Ex-Liverpool & Socceroos keeper Brad Jones announces retirement: Why now? What next?

Former Liverpool and Socceroos goalkeeper Brad Jones spoke to KEEPUP’s Matt Comito as he called time on his professional career, aged 41.

Perth-born World Cup Socceroo Brad Jones has retired from professional football, at the conclusion of a two-year contract with hometown Isuzu UTE A-League club Perth Glory.

Capped six times by his country, the 41-year-old calls time on a career that spanned more than two decades and began with a jump from Perth’s Bayswater City Soccer Club to Middlesbrough’s academy as a 16-year-old in 1998.

He joined English giants Liverpool in 2010, making 25 appearances in five years including a victory over Everton in the 2012 FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley Stadium.

Jones’ move to Dutch side Feyenoord saw him contribute to the club’s first Eredivisie title for 18 years in 2017 as a regular starter, and clinch the 2018 KNVB Cup. He then won the Saudi Professional League title and a pair of Saudi Super Cups with Al-Nassr before a return home to Perth ahead of the 2021-22 A-League Men season.

“It’s the end of the road, in terms of my footballing career… it’s time to hang up the gloves,” Jones told KEEPUP.

“For every athlete there comes that time where you just know. Unfortunately, my knee has determined that for me. But it’s time to retire, and look for something new I guess.”

Jones made just five appearances for Glory in the 2021-22 season; a serious calf injury hampered his first campaign in purple, before a knee injury late in the campaign which subsequently kept him sidelined for the final season of his professional career.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play as many games as I’d hoped,” he said. “What was a fairly innocuous injury that was going to keep me out for a couple of weeks has since kept me out for over a year, and basically put an end to my footballing career.

“These things happen; it’s a shame I didn’t get to play more when I was here, but I’m also thankful I was able to play some games. If I was going to finish, then I’m happy to finish back in Perth.”

“It’s been a long career, I’ve been very fortunate to have been involved in some great moments… I stated I was going to do it (reach the Premier League) as a young kid, naive as I was.

“I probably didn’t realise how determined I was. I wasn’t necessarily the best at a young age. I didn’t have any goalkeeper-specific coaching. But I made use of what I had: very raw talent and athleticism.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs,” he added. “I’m proud of what I achieved. I’m also my own biggest critic… but then I look back and I’m pinching myself that I even made it at all.

“I came from Perth with no goalkeeping coach. To be able to achieve playing in the Premier League, going to a World Cup, and being part of the national team for a long time, I’m proud of what I’ve done.”

Jones admits there’s no set plan for his future as he calls time on his playing days. The goalkeeper says he’s not limiting himself to anything specific – but suggests player management could be on the cards in his future.

“There are a lot of things I’d love to try my hand at,” he said.

“I’d love to get into looking after players, maybe in the management side. I think I’ve got a lot to offer on that side of things. I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge over the years of how football works, and also what’s needed from the player and also for the player, when you need help and how you deal with life off the pitch.

“There are a lot of things. I’m open to (trying) as much as I can, getting into little bits and pieces away from football as well.”

After 18 ‘soul-destroying’ months, Brad Jones ‘fell in love with football again’ at Liverpool

For any professional footballer, an international call-up is a thing of dreams.

But for a long time, Brad Jones struggled to disassociate the Socceroos with tragedy.

It was in Johannesburg in June of 2010, on the eve of the South Africa FIFA Men’s World Cup, when the Australian goalkeeper’s life changed forever. What followed was an “extremely difficult time” in which Jones juggled the polarising experiences of a career taking flight, and watching his son Luca fight for his life.

It all began with a phone call Jones received in Socceroos camp.

“In the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup we were in South Africa, maybe a week out from the tournament, and I had a phone call to say my son had been diagnosed with leukaemia,” Jones told KEEPUP.

“Going from such a high of being selected and actually being in Johannesburg, being ready for the World Cup, to getting that type of news, it was soul-destroying.”

Jones speaks to KEEPUP on a sunny afternoon in Perth, at the local park that houses the junior football club where his son Nico plays.

