a passion to succeed for himself and for Queens Park Rangers Football Club. It goes without saying that Ray was the most gifted player at the Club. He had fantastic raw ability and was destined for a very bright future, both at Club and international level. "He was a great character, a very popular figure in the dressing room and he will be sadly missed. Words can't really express how we all feel at the moment, but our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this sad time.
"It is a tragedy that we are all struggling to come to terms with, but we will pick ourselves up and play our hearts out for Ray. Every kick, every shot, every tackle will be for him. He was one of us and he will never be forgotten. May he rest in peace."
I'm sure all QPR fans would like to thank Burnley FC who have behaved so fantastically today and held an open training session in place of the scheduled Championship match with all proceeds from collections at the ground going to a charity of the Jones family's choice.
Our thoughts are with the family at this time. Rest in peace Ray, we will miss you.
Tributes from within the game
We are all deeply shocked and saddened by the news regarding the untimely death of Ray Jones.Ray was one of us. A footballer with a passion to succeed for himself and for Queens Park Rangers Football Club.
It goes without saying that Ray was the most gifted player at the Club. He had fantastic raw ability and was destined for a very bright future, both at Club and international level. He was a great character, a very popular figure in the dressing room and he will be sadly missed.
Words can't really express how we all feel at the moment, but our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this sad time.
It is a tragedy that we are all struggling to come to terms with, but we will pick ourselves up and play our hearts out for Ray. Every kick, every shot, every tackle will be for him. He was one of us and he will never be forgotten.
May he rest in peace.
- Club Captain Adam Bolder
"Ray was a beautiful boy. He was a fantastic person, with a big, big heart.
"He was only 18 years of age and had his best footballing years in front of him. He was already a hero amongst QPR supporters and he had the potential to go on and become a legend.
"I remember he was the star of the show in my first few weeks here. He scored the first goal of my reign against Hull City and then notched a typical Ray Jones goal against Southampton a week later.
"He really did have the footballing world at his feet and the fact he can't go on and fulfil the undoubted potential he had is a tragedy in itself. It's hit everyone at the Football Club really hard. The players are absolutely devastated.
"Ray was one of the most popular figures in the dressing room. No-one ever had a bad word to say about him and that for me says everything you need to know about Ray Jones, the person and the footballer.
"It's a tragic loss and our sympathies and condolences go out to his family and friends at this awful time."
-Manager John Gregory
This is just unbelievable news. I spent a lot of time with him and he had what it takes to go right to the top. He was a fantastic lad. He worked hard at his game and had a smile for everyone. My condolences and those of everyone at QPR go to his family. He will be terribly missed.
- Gareth Ainsworth
We are all shocked and saddened by the news. It's a huge loss for this Football Club. Ray had the world of football at his feet and he will be sorely missed by everyone connected to Queens Park Rangers. Our thoughts at this time are with his family and friends and we will be doing everything we can to help them through this terrible time.
- Gianni Paladini
The first time I saw Ray Jones, I knew there was something very special there.
He was playing park football when myself and John O'Brien, who was the recruitment officer at QPR, came across him. I said to John: 'Just look at that kid. He's 15 years old, he's huge and plays like a 24-year-old. We've got to sign him.'
Ray had such natural ability, great touch and great strength.
I knew it would take a while for a boy of that size to grow into his body but there was no doubt in my mind I was looking at a star in the making.
I was always convinced that once he got through the teenage years he'd be absolutely unstoppable
And I knew for sure that he could go right to the top when I met his mum. She was such a superb mother. She was so level-headed and so dedicated to Ray, and determined for him to do well.
I thought at that point we had things sewn up at both ends. I'd look after him at QPR, and away from the club we'd have no worries because he was in great hands.
He played for us in an Under-18s game against Swindon. He was still only 15 then. He scored and was outstanding.
We wouldn't usually have signed a player after just one game but we signed Ray after that. We'd seen more than enough.
In the next game he scored two superb goals and I was thinking to myself we had one hell of a player on our hands.
I got really close to Ray after that. We spent loads of time together and he was fantastic. He trained hard and would always be coming to me and saying 'Joe, let's do more training. Let's practise finishing.'
Gary Waddock gave Ray his first-team debut when he was still a second-year apprentice. When he scored his first senior goal, I said to Ray afterwards that it'd be the first of many. I was totally convinced it would be.
And when he made his international debut for the England Under-19s, when he was still just 17, I looked at him and felt I'd be seeing a lot more of him in an England shirt.
I took his mum to that game. I was so proud of him and so proud of her.
I'll never forget that night. Everything was moving so fast for Ray. In a short space of time he'd gone from playing in the park to scoring goals for QPR and getting international recognition.
Make no mistake about it, before he signed a pro contract last summer there were Premiership clubs interested in signing him. More recently, he hadn't been playing so much. That was partly down to an injury.
It also takes a while for young players with Ray's physique to grow into themselves, adapt and find their feet as a player.
I was always convinced that once he got through the teenage years and into his early 20s, he'd be absolutely unstoppable.
And I know others in football felt the same. Compare Ray at 17 or 18 with Peter Crouch at 19. When Peter first came back to QPR from Tottenham he struggled a bit.
Ray was stronger than Peter at a younger age, had a brilliant touch for such a big guy and was scoring goals at an even younger age for QPR than Peter did.
I used to say to Ray he was better than Crouch was at his age. And look at Crouch now - playing for Liverpool and England.
Ray was on the same career path. No doubt about it. He had the attitude and ability to reach the very top. There was never any doubt in my mind that Ray was destined for the top. Not just the Premier League, but the international stage as well. That's how good he was.
He was the most outstanding striker of his type out there. Show me another player of that age, of that size with the natural attributes of Ray's.
Ray would have added his name to the list of great players QPR have had down the years, and he would have achieved many great things in his career.
That makes his death even more of a tragedy. I just can't believe it. I spoke to Ray about 10 days ago and I can't take in what's happened.
And it comes after the tragic death of Kiyan Prince, who I also worked with. It's very difficult to accept.
When I got the call on Saturday telling me what had happened to Ray, it was like the similar, terrible call I received about Kiyan last year. It knocked me for six.
Ray was a credit to himself and his family, and he will be sadly missed and fondly remembered. I was so, so proud of him.
- Joe Gallen
It's a terrible tragedy. A young life taken away. A young talent gone. I knew him, he was a great kid and a fantastic talent as well, so my heart bleeds for all of them. For me there's no worse thing than to have to bury your child and I'm so sorry for them.
- Ian Holloway
It's a very, very sad day in football. He was a nice young man and budding young footballer who I am sure had a good career ahead of him. I spoke to John Gregory and Mick Harford this morning, we've liaised with Queens Park Rangers all along and they have our deepest sympathy. It was never a problem to call the game off. Sometimes football is put into perspective and whilst we were looking forward to the game, we were more than happy when we knew that QPR perhaps weren't in the right frame of mind.
- Steve Cotterill
This is tragic news. Ray Jones was just at the start of his playing career but he had already shown tremendous potential. The thoughts of everyone at The Football League and its member clubs are with Ray's family and friends, as well as all his colleagues at QPR.
- John Nagle, Football League
"It is absolutely tragic news to lose someone so young with such a bright future.
"Ray was a fantastic lad and a player with great potential, he proved that last season with QPR and in earning his place in the England U19 squad. The coaches in our youth setup always enjoyed working with him - it's devastating news.
"On behalf of The FA I would like to send my deepest condolences to all the family and friends of Ray and everyone at Queen's Park Rangers."
-Brian Barwick, Football Association
Tributes from our own fans continue on page two.
Photo: Action Images
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