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Jones enjoys fast start at Ilkeston

High hopes: Jones seen playing for the Mansfield Town academy side (Photograph supplied)

David Jones Jr is hoping to follow in the footsteps of cousin Rai Simons and get an opportunity to join an English professional team through Ilkeston Town’s academy team.

Jones is one of four young Bermudians at Ilkeston Town’s academy — striker Tevahn Tyrell, goalkeeper Jahquil Hill and midfielder J’nai Butterfield-Steede the others.

A left-sided player who played in defence with his local club Dandy Town and the national squad, Jones has been playing up front with Ilkeston, scoring four goals in three preseason matches.

“I’m starting out pretty good. When I play with the national youth squad I play at left back and out here I play centre forward, which I prefer,” said Jones, 18, who has been living with Hill, the Ilkeston second-choice goalkeeper. They are in the process of moving in with Tyrell and Butterfield-Steede.

Jones has been living in England for three years and hopes a good season at Ilkeston will create some opportunities for him, just as it did for Simons, who is in his first season as a professional at Chesterfield, the Sky Bet League One side.

“I’m very confident. I’ve been speaking to the owner as well as Paul Scope, and if I push hard enough, which I have been, I can see opportunities opening up, just like it did for my cousin Rai,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of Bermudians out here.

“Obviously, I’ve been out here a while playing at this level and I can see it is a lot more physical and a lot faster, but nothing I can’t handle. All Bermudians can adapt, I think.”

Jones and Tyrell recently became the latest Bermudians at Ilkeston after signing for the non-League club’s academy. Tyrell was a regular for Robin Hood in the Premier Division last season, while Jones was first at Newcastle Town, a non-League team in Stoke before a short stint at Port Vale and then Mansfield Town’s academy.

With scouts regularly watching non-League clubs, Jones knows a young player can get spotted by a Football League club.

I hope to see myself on a professional contract within two years, that’s really my aim,” Jones said. “Ilkeston draw a lot of scouts. Last season, about seven players got signed to professional teams, including Rai.”

Scope, who formed the now-defunct Bermuda Hogges with former professionals Shaun Goater and Kyle Lightbourne, forged a link between the Island and Ilkeston a couple of years ago in the hopes of creating opportunities for young Bermudian footballers. He is confident that Jones and Tyrell will fit in at the club.

“We were looking for good players with the right character and both these players seemed a good fit,” Scope told The Royal Gazette recently. “Tevaughn was recommended by both Kyle Lightbourne [the Hood coach] and Richard Todd [the North Village coach].

“David was already living in Nottingham and he approached us about moving to Ilkeston. Richard also spoke highly of him and both players are doing well.”

Jones is a product of the Dandy Town youth programme and would not mind getting an opportunity at a lower-league club — League One or League Two.

“That would be the best thing to do,” he said. “I can learn more and work my way up.”