Jones regrettably reveals that despite his warnings, Nico wants to be a goalkeeper just like him.

It’s a short drive from where he, his wife Dani Lawrence and three children have made a home for themselves on the west coast of Australia.

Jones spent more than two decades abroad fulfilling all of his footballing dreams, playing in the Premier League for Middlesbrough and Liverpool between loan spells at a number of English clubs. Then came trophy-laden stints in both Netherlands and Saudi Arabia, before the call of home grew too loud for Jones to ignore.

He signed for Isuzu UTE A-League club Perth Glory in 2021, and after two years hampered by injury, Jones has called time on his career. 

Jones can still conjure vivid memories of Luca’s leukaemia diagnosis and how, just days before the start of the World Cup, football became a mere afterthought in an instant.

“When you get news like that, football becomes secondary. I left to go and be with my son. It was an extremely difficult time,” he says.

“The (Socceroos) staff were brilliant with me, and I have to thank them and the players as well. When you’re in that moment, it’s very difficult to process what’s happening.

“I was fortunate we had a fantastic team doctor in Peter Brukner, who I worked with again later at Liverpool. He was brilliant. Also, the late Pim Verbeek was just a beautiful man, and really helped out in that moment.”

Jones withdrew from the 2010 World Cup squad to be with his son. For the next 18 months, “Luca ended up fighting a long battle, but ultimately after a year and a half, he lost that, and he passed away,” says Jones.

“For a long period, the Socceroos to me had that connection. It was difficult to be part of it and disassociate the two.

“That moment will forever last in my memory. It’s not something I’ll ever forget, but I’m just grateful the people in and amongst the Socceroos camp at the time were so good, and like family. They helped me get through it… in time I managed to find a way that (representing Australia became) something separate, but also something to be proud of, and I was desperate to get back into it.”

Eight years on from South Africa 2010, Jones ventured to a World Cup with the Socceroos in Russia.

In 2011, Jones’ personal turmoil coincided with dramatic changes in his professional world. Jones was signed by Premier League giants Liverpool just two months after Luca’s leukaemia diagnosis. He admits the period that followed his son’s passing, in late-2011, put his dedication to the sport into question.

“There was a period where I took time out away from football when I was at Liverpool, and I thank the club for helping me with that, and giving me that space,” he says.

“It then left it up to me to want to come back. Once that decision is made in your head, it’s then a lot easier to get that drive back, and fall in love with football again. 

“That happened in my time at Liverpool.”

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Luca passed away in November of 2011. Five months later, Jones made his Premier League debut for the Reds, coming off the bench to save a penalty with his first touch in the English top flight as Liverpool beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2.

First-choice goalkeeper Pepe Reina was suspended, and Liverpool’s No. 2 gloveman received a red card to suddenly catapult Jones into the first team. 

He dedicated his role in the win over Blackburn to his late son. His Premier League debut came just days after Jones and partner Lawrence welcomed their second child, Nico, to the world. “Luca” is Nico’s middle name.

From the birth of his son to a Premier League debut, Jones then found himself starting for Liverpool days later, against Merseyside rivals Everton at Wembley Stadium in an FA Cup Semi Final. 

“The Australian’s presence was meant to be a source of weakness for Liverpool,” wrote the BBC’s Sachin Nakrani in the aftermath of Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Wembley. “But on only his third start for the club the 30-year-old performed solidly. He was not at fault for Everton’s goal.”

Jones reflects on April of 2011 as a turning point in his career. Similar to his journey back to feeling comfortable amongst the Socceroos ranks, the Australian learned that from the pain of the past can come newfound strength.

“It was an extremely difficult time,” he says, “but then the comeback was pushed even further.

“Playing at Wembley for Liverpool was something I dreamed of from a young age, maybe eight or nine years old. It happened to be against Everton as well, which made it even more special. That was something that will live with me forever.

“Playing against Everton at Wembley, getting a few more games (under) a new coach (Brendan Rodgers), all these things pieced together, and helped me get back on track.

“That was something that then helped me in the latter years of my career, to still play at a high level and be successful.”

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