Middlesbrough prospect Isaiah Jones opens up on Middlesbrough move, conversations with Neil Warnock and Queen of the South loan
The game may have ended in a 1-0 defeat for Middlesbrough’s under-23 side during a league meeting with West Brom back in November – but for 21-year-old winger Isaiah Jones this was a significant afternoon.
Boro’s first-team boss Neil Warnock had watched the match at Heritage Park at a time when his squad were low on numbers and struggling to name a full matchday contingent with nine substitutes.
Despite the result Jones’ performance caught the eye that day. “You’ve got a bright future,” Warnock had told the winger a few months earlier. “Keep working hard and the opportunity will come.”
Jones only made one senior appearance for Boro, after coming off the bench against Brentford in the FA Cup, before his loan move to Scottish Championship side Queen of the South in January, yet it’s clear Warnock believes in the player’s potential.
Less than a month after that West Brom performance, Jones was named on the bench for Boro’s Championship match against Swansea and was part of the first-team squad throughout December.
He also signed a one-year contract extension at the end of last year, a deal which ties him to Boro until 2022 at the earliest.
After being brought up in South London, Jones’ moved to Teesside from non-league side Tooting & Mitcham, along with fellow Boro winger Sam Folarin, in 2019 following a trial period in the North East.
"I had been at Tooting & Mitcham for five or six years, and came through the ranks from under-16s to the first team,” Jones tells the Mail.
"I was playing well and that generated a lot of interest from other teams, the likes of Middlesbrough Reading, Sheffield United.
"I think Middlesbrough was the most serious team that wanted me the most so I went on trial at Middlesbrough for three or four weeks, that went well and I was happy they were able to sign me.
"It was a big decision to leave London but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in life to achieve your goals.
"I think if I’d been in London it would have been harder to concentrate on football because all your friends and your family are there.
"It’s not a bad thing being away from your family and when you are away from your family you can focus more on football to kick on with your career.”
After impressing with Boro’s under-23 side for the first half of the 2019/20 season, Jones moved even further North to join Scottish side St Johnstone in January.
The move didn’t work out how Jones envisaged, though, with the winger making just one appearance before the season was suspended in March.
Still, there was lots to learn from the experience.
"That loan move was terrible for me,” Jones admits. "It was a hard one for me in the fact I don’t think I was myself. I should have done more but I didn’t feel comfortable in the environment.
"I’ve learnt a lot what it’s like to be in a first-team environment because that was my first loan. I took key points away from it like always train well, be on time on and off the pitch, never be late.
“On the football side it wasn’t how I wanted it to end with only playing one game, but I think it was a massive learning curve for me and my development.”
Jones wasn’t part of Boro’s first-team squad during pre-season after pulling his hamstring, yet his performances for the under-23 team meant he spent more time around the senior set-up.
The winger has also taken encouragement from other players who have come through the ranks at Boro and hopes to follow in their footsteps.
"I'm good friends with Marcus Tavernier, Britt Assombalonga, Chuba Akpom, Djed Spence,” adds Jones.
"The likes of Djed, Hayden Coulson, Marcus Tavernier, Lewis Wing, Dael Fry, they have all come through the Middlesbrough youth set-up so they try to give me advice in training about how I can improve my game.
"Everyone in the first team has been good to me.”
Despite Jones’ involvement with the first-team, Warnock always stressed the importance for Boro’s younger players to go out on loan and gain more minutes.
That is why Jones chose to sign for Queen of the South, where he scored on his debut against Alloa, and has provided five assists in six league appearances.
"I wanted to go out on loan,” says Jones. "It is good for me to be in and around the first team but it is also good for me to showcase my talent.
"Going on loan was always on my mind to show that I can show my ability, and hopefully when I’m back at Boro next season I can try to break into the first team.
"I had another two offers but I think the key decision to make about going out on loan is how much game time are you going to get.
"I thought going to Queen of the South is a no brainer so that I could contribute to the team and help them climb the table.”
Jones’ progress was halted when he suffered another hamstring injury earlier this month, meaning the player returned to Rockliffe to complete his recovery.
It’s hoped the winger will be returning to Scotland soon, though, with Queen of the South pushing for a play-off place in the second tier.
"I’ve been out for the last two to three weeks but my hamstring has kind of healed,” says Jones.
"I’ve spent the last week running and been on the ball so I’m hoping to be back fully fit at the end of this week.”