LEEDS UNITED cult hero Vinnie Jones is blowing out the candles after celebrating his fiftieth birthday today, with his colourful if short stint at Elland Road one that will be remembered by Whites supporters for many a year.
The brash Cockney hard nut arrived in West Yorkshire in June 1989 in a £650,000 move which stunned football and straightaway, the tough midfielder made himself known.
On his first interview after being introduced to the media following his switch from Wimbledon, the former hod carrier made headlines. When asked if Leeds would be promoted in 1989-90, his answer was unequivocal. ‘Does the sun shine in the sky?’ he said.
Jones was as true as his word in a season which saw him booked just three times en route to becoming a cult figure on the terraces, complete with ‘Vinnie’s gonna get ya!’ t-shirts.
Jones made his debut as a substitute in the midweek game with Middlesbrough on August 28, 1989, a match memorable for a crazy own goal from Gary Parkinson which handed United the spoils in a 2-1 win.
Alongside the likes of Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Gary Speed, Jones learned the benefits of craft and not sticking the boot in as part of a blessed midfield and proved to many people that he was the ‘footballer’ he always thought he was.
His first goal arrived in the 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town on September 9 and he also netted the winner in a sweet 1-0 win at West Ham on October 7 - while netting a memorable goal in an enthralling 4-3 victory over Yorkshire rivals Hull City on February 10.
After the old second division title was clinched at Bournemouth, the summer saw Leeds invest further with Jones - helping to achieve the mission which Howard Wilkinson brought him to Leeds for - ultimately heading down the M1 to Sheffield United in September 1990 for £700,000.
Jones has gone onto enjoy a second career in the spotlight as a fully-fledged movie star, but has retained a place in the hearts of Leeds supporters, with his affection for the club still strong.
In an interview a decade ago, Jones revealed that some of the greatest memories of his long and successful career came in his time at Leeds, while also speaking about the special relationship with the people of Yorkshire.
He said: “At Leeds I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t won the league that season.
“It was important for me and for the others to try and do the business. You could say that season was a very special time for the club – I know I loved it.
“It meant everything to us to get promotion and when we finally did it at Bournemouth it was special.
“When we won the league at Bournemouth, me and Batts were hanging out of the dressing room window there watching all the fans. That was an unbelievable day.”
Happy birthday, Vinnie!